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India is a thriving hub for AI; Skilled talent key to its growth

How NASSCOM is addressing this issue ground up

The digital progression of every company today is heavily reliant on technology, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the current wave that enterprises are riding on. Companies world over have recognized that AI is changing the way business is being done and the very nature of every business enterprise is becoming “DIGITAL FIRST”, making AI crucial not only to their growth but in some cases to their metamorphosis as a digital enterprise, and subsequently, their survival. This is driving them to adopt, adapt and strengthen their AI applicability and fortify their businesses. This inevitably means ensuring AI competence is built and updated continuously.

One of the key aspects of building competence in AI is grooming talent. This isn’t just a boardroom discussion anymore – the need to develop skilled AI specialists is being heralded by governments and policy makers as well. Recently, US President Donald Trump announced the American AI Initiative, ordering the federal government to direct existing funds, programs and data in support of AI research and commercialization.

A key announcement during the Interim Budget was the Govt of India’s plan to establish a national centre for AI, to be established as a hub along with other centres of excellence. NASSCOM President Debjani Ghosh has also praised the government’s support for new technologies like AI in addition to emphasizing on the need to provide workers necessary and relevant AI skills.

Staying ahead of the curve, Government of Karnataka in association with NASSCOM, Industry and Academia took the integral step of establishing India’s first Centre of Excellence for Data Science & Artificial Intelligence (DSAI), which is tasked with catalysing innovation and industry-oriented research, augment data-driven decision making and develop appropriate skills and talent in the data science and AI space.

The Global Perspective on Boom in AI Skills  

AI skills are in demand across the world. According to World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, technical skills such as AI are on the rise across the world and in most industries. Specifically, AI skills are among the fastest-growing, witnessing a surge of 190% on LinkedIn. This includes expertise in areas such as neural networks and machine learning.

The Indian Perspective on Grooming Talent in AI

The requirement for AI talent is not limited to the IT companies and India is likely to see a huge increase in the demand for AI talent from other industries. According to a report in Accenture, AI has the potential to add $957bn to India’s economy by 2035. Recognising the potential of AI and the immediate need to infuse relevant skills among employees to shore up productivity, the government of India has upped its ante in building a strong ecosystem for Artificial Intelligence. The Ministry of IT & Electronics (MeitY) has actively supported AI projects for societal applications. NITI Aayog released a paper last year titled National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, focusing on five critical sectors that could benefit from AI – healthcare, agriculture, education, smart cities and mobility.

India is one of the foremost nations with a burgeoning need for skilled AI workers. Organizations have accelerated their efforts to seek skilled AI workers in different functions, as indicated by a 179% increase in AI-related jobs between 2016 and 2018 on job-seeking site Indeed.com.

As part of its efforts to develop skills and talent, NASSCOM and CoE – DSAI are running several initiatives to enlarge the quantity and quality of the current and future AI workforce.

Mohanakrishnan P, Head of CoE-DSAI says, “AI skillset is an experiential learning and cannot be achieved in silos. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are evolving extremely fast which makes the concepts invented last year, obsolete this year. A continuous learning program, well aligned with industry needs, is very crucial for developing a strong community in AI space.”

NASSCOM’s Sector Skills Council (SSC) has identified 19 roles in AI for business competence and developed Qualification Packs for these job roles. With approval by the National Skills Development Corporation, the endeavour is to streamline and standardise the varying levels of AI competence in India. This validation and outlining of specific job titles will also provide direction to professionals on industry demand patterns, nature of job roles and associated skillsets – all of which are vital information to plan and develop proficiency as an AI professional.

In addition to efforts on building the competence of fresh graduates, NASSCOM CoE – DSAI has developed a foundation course in AI towards Faculty Development. The AI Faculty Development Program is 120 hours of blended learning including hands-on practice on real industry challenges in a controlled setting.

The industry is moving towards specializing areas such as business intelligence & analytics, machine intelligence, natural language processing and computer vision. CoE – DSAI has collaborated with Inkers.ai to organize a three-month AI skill development programme. Called the External Internship Program (EIP), it is specifically meant for working professionals in computer vision. The ongoing cohort has more than 1030 participants from companies including British Telecom, SAP Labs, Ericsson, Deloitte, Sony, Amazon, Flipkart, AcAfee, Visa, PwC, HCL, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Goldman Sachs, Philips, Dell, BigBasket, Samsung, Capgemini, Myntra, Huawei, Schneider, Walmart, Wipro, Harman, Toshiba, KPMG and ARM.

NASSCOM’s efforts is to democratize the knowledge in AL and ML, build a strong ecosystem for AI and related technologies in India.

 

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