Regardless of the political alliance that comes to power on 23 May, be it the BJP-led NDA or the Congress-led UPA or a coalition, creating jobs for the educated youth should be the top priority for them.
Contrary to popular belief, one ally that new government shouldn’t fear is Artificial Intelligence (AI). It can actually create millions of new jobs in India in the coming years, and most of them can be for non-engineers.
The three things that the new government must do to achieve this are:
Stay out of the way
The Narendra Modi government loves acronyms, so here is my gift to them. SOTY – Stay Out of The Way.
Let me explain this. AI’s biggest impact will be on drastically reducing cost of doing business across several industries by raising efficiency.
This is what technology does – whether its automation, energy efficiency, or the Internet, or AI. Every time goods and services become cheaper, more jobs are created because more people can afford to buy these goods and services. For example, as smartphones became cheaper, millions of Indians bought them and created hundreds of thousands of jobs for people selling and fixing them.
The government’s role here is to stay out of the way. If the government tries to slow down the pace of AI adoption across industries, because it might take away low-paying manual labour jobs in the short-term, or tries to create other regulatory hurdles, India will fall further behind in its quest for creating millions of jobs. Take the short-term pain for the long-term gain.
Build India as a global AI hub
The easiest way to benefit from the ever-increasing popularity of AI is to help establish India as the place where world comes for AI expertise.
Think of it as outsourcing for AI. The developed countries will lead in driving the usage of AI across all aspects of life, while India will likely follow the same route in the next 5-10 years if we look at the recent trends.
Indian IT companies seized the opportunity that Y2K scare provided and built a multi-billion industry that created a few million high-paying jobs. Similarly, new-age tech companies of India, along with global tech giants, can help India become the place where AI for the world is built.
Conditions this time around are pretty much the same – there aren’t enough engineers in the world but India has an excess of them; most of the world’s programming still happens in English; and world’s biggest tech companies already have business operations in India.
The good news is that NITI Aayog seems to understand how important AI is for India, and the new PM would do well to listen to what technocrats at NITI Aayog are recommending. This will test the skills and the will of India’s policymakers as it challenges their ability to take a short-term hit for a long-term gain. Getting this right will create a whole new industry with high-paying jobs for hundreds of thousands of people immediately, with positive domino effect to follow.
Use AI to reskill India
One of the biggest issues that India’s labour force faces is not having the right skills for the job. Skill India had the right tagline, but it didn’t go anywhere. The new government can take an AI-driven approach to skilling by leaning on machine learning. There is no shortage of data in India. The new government should work with the private sector on a new data-driven, machine learning-powered skilling programme.
This skilling programme would first determine what skills are in demand today and over the next five years through a combination of big data and human expertise. The programme can then help the government target right audiences for reskilling.
The new-age Skill India needs to be digital in nature, focused on jobs of tomorrow and powered by AI. One cannot generate an estimated 50-70 lakh jobs a year by only skilling people in areas that have existed forever.
The author is a tech policy consultant, and a former Facebook and Google employee.
Views expressed by the author are personal.