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The Digital India (DI) mission was launched in July, 2015 by our honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with an aim to transform India. DI’s goal is to digitally empower society by infusing digital technologies into the public service ecosystem with the use of Information Technology and to make India adept at emerging technologies to transform the country into a leading knowledge economy.
Since DI focuses on a tech-enabled societal transformation, the overarching mission works in-tandem with multiple departments under several ministries; each individual program stands on its own, but also is part of the larger vision. DI efforts are laid down to achieve results in two key focus areas:
Funding: Rs 3, 958 crore for 2020-21
Developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NCPI), AEPS is a payment service based on an individual’s Aadhaar card (one can use Aadhar card instead of debit or credit cards) which enables the owner of the card to make financial transactions such as transfer funds, make payments, deposit cash, make withdrawals, etc. The AEPS is bank agnostic and enables a customer to make transactions from any point of Sale or micro ATMs via using Aadhaar-based and biometric authentication. According to NPCI, the platform saw 208 million transactions up until October 2019. The project was started by the GoI in 2016.
The NITI Aayog has discussed the use of AI as an important part to play in the scheme as there is scope for creation of multilingual chatbot to aid customers, ensuring safe and secure payments, elimination of false declines, etc.
MyGov platform was launched in 2014. It promotes participatory governance by providing citizens an opportunity to voice their opinions in policy making and recommendations. The platform provides a thriving space for discussions, tasks, talks, interactive polls and blogs on diverse issues related to governance and public policy. It currently has more than 9.5 million users engaged in various activities, with more than 10,000 posts every week, which are collected, analysed and shared with the concerned ministries and departments.
Since the platform is undergoing continuous upgrades, AI has a special part to play in the initiative. It has scope to create interactive chatbots, real-time data analysis, filtering malicious content and generating automated comprehensive reports for ministries and departments.
The NMEICT is a centrally-sponsored scheme which aims to leverage the potential of ICT in education through teaching and learning processes which shall reap benefits across India who are engaged in institutions for higher education. Under this mission, the government aims to use ICT interventions to bolster enrolment rates in higher education by creating a proper balance between the right content, undertaking research in imparting education and other critical areas and increasing connectivity among other nations to share our progress and exchanging ideas. The aim of the mission is to accomplish these goals by:
NMEICT has a vision to service more than 50 crore working population with the opportunity for continuing education through interactive, personalised knowledge modules that suit the users’ needs and aspirations. The initiatives under NMEICT which have a major AI component are listed below:
There is ample scope for AI to help fulfil the following NMEICT objectives as suggested by industry experts, advisors of the MHRD as well as NITI Aayog:
The PMJDY is a scheme under the National Mission on Financial Inclusion for the impoverished citizens of India. It provides access to services of financial nature at affordable rates to boost financial inclusivity and encourage savings. The services accessible under the PMJDY are savings accounts, loan services, pension, insurance, etc. So far, almost 39 crore Jan Dan bank accounts have been opened. While no specific provision has been made for AI under PMJDY, there is ample scope for AI to aid this welfare scheme in the following ways as per the NITI Aayog and other industry experts:
The Smart Cities Mission under the Digital India umbrella promotes conceptualisation and realisation of cities that have a strong basic infrastructure and promote sustainable. safe and inclusive development for its residents by availing clean, sustainable environment via application of ‘Smart’ solutions. As part of the initiative 99 cities have been selected to address issues of pollution, increasing crime rates, congestions, poor living standards by creating better administrative and infrastructural systems through new technological.
AI can play an important role in converting ‘Smart Cities’ into ‘Intelligent Cities’ by making sense of the large amount of data that new technologies would generate to apply predictive intelligence and create better solutions. NITI Aayog has discussed the use of AI in smart cities in the following areas:
Rs 6,450 crore for 2019-20
Under the aegis of NCERT, ePathshala is a platform to disseminate educational resources through mobile app and website. The NITI Aayog’s discussion paper outlines AI’s possible role in the platform in the following capacities:
This project envisions digitisation and integration of all activities that are related to prison and prisoner management for jails through an application suite. The suite is developed by NIC as a cloud-based product designed to be a one-stop solution for citizens to digitally apply for visitation, note grievances, use a portal for buying goods created by prisoners, etc. For the prison management system, the project aids in surveillance and management of prisoners, administrative tasks, resource optimisation, etc. Instances of AI-enabled systems have already been implemented to address security concerns within prisons. The state of Uttar Pradesh has implemented an AI-based video analytics platform to identify violations and illegal activities and flag them to the officials for swift action. Currently the platform, named JARVIS, has been implemented across 70 prisons to monitor prisoners, crowd management, detecting breaches and unauthorised access. Punjab is in the process of implementing similar measures across several prisons across the state.
