How India and China are trying to power AI leadership

17 September 2019 4 min. read

Artificial intelligence (AI) is touted by many as the next big disruptor. In a bid to operate at the forefront of the game-changing technology, countries are developing all kinds of policies that enables their governments and companies to become AI leaders, including the building a solid AI ecosystems, financial incentives, innovation and research and grooming AI talent.

In Asia, India and China are pushing hard to become the continent's – if not the world's – AI superpower. Both countries are perched atop the regional economy, and are among the primary drivers of growth and innovation. Moreover, most economies in the region expect India and China to take the lead when it comes to new technology, and the pair have responded enthusiastically.

However, in striving for artificial intelligence leadership, the two countries appear to have adopted very different strategies. Rajarshi Chowdhury, an Associate at strategic consultancy Intueri, has picked out the salient features of India and China’s AI policies, and layed them out for comparison.

China’s approach to the AI paradigm is to become the dominant force for AI development globally. Through a three-stage process, the Chinese government is looking to: establish a world-beating AI infrastructure; use AI as a central force to drive an industrial transformation across China; and eventually achieve global supremacy in AI, according to Chowdhury.

How India and China are trying to power AI leadership

AI has been firmly established as the future of the global workforce, and China is looking to control this future. "The industry scale of core artificial intelligence is estimated to be worth 400 billion yuan and that of the related industries to be higher than 5 trillion yuan," reveals Chowdhury. The scale of economic returns make such an investment an eye-watering prospect.

India’s focus is on exploring the true potential of AI through research & development (R&D). Currently, India’s R&D investment in the AI domain is below par across sectors, in particular when compared to the potential benefits that the disruptive technology is capable of unleashinh, but the government is looking to go an extra mile in bringing AI R&D up to the mark and beyond.

India’s planning body – NITI Aayog – has laid out a ‘two-tiered’ strategy for developing the country’s AI landscape, consisting of 30 policy recommendations. The first objective is to improve AI-based research, not only to derive maximum economic potential from the technology, but also to examine the social applications of AI in areas such as healthcare, agriculture and education.

To explore this potential, any market needs talented professionals who are familiar with AI and can embrace it to their advantage. Recent analysis from Big Four accounting and advisory firm EY revealed that one in ten jobs is likely to require an entirely new set of skills in the next five years, as the digital paradigm sets into place. India is looking to ensure that the workforce is ready for this scenario.

Investment in this two-pronged strategy is not limited to Indian investors. The research-focus will attract investors from across the globe looking to experiment in the AI domain and examine its true applications. "The fundamental research activities shall be the feeder for the ‘International Centres for Transformational Artificial Intelligence’ or ICTAIs. They shall focus on investing, developing and accelerating AI-based applications, majorly in the domain of societal importance," explains Chowdhury.

"The above discussion clearly reflects how the two countries have formulated their AI strategy with two different perspectives. China is clearly gearing up for a global supremacy with a totalitarian regime and wants to develop a state-of-the-art AI infrastructure in isolation. On the other hand, India aspires to be the global AI lab for emerging economies," he concludes.