Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's Inclusive AI Vision: Critical Analysis

Mehak Jain,

Research Intern,

Indian Society of Artificial Intelligence and Law.

Global nations have recently analysed the vast potential that Artificial Intelligence[‘AI’] carries with itself in terms of economic benefits and strategic advantages. Countries like the USA and China are using AI for world dominations and aspire to be proficient in artificial general intelligence (AGI) and artificial super-intelligence(ASI), while others such as Canada and UK are aiming to be leaders of niche domains. India, on the other hand, has taken a noble approach: to use AI as a transformative tool for social empowerment and economic inclusion.

“AI is a digital brain that works on data which can remove conventional roadblocks for fast-tracking decision making or in creating an enabling atmosphere for millions of Indians,”[1] said Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s I.T. Minister, during the launch of the National AI Portal. According to him, no technology has failed in India despite facing opposition, and he remains hopeful and positive towards his visual of “inclusive technology leadership”.

He suggests that AI should be used extensively in namely three departments: agriculture, healthcare, and education. In this position statement, I analyse how AI can be successfully deployed in these fields and how India can achieve the goal of inclusivity.

Agriculture plays a vital role in the Indian economy. Farms produce thousands of data points such as weather conditions, temperature, soil conditions, etc. on a daily basis. These data points can be analysed with the help of AI in real-time. With the help of infrared rays, cameras, and sensors, AI can be used for soil analysis and monitoring the soil to identify its nutritional properties.[2] Also, it will help in the understanding the reaction of specific seeds to different types of soil and the impact of weather on the soil.[3] This method was tried out in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, and gave successful results by the way of leading to efficiency gains in the use of agricultural input such as chemical fertilizers, the use of which was cut by 40%.[4]

With the help of AI, the quality of the harvest can be magnanimously improved. Also known as precision agriculture, this method uses AI to detect diseases in plants, pests, and poor plant nutrition. AI sensors can detect weeds, target them, and then decide where to spray herbicides to give the most efficient result, thereby eliminating over-application of herbicides.

AI can also be used to develop seasonal forecasting models to enhance agricultural accuracy and increase productivity. These models help in predicting the upcoming weather conditions and are especially useful for small farms.

It is not that India has completely turned a blind eye to the intersection of AI and agriculture. In fact, Microsoft, in partnership with The International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) initiated a pilot project in Andhra Pradesh in 2016, where a sample base of 175 farmers was updated on their mobile phones about suitable sowing dates, cropping patterns, and effective fertiliser utilisation. The project witnessed a significant increase of 30% in crop output. This project was then expanded to include 3,000 farmers and the increase in crop yield varied from 10-30%.[5]

Moving on to healthcare, India’s healthcare sector faces a multitude of challenges such as growing population, lack of adequate infrastructure, limited access to health care facilities, adherence to treatment, etc. However. owing to the vast volume of patients, India is also rich in data. This data can be used by AI while incorporating deep learning method to empower the healthcare sector by way of help in diagnosis and prevention and reducing healthcare costs.

The ‘last mile’ problem of healthcare is patient healthcare and adherence.[6] The patients need to increasingly participate in their well-being and care for better outcomes, and AI companies are paying attention to this aspect. Developing a plan of care to improve the health of an ill patient will fall apart if it is not compounded with necessary behavioural adjustments such as losing/gaining weight or complying with the treatment plan. A promising solution to this is messaging alerts and targeted content that provoke actions at important moments.

In China, AI is being used to detect polyps on the colon during a colonoscopy. When compared with the diagnosis done by a gastroenterologist, the diagnosis by the machine had 9% chances of early detection.[7] The crux of using AI in this sector is to enhance the rate of early detection so as to solve the problem at the early stage and thus aiming at maximum efficiency.

Even India has seen a growth in start-ups aiming to promote the entry of AI within the healthcare sector. Ten3T, an Indian start-up has developed medically-wearable devices attached with a Cicer (a device embedded with multiple sensors) to help monitor the patient’s health even at home.

Lastly, AI can contribute significantly to the field of education. In line with the Draft National Education Policy 2019, which encourages learning of mother-tongue, real-time text to speech and text translation systems can be used to further the dissemination of information in the regional language. Language barriers can be removed with the help of these translation systems and will help in reaching the objective of inclusive and accessible education. Furthermore, working towards the objective of inclusive education, AI can help influence targets revolving around gender disparity in education and discrimination faced by disabling persons. A child affected with autism or any other disease which results in speech disorders could benefit by the use of AI which can detect speech patterns and improvements by correcting mispronunciations or broken words and then giving the output in a text or audio format.

AI can also help in conducting exams. A lot of planning and time goes into the procedure of exams- question paper has to be planned out, printed, distributed, corrected, and giving the end results. Usually, when this cycle ends, it’s time to begin with the other exam cycle. This increases the burden on teachers. Online exams can be used as an alternative where the question paper can be set by the systems from a pre-existing question bank. Calculation of scores and generation of final results can be managed by AI alone as well, thereby vastly reducing the burden on teachers, since they will only have to prepare a question back and keep revising them from time-to-time as felt necessary.

Apart from that, mundane activities such as attendance marking and other administrative tasks can be easily taken over by AI with the help of biometric authentication. Also, large-scale automated grading of assignments by the way of machine learning can be incorporated on platforms such as DIKSHA and E-PATHSHALA.[8]

Additionally, providing individual attention to every student may also be possible. AI can provide personalized feedback and suggestions by identifying obstacle points for the students and making recommendations accordingly. These personalized ‘tutors’ collect data points at every junction of a child’s education and can be used to predict drop-out rates to then provide proper redressal mechanisms.

In conclusion, India’s strategy and intentions are good at heart and need a successful implementation to achieve its goals. It can take inspiration from other countries and incorporate them here to achieve the goal of inclusivity for all. AI should not only be utilised to increase productivity and economic development; it must be used to enhance a person’s life and encourage him to fully participate in all aspects meaningful to him.


[1] Elias, Jibu (2020). ‘“We must explore the inclusive character of AI”, Ravi Shankar Prasad’. [2] Baruah, Ayushman (2018). ‘Artificial Intelligence in Indian Agriculture – An Indian Industry and Startup Review’. [3] Irimia, Madalina (2016). ‘Five ways agriculture could benefit from artificial intelligence.’ AI for the Enterprise, IBM. [4] Sennaar, Kumba. (2018). ‘AI in Agriculture – Present Applications and Impact.’ [5] Nagpal, Jasmeen (2017). ‘Digital Agriculture: Farmers in India are using AI to increase crop yields.’ Microsoft India News Center. [6] Davenport, Thomas (2019). ‘The potential for artificial intelligence in healthcare.’ [7] Chadha, Kapil (2019). ‘Incorporating Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare System.’ [8] Arora, Abhijay (2020). ‘Indian Education Sector is Ripe for Disruption by Artificial Intelligence.’


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