The portal is designed to be a one-stop destination to gain relevant information related to agriculture, risk management, animal husbandry, aquaculture, weather, programmes and schemes, etc. The NITI Aayog document on National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence charts out AI’s role in agriculture in the following ways:
Examples of AI-enabled technologies have been listed in the NITI Aagyog document that have shown success. AI-sowing app has been deployed successfully in Andra Pradesh and Karnataka amongst 3,000 farmers. AI-enabled precision farming has been implemented across Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
The GSTN manages the IT system of the GST portal and acts as the backbone of the GST system and acts as the core database for it. The network helps the government follow financial transactions and helps the tax-payers with GST registration, maintenance of tax details, etc. Although the official document make no mention of AI, during the Budget 2020 speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “…Deep data analytics and AI tools are being used to crackdown on GST input tax credit, refund and other frauds and to identify those trying to game the system. Invoice and input tax credit matching is being done wherein returns with mismatch of more than 10 per cent or above a threshold are identified and pursued.”
Rs 10 crore capital
Khoya Paya is an initiative under Digital India to engage citizens to inform and exchange information on children who are missing and found. The platform is developed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development along with the Department of Electronics and Information technology where citizens can report missing and found children with the help of texts, photos, videos, and other means through smart phones. The Khoya Paya portal can be linked to the CCTNS project to help apprehend criminals as well as solve cases of missing minors. The proposed Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS), if approved, is going to be integrated in the Khoya Paya portal, along with the other security and safety solutions to ensure seamless exchange of information to avert and solve crimes, find missing persons and apprehend delinquents. The AFRS uses ‘neural networks’, an AI-enabled technology to search and match facial patterns.
The mobile application disseminates relevant information to farmers regarding weather, market prices, plant protection, inputs, weather alerts, go-downs and storages and market-related information such as conducive markets, market rates, quantity demands, etc. The NITI Aayog document on National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, envisions implementation of AI tools and big data analysis to bring more accurate information for supply and demand. An Inter-ministerial committee formed to recommend strategy to double farmers’ income by 2022 has also suggested emphasis on AI, big data analysis, block chain technology, IoT, etc.
The NKN is a pan-India network with an aim to help in connecting India’s universities, libraries, labs, research institutes across the country to improve inter-communication, stimulate research and create next-gen apps and services. In addition, NKN encourages connectivity of research and education networks between India and SAARC nations. It also facilitates collaboration between educational networks such as TEIN4, GARUDA, CERN and Internet2 to encourage exchange of scientific database and access to research facilities remotely.
The NITI Aayog document on National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, envisions using NKN as a multi-tenant network as the basis to successfully execute AIRAWAT, (AI Research, Analytics and knoWledge Assimilation platform) The document argues to set-up a common cloud platform with AI computing infrastructure to connect NKN with all the Centres of Research Excellence in Artificial Intelligence (COREs) and International Centre for Transformational Artificial Intelligence (ICTAI), the two pools that will help boost core and applied research in AI since this approach will reduce infrastructural requirements due to pooling efficiencies and reduce operational and maintenance costs while keeping national data secure.
OLABS is a virtual learning platform, created to help students conduct over 130 virtual lab practical to grasp concepts in Chemistry, Physics, Biology from class 9 to 12, and lessons in English and Maths for class 9 and 10. The experiments are a mix of interactive stimulations, animations and lab videos which can be accessed anywhere. This platform is especially aimed to help students who live in geographically hard to reach areas who don’t have the infrastructure to support their onhand learning. The content is wide-ranged, serving curriculums from CBSE and State Boards.
The NITI Aayog document on National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence has identified opportunities to integrate AI into the education system. Although not explicitly stated, several of these components are also applicable to OLABS in the following ways:
E-court’s project monitoring website has been created to aid courts with automated decision-making and decision-support system. It has been implemented across thousands of courts in metros, state capitals and district courts. While the main objective of the project was to streamline administrative activities in courts, the eCourts project policy action plan document also envisions a larger vision for the judicial system of India. In phase III, utilisation of technologies such as migration of information to cloud has already started. In addition, the other technological innovations planned to be used are big data mining, and processing through block-chain technology and artificial intelligence.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (SBA) is a sanitation and cleanliness centric campaign which engages citizens with cleanliness initiatives as well as subsidised toilet construction scheme for the impoverished population of rural and urban India. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) created a pilot project to oversee the authenticity of the implementation of toilet construction under the SBA. The app uses AI to ascertain the beneficiary through facial recognition software and digitally affirming the state of toilets, and cross-checks photos with the GPS coordinates shared by the smartphones.
Developed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and National e-Governance Division (NeGD) to promote e-governance in India. It facilitates over 1,200 central and state e- services. The app is multi-lingual and accessible through smart-phones, tablets and desktops through SMS, IVRs. In 2018, the National e-Governance Division - Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology was seeking a partner to implement AI-based Chatbot and Voice Assistant module for the app. However, progress on the same is unknown.
