Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and the digital revolution: India needs to bridge the digital chasm
India's prowess in ML and AI is a beacon that must shine on all corners of the nation. Closing the digital divide through digital literacy and improved technological access is more than a responsibility—it's an investment in India's growth narrative.
In this fast-moving digital world, India stands at a crossroads that can leave a substantial portion of its population behind in the race toward a digital technology-driven revolution. As the global scenario skews towards machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), computer literacy must take center stage in India to lead the race.
India has emerged as a global AI hub: its technological journey is worth praise. It has made remarkable progress in developing various sectors like education, healthcare, agriculture, and finance. All this was possible due to the penetration of AI and ML. Start-ups have become popular, and AI and ML research has changed the Indian scenario.
But, the reality is different from the above prognoses. According to computer literacy statistics, a large percentage of the vast rural population of India, a country of 1.4 billion people, lacks access to computing skills and literacy avenues for digital updation. Digital literacy is inequitably varying: a substantial part of the population, especially in rural areas, remains digitally marginalized, lacking access to fundamental computing resources and digital literacy programs.
Need to upgrade tech infrastructure
As per the latest internet access statistics, India has an impressive figure of 624 million subscribers, making it one of the biggest global leaders in digital access. However, the remaining population still needs to find inclusion in this digital revolution. Computer literacy was found to be closely linked to educational backgrounds and needs to be assessed as a prime factor while planning digital literacy programs. The language of instruction is a crucial factor to consider, given that digital content predominantly exists in English, posing a hurdle for a significant portion of the population across various states in India. Southern Indian states have significantly higher digital literacy levels when compared to northern and eastern states. Rural areas and suburbs face infrastructure and awareness challenges as well.
Addressing this digital divide is crucial for the social and economic growth of India. AI and ML are penetrating all sectors at an exponential rate. Lack of digital literacy translates to a loss of opportunities for the nation to benefit from the full potential of these cutting-edge technologies.
India has launched government initiatives such as the Digital India campaign and Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA) programme, especially for rural areas with the premise of enhancing digital literacy. These efforts alone are not sufficient to make an impact. India should prioritize updating technological infrastructure, especially in rural areas, and provide affordable smartphones and low-cost computers.
Enhancing digital literacy
Integrating computer skills into the education system is crucial. Collaboration between government, private sector, and even NGOs can amplify the digital literacy impact. Technological companies can support and promote literacy programs in local languages, which is essential to fill the gaps in language barriers, making technology available to all. Awareness campaigns to promote its benefits and clear misconceptions are a much-needed step. Fostering start-ups and supporting research-driven scientific institutions can stimulate local innovation, potentially creating job opportunities and maximizing the potential of AI and ML.
India's prowess in ML and AI is a beacon that must shine on all corners of the nation. Closing the digital divide through digital literacy and improved technological access is more than a responsibility—it's an investment in India's growth narrative. As India steps into the digital revolution, no one should be left behind, and every citizen receives their share of the benefits of ML and AI to reform their lives and contribute to the nation's all-round growth.
(The writer is a high school senior at Delhi Public School (DPS), Gurgaon, India. Views are personal. He can be contacted at email@example.com)