Intel has been betting big on artificial intelligence (AI) to transform lives across societies and has set itself the target working with 30,000 institutions across 30 countries to empower 30 million people for current and future jobs by 2030.

In an interaction with BusinessLine, Shweta Khurana, Senior Director, Asia Pacific and Japan, Government Partnerships and Initiatives, Global Government Affairs, Intel, shares her insights on skilling the country’s youth on AI, India’s digital journey and some of the other initiatives of the company. Excerpts:


How significant is India’s digitalisation market in the overall global strategy of Intel?

Intel has invested close to $7 billion in India till date, and we continue to expand our R&D and innovation presence in the country. Intel India remains the largest design centre for Intel outside the US. India is a special market for Intel. We have operated here for more than two decades, and today, we have thousands of employees with modern design facilities in Bengaluru and Hyderabad. We are engaged in cutting edge engineering work such as SoC design, next generation communications, graphics, software and platform for the cloud/data centre, client and IoT markets involving advanced technology areas such as AI, 5G and Autonomous Systems. We continue to see exceptional demand for our leadership products as technology has rightfully emerged as the key enabler for sustaining lives and businesses. We are also reigniting our culture to attract, retain, and motivate the best and brightest technologists in the industry and continue to onboard engineering talent in the country.


You have often spoken about how the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of AI in India and how you are being quizzed by policymakers in other countries about the Indian model/approach to finding solutions that have a huge social impact as exemplified by success stories like eKYC, Digilocker, Aadhaar, etc. Can you elaborate?

Across industries and sectors, artificial intelligence (AI) has become a strategic imperative for worldwide economic growth. However, as governments worldwide work to create comprehensive national AI strategies for a sustainable, inclusive and positive impact on its citizens, industries and overall societies, the AI skill crisis continues to be recognised as the biggest global barrier for wider adoption and growth. As a developing nation, India is currently undergoing a transformation to become an AI-led digital economy. In addition, analysts have predicted that AI capabilities can help add over $500 billion and 20 million jobs to India’s economy. To help achieve these ambitious but necessary goals, the adoption of AI innovations — in an inclusive manner — is critical to solving the country’s societal challenges in the areas of healthcare, smart mobility and the future of work. Coordinated efforts by academic institutions and the technology industry are needed to address the gap between demand and supply of AI-related skills. It is also critical to enable and empower India’s youth with the skills and mindset required for AI-readiness so they can in turn develop indigenous AI solutions that make healthcare accessible or advance AI research in road safety. While building an AI-ready workforce and generation, it is equally critical to democratise access to AI tools. India’s own AI strategy, called #AIForAll, identifies AI as an opportunity and solution for the both economic growth and inclusive social development. With its unique strengths of talent, technology, data availability and potential for population-scale adoption of AI, India has a tremendous opportunity to lead human-centric applications and contribute to the global democratisation of AI for good through inclusion and access. But this task cannot be completed alone. Intel is committed to being a key collaborator in this journey with our expanding suite of technology solutions.


You will be soon celebrating the completion of one year of the AI for All campaign that you rolled out in association with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). Given the importance of the initiative to Intel’s overall vision as encapsulated in Pat Gelsinger’s (the company’s CEO) ‘four superpowers’ statement and where the country stands with regard to the ‘Digital India’ mission and the government’s ‘digital first/digital awareness’ drive, how has the journey been so far?

India is one of the fastest-growing digital economies because of the falling cost and rising availability of digital infrastructure and high-speed connectivity. The Government of India had launched the Digital India mission with a focus on digital infrastructure as a core utility for citizens, governance and services on demand, and digital empowerment of citizens. From then till today, the Digital India initiative has matured radically, with many digital technology interventions in India now considered a great blueprint for the world. There have been so many game-changing initiatives, and the baseline for all of these is the four superpowers that help us work safely, enhance productivity and increase automation. Cloud workloads are diversifying, networks are transforming to deliver 5G, AI is expanding, and computing performance is moving to the edge. The transformation is apparent and measurable, primarily due to the acceleration of digital transformation and digital-first initiatives driven by the government. The true transformational value of these superpowers such as AI for an economy has a large dependency on public knowledge and trust. AI for ALL was launched in collaboration with CBSE, the Ministry of Education, the Government of India, and under the Digital India initiative to help demystify AI and enable Indian citizens to build an elementary understanding of this superpower in their native language. While we had an initial goal to impact 1 million citizens in one year, I am happy to share that more than 1.5 million citizens have completed this programme in less than nine months.


The AI Global Impact festival seems to have become an important event in the company’s annual calendar. And this year, there were some Indian names as well…

Yes. Intel® AI Global Impact Festival is an annual digital readiness celebration to showcase AI innovation and impact by next-gen technologists and future developers with government, academia and communities. The festival is an opportunity to learn, showcase, and celebrate the impact of AI Innovations created by the future workforce across the globe. It is also a platform for sharing best practices in building AI Skills by various government organisations and the larger ecosystem. Last year, the festival welcomed over 113K people from 135 countries, with 235 young innovators from 20 countries who had submitted their AI social impact solutions for the global competition. This year, the AI Global Impact Festival will go live on September 1. Talking of the Indian connection, this year, Niharika Harida and her team from India won the grand award in the AI Impact Creators Category (in the age group of 13-18) for their work on ‘Microbial and pest outbreak prediction system for precision agriculture’. Kishan Know, as the project is known, addresses the problem of pest infestation, a universal issue that causes losses to the tune of $500 billion a year. Rishikesh Amit Nayak, Niharika Haridas and Gideon Jacob came up with the idea to procure satellite images of different sections of a field and run them through a linear regression model to predict the possibility of a bacterial or pest attack. The installed apparatus in the field further calculates the absolute leaf temperature to confirm the attack. Post confirmation, farmers are notified and a suggested course of action via SMS. A great innovation, you would agree.