Loading...

'Tech trends like AI can be hyped sometimes': Rohini Srivathsa, Microsoft India

'Tech trends like AI can be hyped sometimes': Rohini Srivathsa, Microsoft India
6 Feb, 2022
Loading...

Innovation at the startup level is critical to the economy and can create an ecosystem of entrepreneurship but technology trends like artificial intelligence (AI) can "become somewhat of hype" if seen as an end itself, according to a Microsoft India senior executive.  

“One has to watch out for the fact that at the end, it (AI) is about providing business value to a particular customer, a specific market segment, a particular industry and creating something that is making a difference. So, it's not applying AI for the sake of applying AI,” said Rohini Srivathsa, National Technology Officer at Microsoft India.

To guide AI startups in India and help them scale, Microsoft announced the AI Innovate startup program last October. Srivathsa points out that the idea of AI Innovate was to help startups leverage AI technologies, innovate, build industry expertise and scale operations. We are working with startups from various industries including financial services, healthcare, education, agriculture, space and manufacturing. 

Loading...

These startups are very critical for India's growth. AI and data can add up to $500 billion to India's GDP by 2025, According to estimates of software body Nasscom. The fact that more organizations in India now want to leverage AI in their business operations has further fueled growth for AI startups. A December 2021 report by McKinsey Analytics on the state of AI shows that India was the leading adopter of AI across regions followed closely by Asia-Pacific. 

Srivathsa attributes the growth in AI adoption to the availability of data at an exponential scale along with the power of cloud and computing. However, she maintained that every organization has certain processes to do business and they want to leverage AI in a way that will empower them on their journey. “That is why it becomes important to not just think of using AI but to empower domain experts, non-profits, governments so they can create value using AI.” 

A case in point is Delhi based non-profit Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS), which recently launched an AI model called Sunny Lives in collaboration with Microsoft and Gramener. The model uses high-resolution satellite imagery to detect and assign risk scores to buildings based on their roof types to provide risk information at a hyper-local. It has been used for risk assessment of cyclone induced flooding in India. 

Loading...

“AI is going to be used a lot more to address humanitarian issues, even health which is coming out as a major challenge. With the democratization of AI, domain experts in these areas can leverage the technology to create capabilities that can help solve many problems,” she added. 

Srivathsa believes citizen developers powered by low code/no code solutions will play a key role in democratizing AI. “AI is about visualizing data and creating insights that can help people understand what is happening in the system. Many of these are now possible in a low code/no code form. There are technologies in that portfolio that are helping people create virtual agents or automated tools with a low code/ no code philosophy," she added. 

Though AI is playing an important role in augmenting human capabilities, Srivathsa believes, it is important to build it on principles of fairness, reliability, inclusion, safety, transparency and accountability. In April 2021, for instance, the European Commission released its proposal to create a “well-functioning internal market for artificial intelligence systems.”

Loading...

Microsoft, on its part, has been working with Niti Aayog on responsible AI thinking for the country. "The discussions that we are having is that in high-risk scenarios we can use the right checks and balances to help people responsibly adopt AI,” Srivathsa said.

On growing usage of AI-based technologies such as facial recognition for surveillance, Srivathsa believes it is important to think of using technologies such as facial recognition with the specific principle of fairness, transparency, non-discrimination and consent. She added, at the end of the day, we live in a country that considers privacy a fundamental right.