Niti Aayog ties up with Microsoft to use AI, cloud in farm and other sectors

Niti Aayog ties up with Microsoft to use AI, cloud in farm and other sectors
Left to right: Anna Roy, Adviser, Niti Aayog; Shri Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog and Anant Maheshwari, President Microsoft India
12 Oct, 2018

Satya Nadella-led tech giant Microsoft Corp has tied up with Niti Aayog, India’s top government policy think tank, to help launch mass solutions by combining the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing.

Niti Aayog said Microsoft’s deep tech expertise will be used in new initiatives and solutions across several core areas including agriculture, healthcare and environment.

Microsoft will also accelerate the use of AI for the development and adoption of local language computing, in addition to building capacity for AI among the workforce through education, the policy think tank said.

“For our country, the power of AI needs to be brought to bear in sectors which are important for the inclusive development of India. This partnership will help us move beyond pilots and understand how to scale AI implementation in sectors characterized by a preponderance of public goods,” said Amitabh Kant, CEO at NITI Aayog.

Under the agreement, Microsoft will provide Niti Aayog farm advisory services, medical screening service at primary healthcare centres, capacity building for AI through education and solutions towards social and environmental impact projects.

As part of the farm advisory services, the company will help in increasing crop yield and pest detection. “This will involve applying data science, remote sensing and image processing apps to crop maps, yield data and weather data collected over five years. The pest risk detection model will provide information five days in advance of expected attacks,” Microsoft said.

Under the healthcare screening service, the company is likely to build AI-assisted models for diabetic retinopathy screening models to support early risk detection, risk assessment and timely medical intervention.

These models, the company said, will be deployed as a proof of concept across primary health centres identified by Niti Aayog.

Microsoft also said it will support Niti Aayog in preparing a blueprint for AI-led diabetic retinopathy screening programmes, which the central and state governments can incorporate into their relevant health screening schemes.

To build AI capacity through education, Microsoft said it will use content from its AI professional certificate programme for developers, academic institutions and students across the country to help skill them in the areas of AI and data sciences.

Additionally, the tech giant said it will promote education in the areas of AI and data sciences for young women in institutes identified by Niti Aayog. This will include a fellowship for select women candidates pursuing postgraduate courses in data sciences and AI, as well as foundation-level course for young women graduates, it said. 

Also, the company’s research division—Microsoft Research India—will set up a Microsoft–Niti Aayog Problem to Solution Incubation Test Bed within its premises in Bengaluru to develop AI-driven solutions for societal problems.

Further, the company said it will collaborate with Niti Aayog to identify potential projects on environmental challenges that could be eligible for grants under its worldwide AI for Earth programme.

“If selected, these projects would be eligible for benefits including access to Microsoft Azure and AI computing resources; in-depth education and technology training on these tools and additional support as the projects grow and mature,” said Anant Maheshwari, Microsoft India president.

The company also said that, in order to lower language barriers to technology, Microsoft will mentor relevant stakeholders to use Natural Language Processing tools in Indic languages in a commercially viable manner.