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Government Departments Have Initiated Efforts to Standardise Rules For Use of AI: IT Ministry in Parliament

Responding to a parliamentary question, the Minister of State for IT also acknowledged that the existing National Strategy for AI is not enough to address ethical concerns and risks associated with AI.

“To address the ethical concerns and potential risks associated with AI, various central and state government departments and agencies have commenced efforts to standardize responsible AI development, use and promote the adoption of best practices,” Minister of State (MoS) for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar stated on December 6, in his response to a parliamentary question on whether the government is working on a plan or policy to address AI-related risks or problems faced by the citizens in near future.

The MoS also acknowledged that the existing National Strategy for AI is not enough to address ethical concerns and risks associated with AI such as bias, privacy violations, lack of transparency, etc.

Will the government bring in a framework for governing AI use?

Lok Sabha members Dr Ram Shankar Katheria, Ram Kripal Yadav, and Janardan Mishra also asked if the government was planning to devise a policy on the use of AI anytime soon. The MoS replied by stating that a framework for the use of emerging technologies is needed for setting guardrails for “ethical and safe use.”

Further, the MoS highlighted the implementation of the Digital Personal Data Protection Act (DPDPA) and the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 for addressing harms related to AI and bringing about platform accountability. However, nothing in the responses indicates that the government intends to bring in a national policy for AI anytime soon.

Why it matters:

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In May this year, during a consultation on the Digital India Act (DIA), MoS Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that the government intends to regulate AI through the “prism of user harm” and that this will most probably be prescribed under a chapter in the DIA. But before the government imposes penalties on the harms of AI, it is important to understand if guidelines/sector-specific standard operating procedures (SOP) are in place to govern the practical use of AI. Parliamentarians sought an answer to these questions in April this year. However, the IT Ministry failed to elaborate on the kind of SOP observed by various departments for AI deployment. The Ministry also mentioned that while the National Informatics Centre (NIC) conducts pre-deployment assessments to evaluate the feasibility of an AI model, it doesn’t share those reports with the public.

Further, the DPDPA exempts publicly available personal data from protections under the Act, which means that AI companies can scrape such data for training their AI models without having to obtain the consent of the individual. This raises questions regarding whether the DPDPA will provide safeguards to people’s data when used for purposes involving AI companies.

On leveraging AI for governance:

In a separate set of questions related to AI, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) also revealed that the government has constituted seven expert groups to deliberate and prepare a design document on IndiaAI. As explained by MeitY, IndiaAI is an evolving framework which is expected to complement the Ministry’s ‘National Program on AI’ and address specific gaps in the AI ecosystem with respect to funding, research, targeted skilling, infrastructure, institutional capacity etc.

MoS Rajeev Chandrasekhar also informed that in its first report, the expert group has detailed the aspects of establishing Centre of Excellence (CoEs) on AI, and the institutional framework for governing data collection, management, processing and storage by the National Data Management Office (NDMO).

“The report also recommends on how India can leverage its demographic dividend and play to its strengths as an IT superpower to further the penetration of IndiaAI skills in the country, strengthening the IndiaAI compute infrastructure in India to support IndiaAI innovation through public-private partnerships (PPPs),” the response added.

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The MoS also informed that MeitY has collaborated with Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC) to initiate a Proof-of-Concept (PoC) project on AIRAWAT (AI Research, Analytics and Knowledge Dissemination Platform). This project is expected to provide a “common compute platform for AI research and knowledge assimilation” and will be used by technology innovation hubs, research labs, scientific communities, industry, and start-up institutions with National Knowledge Network.

Funds allocated for promoting use of AI:

In another set of questions on the same day, members also asked for details about the funds allocated, released and utilized under various schemes for promoting Artificial Intelligence during the last three years. According to MeitY’s response, the government has allocated Rs. 436.87 Cr for the ‘FutureSkills Prime’ programme for re-skilling and up-skilling individuals in emerging tech including AI, Blockchain, Robotics, Big Data & Analytics, IoT, Virtual Reality, Cybersecurity, Cloud Computing, 3D Printing and Web 3.0.

The government has allocated a total of Rs. 947.93 Cr for the ‘Visvesvaraya PhD Scheme’ in order to enhance the number of PhDs in Electronics System Design & Manufacturing (ESDM) and IT/IT Enabled Services (IT/ITES) sectors including AI and Emerging Technologies. Lastly, the reply noted that Rs.170 Cr has been allocated for AI4ICPS Foundation, Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems, at IIT Kharagpur.

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Curious about the intersection of technology with education, caste and welfare rights. For story tips, please feel free to reach out at sarasvati@medianama.com

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