By Sauradeep Bag
Over the past decade, unparalleled artificial intelligence (AI) innovation has resulted in advancements unfolding at an unprecedented pace. A multitude of novel and transformative use cases is now emerging at the forefront, making it clear that the integration of AI into development plans is not just an option but an imperative.
This area remains largely unexplored, yielding more questions than answers. However, exploring them as guiding principles for future development is essential. A potential starting point involves exploring whether developing nations could prioritise AI preparedness as a top agenda item—and potentially, whether these nations could transition into becoming “AI-first” countries, bypassing certain disruptive phases in technological evolution.
Examining the widespread use of the internet and smartphones, is it feasible to intentionally focus on a demographic proficient in AI tools from the beginning, potentially shaping a more inclusive and technologically adept workforce? The exploration is rooted in a fundamental idea: Should emerging nations rapidly gain proficiency in AI tools?
AI in action
AI is now a permanent fixture, bringing changes that are unpredictable and often incomprehensible. However, it is vital to highlight the positive aspects of this technology and strive to integrate it into our shared economic and development goals. Given the enduring nature of AI, it is imperative to focus on understanding and utilising AI effectively. AI tools could perhaps be useful. AI tools encompass software applications and systems that employ AI techniques to execute tasks traditionally requiring human intelligence. Through algorithms and machine learning, these tools analyse data, make decisions, and automate processes, enhancing efficiency and problem-solving capabilities.
It is essential to emphasise that the creation of AI tools depends on strong education and infrastructure. Developed nations may have an advantage in this aspect. However, emerging nations must work towards developing AI enterprise and expertise, a task intertwined with the establishment of a supportive educational environment and technological infrastructure. More importantly, attaining proficiency in AI tools is an indispensable prerequisite for emerging nations. Whether these tools are developed on an international scale or domestically, they play a pivotal role in empowering non-tech individuals to initiate and manage businesses through technology. The key focus lies in utilising existing AI tools to streamline business activities without the need to recreate them. This strategic approach has the potential to propel emerging nations into the status of “AI-first” nations.
The concept of an “AI-first” nation envisions a population that might lack the skills and educational background to create AI tools from the ground up. Rather than emphasising tool creation, the goal is to cultivate a population with the knowledge and skills to effectively utilise existing AI tools for building businesses and pursuing their distinct social and economic objectives. This shift in focus from tool creation to tool utilisation is positioned to empower emerging nations, enabling them to leverage the transformative potential of AI for economic growth and development.
The path forward involves governments assuming a pivotal role in fostering AI adoption. The primary emphasis should be on the integration of AI education throughout all levels of the educational system. An additional avenue worth exploring is the establishment of both government and private AI incubators. These incubators would serve as business support entities, assisting entrepreneurs in leveraging AI and other emerging technologies to enhance their ventures. It is imperative to highlight the benefits of incorporating AI into business operations, highlighting the extent to which these technologies can positively impact various aspects of business management.
However, there might be unexplored and even unconventional yet familiar methodologies that could wield significant impact. An innovative and forward-looking proposition could involve the creation of government-provided AI tools or services, resembling digital public infrastructure (DPI) in a way. These services would provide AI tools to individuals and businesses, encompassing features like AI-powered chatbots for businesses, inventory management systems, and data analysis tools. This idea envisions a scenario where governments actively contribute to democratising access to AI technologies, empowering a broader spectrum of society to leverage the advantages of artificial intelligence.
Consider India as an example. It is conceivable to envision that India holds the potential to create its own large language model (LLM) by leveraging the vast data generated through IndiaStack. This model could be intricately tailored for Indian languages and contextual nuances, effectively addressing country-specific use cases and challenges. This endeavour has the potential to be complemented or reinforced by IndiaStack, where this set of LLMs takes precedence in providing public service offerings. The objective is to extend benefits to the entire population, akin to the successes achieved with Aadhaar and UPI. In essence, this would democratise access to AI tools, particularly the essential tools required by entrepreneurs and small businesses. These tools could encompass everything from data analysis to chatbots and personal assistants, assisting in the automation of specific tasks.
The underlying logic for this concept largely remains the same, particularly in a country like India. Given the vibrant startup ecosystem and active private sector engaged in developing AI products for the public, it is entirely conceivable for the government to intervene and produce similar products for its citizens. This approach aligns with successful initiatives like UPI, demonstrating the government’s capacity to prepare the world’s most populous country for the challenges and opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution. Governments can actively shape the trajectory of AI adoption by integrating AI education, establishing AI incubators, and considering innovative initiatives akin to DPI. These strategic measures collectively work towards democratising access to AI, fostering innovation, and propelling businesses into a technologically advanced future.
The impact of emerging technologies will be widespread, affecting both developed and developing nations. There is a chance that emerging markets and developing economies might experience fewer immediate disruptions from AI. However, these countries often lack the necessary infrastructure and skilled workforces to fully exploit the benefits of AI, posing a risk that over time, the technology could exacerbate global inequality among nations.
Governments should take proactive action now, concentrating on supporting their citizens in acquiring proficiency in AI tools before inequality escalates, particularly in emerging economies that face a greater risk. Consider, for instance, their substantial reliance on MSMEs for growth. With improvements in internet penetration, could MSMEs leverage its power for business activities? Going a step beyond, can AI contribute to automating or assisting these businesses? This scenario represents just one potential example, albeit somewhat futuristic. AI is undeniably causing disruptions across the board. However, a shift in narrative is required to view AI as a constructive force, focusing on its potential to bring about positive changes and innovations.
- About the author: Sauradeep Bag is an Associate Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation
- Source: This article was published by the Observer Research Foundation