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The Growing Impact of Artificial Intelligence in India: Opportunities and Challenges

What is Artificial Intelligence?

The capacity of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks typically associated with intelligent beings. AI systems function by ingesting vast quantities of labelled training data, analysing the data for correlations and patterns, and employing these patterns to predict future states. In this manner, a chatbot that is fed examples of text chats can learn to produce lifelike interactions with humans, and an image recognition tool can learn to identify and describe objects in images by analysing millions of examples.

AI can be a force for good, assisting societies conquer some of the greatest challenges of our time. However, it also poses a variety of threats to the same society. A news report based[i] on this in Geneva also noted the high risks that AI has on the society.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has rapidly emerged as a transformative force across various industries, including healthcare, finance, education, and more. In India, AI is making significant steps, promising to revolutionize processes, enhance efficiency, and improve decision-making. However, the excess of AI also raises crucial questions about ethics, accountability, and the need for regulations to ensure responsible AI development and deployment. In this article, we will delve into the state of AI in India and the evolving landscape of AI regulations.

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence in India

India's AI landscape has been evolving steadily in recent years.

Factors contributing to this evolution include:
  1. Startup Ecosystem: As AI is becoming an emerging concept in India, India has witnessed a substantial surge in AI startups across the country, particularly in cities like Bengaluru and Hyderabad. These startups are focusing on developing innovative and productive AI solutions for companies in areas such as education, agriculture, and healthcare.
  2. Government Initiatives: The Government of India recognized the potential of AI and released the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence in 2018. This strategy outlines a vision for research, development, and the responsible adoption of AI technologies across various sectors. It emphasizes ethical AI deployment and goes with the tag of #AIFORALL. Soon after initiating the said National AI Portal, which is a repository of AI-based initiatives in the country in a single place, there were numerous national and international articles; videos; research reports; Startups; and Government initiatives were listed at the said National AI Portal.
  3. Corporate Adoption of AI: Presently, major Indian corporations are incorporating AI into their operations to enhance efficiency and customer experiences. For instance, various e-commerce platforms started integrating and using AI for personalized recommendations for their users. Other than the e-commerce platforms, various other entities that deal with the general public through their online portals have also integrated AI as a smart solution for enhancing the customer experience and streamlining business processes. Moreover, recently banks have started utilizing AI for the purpose of fraud detection.
  4. Educational Institutions: Becoming a part of the process of adopting AI for business purposes, leading educational institutions in India have started investing in AI research and have also started offering specialized AI courses for their students. This is nurturing a pool of AI talent in the country which will subsequently impact the quick adoption of AI in India.

Challenges and Ethical Considerations:

As AI is becoming more prevalent in India, ethical considerations and several other challenges have come to the forefront, which are explained in brief below:
  1. Data Privacy: AI systems require vast amounts of data to function effectively. AI-powered tools can breach data privacy by extracting sensitive information from databases, social media accounts of people, or online platforms without obtaining proper consent. This violates individuals' privacy rights and can lead to financial and personal harm. Ensuring data privacy and compliance with data protection laws, such as the proposed Personal Data Protection Bill, is a critical concern in India.
  2. Bias and Fairness: AI systems learn from historical data that the system collects from various sources. The said collected data may contain biases reflecting societal prejudices and inequalities. When AI models are trained on biased data, they can perpetuate and even increase those biases in the perceptions and decisions of individuals. In a diverse country like India, ensuring fairness and preventing discrimination is important.
  3. Accountability: The idea of holding AI systems accountable, as if they were autonomous entities responsible for their actions, is a developing concept. Yet, the task of legally attributing accountability to AI systems presents intricate challenges concerning their legal status and their capacity to adhere to laws and regulations. The current legal frameworks may not possess the necessary tools to effectively address issues of AI accountability. Therefore, there may be a necessity for legal reforms to establish clear definitions of responsibilities and liabilities in the context of AI.
  4. Transparency: Many AI algorithms, especially deep learning models, are often viewed as "black boxes" due to their complexity. Ensuring transparency and better understanding in AI decision-making is essential. Considering the fast growth and adoption of AI, ensuring transparency in the ease of understanding of AI tools and algorithms is anticipated to be improved in the near future.
  5. Employment concerns: Employment in India has been a major concern and all Governments, as in force from time to time, have been looking at ways to increase the employment opportunities for people in India. However, the automation of certain tasks through AI (which could even increase in the future) could lead to concerns about job displacement of people currently working in different sectors and may also lead to a decrease in employment opportunities. Ethical considerations revolve around ensuring that technology enhances human capabilities rather than replacing them.
  6. Ethical AI: Developing and deploying AI systems that adhere to ethical principles and human values is crucial. This includes considerations of fairness, accountability, transparency, and the prevention of bias.

