Monday, July 01, 2019

Artificial Intelligence and Its Use in Governance

By Namrita Shankar,
Image source: Forbes

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. These processes include learning (the acquisition of information and rules for using the information), reasoning (using rules to reach approximate or definite conclusions) and self-correction. Particular applications of AI include expert systems, speech recognition and machine vision.

AI is usually classified as weak and strong. Weak AI, also known as narrow AI, is an AI system that is designed and trained for a particular task. Virtual personal assistants, such as Apple's Siri, are a form of weak AI.

Strong AI, also known as artificial general intelligence, is an AI system with generalised human cognitive abilities. This means that when presented with a task, a strong AI system is able to find a solution without human intervention in a fraction of the time taken by human beings.

Before moving on to how AI can change governance, we should understand why there is a need for it. AI presents governments with new choices about getting work done, reduces the burden on officials and present objective information on the working of policies.

There are many examples about how AI has changed government bodies. One example is ‘Chatbot’. This is an automated customer care service. The US Citizenship and Immigration services employed a Chatbot by the name ‘Emma’, which has resulted in the reduction of workload by around 80 per cent.

In times of natural calamities, with the help of translation, voice recognition and text data collection, emergency responders around the world can communicate efficiently with those in harm’s way.
‘Data Science for Social Good’ — an initiative by the University of Chicago — has been using machine learning (a form of AI) to help a variety of social-purpose organisations. This has included helping the City of Rotterdam to understand its rooftop usage — a key step in its goal to address challenges like water storage, green spaces and energy generation. In addition, it has also helped the City of Memphis to map properties in need of repair, enabling the city to create more effective economic development initiatives.  Image recognition software can be used in solving crimes like in the case of Boston marathon bombing in 2013.

The city of Columbus, with the $50 million that it won through the US Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, plans to use autonomous vehicles to provide transportation from a neighbourhood, where unemployment is three times the city average, to a nearby jobs centre.

Now that the benefits of AI have been summarised, many argue that there are demerits to letting AI take over. Experts argue that the funding for projects that could have a direct impact on people is delayed or not prioritised. Usage of AI for developing weaponry and the intention of governments have caused a lot of worry among innovators. Also, the development of AI can come at a huge environmental cost with the exploitation of non- renewable resources and minerals.

Even with all these arguments, many firms around the world have employed and responded positively to AI and its potential. They agree that AI can help complement the skill sets and weaknesses of the population.

In India, NITI Aayog has published a strategy proposal report for AI in India and has provided a platform to promote India’s leadership and brand in AI innovation by promoting #AIforAll. NITI Aayog focused on five sectors — Healthcare, Education, Agriculture, Smart Cities and Infrastructure, and Smart Mobility and Transportation for the initial plan. In the report, NITI Aayog has proposed a two-tiered structure to address AI research aspirations —CORE and ICTAI — a common marketplace and the skilling and reskilling of workforce, which can be achieved by the skilful expertise of the private sector.

It is encouraging to see India taking up AI positively, but it is time for the government to incentivise innovations in AI and promote it as a viable field of employment.

(Namrita Shankar is a Research Intern at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research)

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