India Plans To Build Sovereign AI Infrastructure – Reports

Inspired by the success of past digital public infrastructure projects, India now hopes to build domestic AI infrastructure.

Gagandeep Kaur

December 5, 2023

2 Min Read
Mumbai skyline at night
RM Nunes / Alamy

In line with its focus on building mega digital public infrastructure (DPI) initiatives, India now hopes to build its own sovereign AI infrastructure, according to media reports.

"We are determined that we must have our own sovereign AI. We can take two options. One is to say, as long as there is an AI ecosystem in India whether that is driven by Google, Meta, Indian startups, and Indian companies, we should be happy about it. But we certainly don’t think that is enough," Minister of State for Electronics Rajeev Chandrasekhar said at a recent event. 

The media report further suggests that India would be looking at initiatives adopted by the US and European nations while developing its own strategy. The Indian government hopes to use the technology to develop use cases for social and economic development.

This idea was also mooted by Arvind Krishna, chairman and CEO of IBM, during his recent visit to India. "I am a firm believer that every country ought to have some sovereign capability on artificial intelligence, including large language models for AI," Krishna told an Indian national daily.

India has already started taking some steps in this direction. The Ministry of Electronics and IT released a draft of the National Data Governance Framework Policy proposing the creation of a datasets platform that will include non-personal and anonymized datasets from central government entities collecting data from Indian citizens. The non-personal data would then be made available to startups and research organizations.

The policy hopes to bring about changes in the government's data collection system to improve governance and boost the startup ecosystem in this domain. The government is also exploring the option of asking big tech companies like Google and Facebook to share anonymized personal data with the government's database.

Several other countries are focusing on building competencies in AI. For instance, Singapore has recently launched its National AI Strategy (NAIS 2.0) to develop its AI ecosystem.

Past DPI successes

Over the last few years, India has been focusing on building domestic digital infrastructure. It has built massive DPI projects like Aadhaar and Unified Payment Interface (UPI), which are attracting global interest now. Aadhaar provides a biometric-based identity to all Indian citizens, while UPI is a payment platform that has proved massively popular. Earlier this year, India recorded transactions worth more than 10 billion Indian rupees (US$119 million) in a single month for the first time.

Recently, the country launched the Global Digital Public Infrastructure Repository (GDPIR) to collate resources and insights from G20 members to design and build DPIs. As of now, GDPIR brings together codes and best practices from 54 DPIs, with India contributing 12 of these.

Now, India wants to take this success forward by creating a domestic platform for AI, which will help it to reduce its dependence on global tech giants.

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