Touted as the world’s largest biometric-based identification system, Aadhar is one of the core pillars of the Digital India mission. The unique identities issued under Aadhar is at the heart of social and financial inclusion, public services delivery, aiding to create better policies and reforms and creating a more transparent and automated governance for the people. This is possible through seamless integration of various databases along with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to aid facial recognition, voice-enabled chatbots and cloud-based systems. For example, the CCTNS, Khoya Paya app, PMJDY although fulfil different public services, they still use biometric identification to varying extend to fulfil these services.
Most recently, the Income Tax department has suggested the creation of a Public Sector Bank network to validate the identify of a loan seeker via Aadhar and other public records to ascertain credit scores and eligibility. Although public documents have not explicitly outlined the use of AI for Aadhar, it is safe to say that AI forms an integral part of the Aadhar system. The legally murky grounds also are hindering Aadhar’s full roll-out.
As part of Digital India, the COE-IT is set-up to encourage the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem by creating path-breaking application and domain expertise. To accomplish this, the centre will work alongside the start-up community and leverage India’s IT strengths. The centre has also started an initiative called AI for Enterprise to showcase cases of successful adoption of AI solutions to overcome challenges across enterprises. NASSCOM helps these enterprises amplify their success stories, create industry linkages and create a bigger circle of reach for AI solutions.
The CERT-In is an initiative by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY). It is the National Incident Response Centre that looks out for Indian cyber security. CERT-In has three roles:
The NITI Aayog’s discussion paper does raise concerns over cyber security with the raise in the number of connected devices, and how such an attack can affect a city-scale infrastructure and public systems. The paper also turns to AI as the possible solution to combat such attacks, suggest remedial measures and detect vulnerabilities to secure online platforms. The soon to be released National Cyber Security Strategy 2020 is bound to have AI centric component.
The initiative, Common Services Centres Scheme (CSCs),a CSC e-Governance Services India Ltd (CSC PVP) undertaking, is designed to be the access point for citizens in rural and remote areas to receive subsidies, perform bank transactions, apply for and request services of public utility, and use the platform for healthcare and education. According to a press statement in May 2019, CSC has been attempting to leverage the power of AI and data analytics to improve their services in partnership with NEC Technologies India (NECTI), a subsidiary of the Japanese company, NEC Corporation. In the press statement, Dr. Dinesh Kumar Tyagi, CEO, CSC SPV said that “Education, financial inclusion and telemedicine are the areas where innovative technologies can be utilised to improve the quality of life for people living in rural India."
GeM is an e-marketplace initiative by the National Public Procurement Portal that enables government departments and public sector entities to procurement common use goods and services. The users of this marketplace are state and central government ministries and departments, public sector undertakings, local bodies and autonomous institutions. In 2017, the platform announced that the platform was going to be integrated with artificial intelligence and analytics for better service delivery. While the official documents make no mention of using AI to augment GeM’s reach, Dr Rajesh Narang, CTO, GeM stated that, “The vision of GeM is also to use Artificial Intelligence to bring in cognitive computing capabilities to automate human decisions making process. GeM is already using Live ChatBot, aim is to use AI Assistants for automating repetitive tasks requiring human judgement, Voice and Image recognition techniques allowing GeM users to search products and services just by voicing over and with the help of images of products.”
IRCTC Connect is an e-ticketing application to help passengers book tickets for the Indian Railways online. In 2018, IRCTC launched an AI-enabled chatbot called ‘Ask Disha’ in English and Hindi to help solve text-based queries and voice-based queries of users.
CCTNS is a project under National e-Governance Plan of the Govt of India. It aims at creating a system that is comprehensively integrated to enhance the efficiency of policing through a creation of a nation-wide networking infrastructure for the evolution of IT-enabled highly efficient tracking system around the investigation and detection of crimes and criminals.
Until 2019 July, almost 15,000 police stations have been included into the CCTNS and a total of 20.10 crore criminal/ crime records have available online along with corresponding databases on prisons, prosecution, forensics and courts in a holistic manner for administration. This is aimed to help expedite exchange of information across police departments of all 35 states/ UT and delivering better services to citizens. Several states have reported positive feedback in solving various types of complaints due to the cross-pollinated database.
THE NCRB compendium released on 29/10/2018 especially mentions the requirement for AI-based tools to provide criminal data analysis of the CCTNS database. AI-based tools such as neural networks will prove to be effective for the proposed Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS). While various countries have been at an experimentation stage, only a few countries such as China have been able to successfully implement it. The scheme also faces challenges such as converting data from various languages which can be addressed by AI-based tools.
The NCRB has placed proposals for sanction of funds worth Rs 1,979 crores from Ministry of Home Affairs
Ravi Shankar Prasad, by profession, is an Indian lawyer, politician and the current Union Minister retaining the Law and Justice, Communications and Electronics and Information Technology portfolios in the Government of India.
Ajay Prakash Sawhney, an alumnus of IIT-Delhi and a mechanical engineer by education, is an IAS officer of Andhra Pradesh cadre. He presently serves as the Secretary to the Government of India.