Reliance Industries Limited chair Mukesh Ambani on Monday said that he was confident that the government will introduce a “sound” data regulation framework to protect the “national resource” that is data, and to ensure privacy.  He also called data the “raw material” for artificial intelligence, and that India has a unique advantage over other countries as the country’s economy and society will generate data at an “explosive and exponential rate”. Ambani was speaking at the Indian government’s Raise 2020 Summit (Responsible AI for Social Empowerment, 2020).

Ambani said that artificial intelligence will make India’s industries and small businesses atmanirbhar (self-reliant), modernise the country’s agriculture, and deliver education, skills, and training to Indians. Ambani also likened the advent of modern day artificial intelligence to the birth of human intelligence in the world, and claimed that the total non-biological intelligence will exceed the rational intelligence of the entire human population in the coming decades. However, it will never be able to “replace the human mind”, but will help in solving complex problems of the day, he added.

In another recent telecom-related address, Ambani said that India should become 2G-mukt, or 2G-free. Jio, which Reliance owns, does not support 2G handsets.

BharatNet and 5G

He also talked about the Indian government’s BharatNet initiative, and claimed that the project will put India among the top nations in fixed broadband connectivity. He however, did not mention how the project has been beleaguered by delays since its inception about a decade ago. The BharatNet project, in 2011, was to connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayats in the country with optical fibre within two years of its inception, it has seen its deadlines revised at least six times.

“India has delivered 4G broadband coverage to more than 99% of our citizens. We have gone from 155th to number one in the world in mobile data consumption. With 5G round the corner, India will maintain its leadership position,” Ambani said.

Ambani’s remarks — full transcript

India has delivered 4G broadband coverage to more than 99% of our citizens. We have gone from 155th to number one in the world in mobile data consumption. With 5G round the corner, India will maintain its leadership position.

Thanks to your [the government’s] BharatNet initiative and the priority of connecting every home and workplace, India is now rolling out a massive pan India optical fibre network, connecting not only all our cities and towns, but each of our 6 lakh villages. This will put India among the top nations in fixed broadband as well.

Through your Make in India initiatives, we are now creating the capacity for affordable manufacture of all necessary digital devices, sensors, and equipment in our own country.

India is becoming a leading nation in compute power with world class data centres. Along with IoT, this is laying the groundwork for smart platforms that will converge physical and digital domains and boost productivity and efficiency to unprecedented levels in all sectors of our economy. We now have all the crucial components in place to make India a premier digital society.

Together, our economy and society will generate data at an explosive and exponential rate. Data is the raw material for artificial intelligence. Intelligent data is the digital capital; it is a vital national resource. In the past, nations have competed on physical capital, financial capital, human capital, and intellectual capital. But, in the coming decades, nations will increasingly compete on digital capital. India has the unique advantage to harness its enormous digital capital for AI-driven development, which is bottom-up and inclusive. This is because of our twin strengths of democracy and demography. When 1.3 billion Indians are digitally empowered they will unleash a proliferation of new digital enterprises that’ll create faster economic growth, greater prosperity, high quality employment opportunities, and better standards of living across all sections of our society.

We are confident the government will introduce sound data regulation framework to protect this national resource, and ensure data privacy. Therefore, the time is right, the tools are ready to make India world leader in artificial intelligence and to make artificial intelligence work for all Indians.

It is important to understand the epoch changing importance of AI. The advent of modern artificial intelligence is comparable to the birth of intelligent life on our planet. In the coming decades, the total non-biological intelligence will exceed the rational intelligence of the entire human population. But this doesn’t mean AI will replace the human mind. It never can, it never will. Rather, AI, and associated technologies of the fourth industrial revolution, will vastly expand capacity to solve the most complex and pressing problems before India and the world. Specifically, AI will enable India to move faster towards achieving the five ambitious goals set by our Prime Minister:

  1. Of transforming India into a high growth economy on its path to $5 trillion.
  2. Of making our industry and our small businesses, atmanirbhar, dominating new global value chains
  3. Of modernising India’s agriculture, multiplying the income of our farmers
  4. Of delivering high quality and affordable healthcare to all Indians
  5. Of delivering world class education, skills and training and talent enrichment to every Indian including those in the remotest parts of rural India