The Regulatory Framework in India:

India is in the process of formulating a regulatory framework for AI. Several key aspects of this framework include:
  1. Data Protection Laws: India's Personal Data Protection Bill aims to regulate the collection, processing, and storage of personal data, aligning with global data protection standards. This legislation is expected to play a crucial role in governing AI's use of data while mitigating the issues of ethical and illegal considerations.
  2. Ethical AI Guidelines: The Government think tanks like NITI Aayog, and industry bodies are working on guidelines for responsible AI development and deployment. These guidelines will emphasize fairness, transparency, accountability, and user consent while using AI tools and solutions in India.
  3. Liability Clarity: Addressing questions of liability in AI-related incidents is a complex challenge. Legislation should provide clarity on who is responsible when AI systems make decisions with legal consequences.
  4. Intellectual Property Rights: As AI is increasingly being used for the creation of literary and artistic works as well as inventions, intellectual property legislation needs to evolve to address issues relating to authorship, ownership, protection, and enforcement of such AI-generated content. The primary objective of such legislation(s) should be to provide a solution as regards whether the intellectual property ownership of the AI-generated content will vest with the relevant AI or the person who has created the AI/initiated the command to the AI for the generation of the relevant content.
  5. Standardization and Certification: Developing standards and certification processes for AI technologies can help ensure quality and interoperability. Such certifications and standards could indicate that an AI system meets specific ethical and technical criteria and will thereby create trust in the users to use the AI tools and solutions.

India's approach to AI regulation aligns with global trends. Countries like the United States, the European Union, and China have been developing their own AI strategies and regulations, focusing on ethical AI, data protection, and innovation. India's regulatory efforts are in line with international discussions on AI governance.

Why is AI harmful?

Given that AI offers the ability to process and analyse multiple data streams in timely manner, it should come as no surprise that it is already being used to facilitate global mass vigilance. The most widespread and risky instance of this is face recognition software that employs AI.

Governments are looking to facial recognition software, despite its imperfection, to monitor their citizens, enable the stereotyping of certain groups, and even recognize and detect people [ii].

Algorithms have been used for a long time to generate credit scores and guide loan screening[iii]. Nonetheless, with the rise of big data, systems now use machine learning to integrate and analyse non-financial data points to determine credit ratings, such as a person's place of residence, web surfing habits, and buying decision. E-scores are the outputs of these systems; unlike traditional credit ratings, they are completely unregulated. Sometimes these are discriminative and incorrect.

AI has spawned new forms of oppression, which in many instances disproportionately impact the most disempowered and vulnerable individuals. Individuals and the organisations that reflect them have the language and processes to contest the actions of more powerful individuals, such as nations and corporate entities, thanks to the idea of human rights.

Human rights are universal and enforceable, and they are codified in an international body of law. Government agencies and businesses are both expected to respect human rights, although governments have additional obligation to safeguard and accomplish human rights. Regional, international, and domestic institutions and organisations provide well-developed structures for redress and articulate the implementation of human rights law to changing situations, including technological advancements.

Encroaching on the right to privacy and equality

The right to privacy is recognised as a fundamental human right by Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and several other international and regional human rights instruments. Article 21 of the Constitution of India[iv] provides for right to life which includes privacy. Privacy is a fundamental human right, necessary for living with dignity and safety.

But in the digital environment, including when we use apps and social media platforms, vast quantities of our personal information are collected � with or without our knowledge � and can be used to profile us and predict our behaviour. We provide information about our health, political beliefs, and family life without understanding who will use it and for what objective.

Article 14 of the Constitution of India[v] provides for equality before law. The dearth of equality and diversity in the design of AI systems is thus a major concern: rather than making our decisions more unbiased, they could reinforce discriminatory practices by giving them the looks of objectivity. There is growing evidence that women, ethnic minorities, disabled people, and LGBTQ individuals are disproportionately affected by discriminatory methodologies

AI as an instrument of discrimination and unemployment

Article 15 of the Constitution of India[vi] provides for prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Ai perpetuates discrimination without the knowledge of people. Pulse oximeters, which quantify the extent of oxygen in the blood and have been an indispensable tool in the clinical management of COVID-19, are less precise on people with darker skin than on those with lighter skin[vii], as a recent study demonstrated.

