India’s demographics demand a different approach to automation, AI: Tata Son's Chairman

Rajesh Kurup Mumbai | Updated on February 12, 2020

N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons   -  AFP

India is facing a decade in which 90 million people will be of working age between 2020 and 2030, and hence the country demands a different approach to automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI), Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran said.

This (working age) is four times than that of the US, Brazil and Indonesia combined, Chandrasekaran, delivering his keynote address at Nasscom Technology & Leadership Forum said.

“The problem India has is not of age or numbers; it is skills and qualifications. Therefore, India’s approach to automation has to be distinct from China, the US and Japan; it has to focus on technologies that augment and raise people’s skills,” he said, adding, India needs some big ideas when it comes to job creation.

“Technology can provide an unprecedented solution to both access and jobs, if we play our cards right. The spread of automation will take time; it will progress in waves, across different sectors, at different periods, and at different intensities. Certain sectors might feel its touch earlier, while the rest of the economy may go without seeing substantial change for years. This is true across different sectors, as it is across distinct markets. This, in itself, is an opportunity.”

India needs to harness technologies such as AI and Machine Learning quickly to meet the country’s needs. This means easing the challenges — ethical, societal and regulatory — to enable their widespread adoption.

Frameworks for data privacy and collaboration models in ecosystems are still evolving. The big thing is data security, which is a growing challenge - as the layers and participants in an ecosystem grow - so do potential vulnerabilities, he added.

Indian companies does not have to look at digital approaches to cut costs and enhance profits.

“They can augment our human capital, if we choose wisely. Tech, applied deliberately, can solve problems and lead to more jobs at the same time, if we play our cards right. Conservatively 30 million jobs in India alone.”

The standard fear of technology is that “job losses”.

“Look at AI and automation. When people let their imagination run wild, they think of shiny white bots picking up boxes in a warehouse, or robot animals walking on snow. Visions of robots coming for human jobs and mass unemployment and unrest…,” he added.

This is a compelling vision, but is pretty unrealistic. “And this is where opportunity lies,” he added.

Published on February 12, 2020

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