On June 13, Microsoft launched AI Digital Labs in India in collaboration with 10 institutes of higher education. Under this three-year programme, Microsoft will provide infrastructure, curriculum, training, access to cloud and AI services, and developer tools and support. This venture will train nearly 1.5 lakh students, the company says.

The 10 institutions are: BITS Pilani, BML Munjal University, ISB, Kalpataru Institute of Technology, KL University, Periyar University, Karunya University, SRM Institute of Science & Technology, SVKM (NMIMS) and Trident Academy of Technology.

“As AI becomes mainstream, organisations will require talent with skillsets that are very different from what exists now. Educators and institutions are integral to the skilling revolution taking root in the country,” said Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India.

Microsoft’s role in the programme

  • Setting up core AI infrastructure and IoT Hub
  • Providing access to AI developmental tools and Azure AI Services (Microsoft Cognitive Services, Azure Machine Learning, Bot Services)
  • Training programmes for faculty — workshops on cloud computing, data sciences, AI, and IoT; assistance in strategising content and curricula

Microsoft’s AI ventures in India

  • In October 2018, NITI Aayog and Microsoft India signed an agreement to deploy AI technologies to advance agriculture, healthcare, natural language computing, and a sustainable environment. Under the agreement, MS India would provide its cloud, AI, research and vertical expertise to NITI Aayog.
  • In September 2018, Microsoft India made the Microsoft Indian Language Speech Corpus available for researchers and academics who were building Indian-language speech recognition for all applications in which speech is used. It offered speech training and test data for Telugu, Tamil and Gujarati, and the data set included audio and corresponding transcripts.
  • In January 2018, the company announced the use of AI and Deep Neural Networks to improve real-time language translation for Hindi, Bengali, and Tamil.

Tech giants’ foray into AI in India

  • Google introduced an India-specific Launchpad Accelerator Programme in July 2018, based in Bengaluru, that focuses on supporting and mentoring start-ups that are solving India-specific challenges using AI and Machine Learning. The company announced its second set of start-ups selected for the programme in March 2019, according to a Business Insider report.
  • In March 2019, Facebook held its first AI for India Summit in Bengaluru where it invited stakeholders from across the spectrum to discuss the best practices of AI for promoting social good. The day-long conference saw participation from NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant as well. The company announced 100 scholarships for students and developers to support projects that use AI for social good, ‘Women in AI’ hackathons to encourage women developers and women-led start-ups focused on AI, AI training under the Facebook Hubs programme, and India Innovation Accelerator to focus on AI for Social Good.
  • In 2017, Facebook developed an AI-powered ‘Blood Donation Tool’ that connects blood banks with registered blood donors.