Accessibility barriers can prevent older adults from participating in the research, layout, and development of digital innovations. The ageist belief that older adults are unable of using technology may also explain their absence from technology design and development. Consequently, older adults and their points of view are rarely incorporated into the development of artificial intelligence[viii] and policy frameworks, financial support, and support programs.

With increased automation and machine learning, we are able to design and build vehicles that are capable of sensing their surroundings and moving in a safe manner without or with minimal human intervention. These vehicles are autonomous and do not require a human driver to move. Due to AI, electronic commerce will undergo a profound transformation.

With robots navigating the space to collect products and execute customer orders; to be sent or even delivered automatically to customers using autonomous drones and cars. Consequently, reducing the need for salespeople and network stores. Attaching AI-enabled devices to a patient's body enables doctors to monitor the patient's health at regular intervals and make the necessary decisions regarding the patient's health.

Therefore, a nurse would not be required to monitor patients' health at regular intervals. Online services such as magic bricks and 99 acres assist customers with property searches, thereby reducing the need for brokers.

Article 23 of the UDHR[ix], Article 6 of the ICESCR[x] all guarantee the right to work and protection against unemployment. Despite the fact that the rapid growth of AI has transformed existing businesses and personal lives by increasing the efficiency of machinery and services, this transformation has also ushered in an era of unemployment as a result of the displacement of human labor.

Encroachment of the right to freedom

Article 19 of the Indian Constitution[xi] stipulates the protection of liberties-related rights. The use of artificial intelligence in surveillance violates the right to privacy and chills the freedom of expression. Surveillance of citizens around the clock increases their fear of being monitored and the likelihood that they will not exercise their fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech and expression.

The new tool for online harassment of marginalised and dissenting voices is AI-driven digital robots. Digital bot accounts that are difficult to identify pose as real users and send automated responses to recognised accounts or to anybody who shares a particular opinion, thereby violating the right to free speech. In numerous recent global elections, it has been argued that political parties have used artificial intelligence to generate and spread false information regarding their political opponents, thereby endangering democratic values and demanding the concept of free elections.

Consequences of such negative impacts of AI on human rights:

With COVID 19 already causing a loss in the jobs of many people, new AI inventions will only aggravate the situation further. Without regulation or accountability, these corporations increasingly intrude on the lives of citizens and violate human rights. From fostering discrimination to engaging in intrusive surveillance, AI has proven to be a threat to equal protection, economic rights, and fundamental liberties.

In order to reverse these trends, proper legal standards must be implemented in our societies that are undergoing a digital transformation. Urgently required are increased transparency in AI decision-making procedures, greater accountability for tech giants, and the capacity for civil society to contest the introduction of new technologies. 'AI literacy' should also be promoted by investing in public awareness and education initiatives that help societies learn not only about the operations of AI, but also its influence on our daily lives.

Pegasus leak as an example:

Pegasus can be installed on victims' phones without their knowledge. They are susceptible to tracking, eavesdropping, spying, and having their data copied.[xii] The Pegasus software has re-entered the public consciousness after the phone numbers of Indian politicians, journalists, and other prominent figures were discovered on a leaked list of potential hacking targets. The devastating impact that Pegasus spyware has or possibly could have on rights and fundamental freedoms, such as the right to dignity, free assembly, religious freedom, and even a person's physical and psychological authenticity, is of the utmost importance.

Due Diligence is the need of the hour:

Law enforcement, public safety, justice system, and border management structures are increasingly integrating AI. The efficient protection of the right to privacy and related rights is contingent on the legal, regulatory, and institutional frameworks formed by states; this is a pressing need. The State must:
  • Recognize the need to protect and strengthen all human rights as a primary goal in the advancement, use, and governance of AI.
  • Expressly prohibit the use of artificial intelligence applications that cannot be operated in accordance with international human rights law, unless and until sufficient precautions are taken to protect human rights.
  • Guarantee that victims of human rights violations and abuses resulting from the use of artificial intelligence systems have access to effective treatments.
  • Ensure that public-private partnerships in the provision and use of artificial intelligence technologies are transparent, subject to independent human rights supervision, and do not result in the abrogation of government responsibility for human rights.

Artificial intelligence systems are transforming the way businesses and governments operate across the globe, bringing with them the potential for large violations of human rights. Data protection laws and protections for transparency and accountability may be able to minimize some of the worst uses currently known, but more work is required to protect human rights as AI technology becomes more advanced and broadens into other sectors.

  • 2021

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