'AI will become central to India's economic growth': Cisco president Daisy Chittilapilly

She talks about the opportunities and challenges the technology offers


AMERICAN DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS giant Cisco offers many solutions driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning. Cisco India chief Daisy Chittilapilly talks about the opportunities and the challenges the technology offers. Excerpts from an interview.

Organisations must prioritise transparency, fairness, accountability, privacy, security, and reliability when developing and using AI.

Q/ How do you put in perspective this AI trend, and in what manner will AI fundamentally change the way we work and play?

A/ Today, technology is all-pervasive, especially AI, which has revolutionised various aspects of our world. AI has transformed the way we communicate, learn and work, and has the potential to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. AI/ML (machine learning) technology has been integrated into numerous industries, such as mobile apps for food delivery and customer-service chatbots, for several years now, largely operating unnoticed by the general public. But with the advent of ChatGPT, the vast presence and, more importantly, the immense possibility of AI has been brought to light.

AI in India is still in its nascent stage, with a NASSCOM report estimating its economic impact on India’s GDP to be around $500 billion by 2025. As we continue to explore the possibilities of AI, it will be essential for organisations and governments to embrace this technology and leverage its potential to solve critical issues, including but not limited to improving citizen services, discovering new medical treatments, addressing supply chain issues, and combating climate change.

Q/ In which way do you think the incorporation of AI can help India in bridging the digital divide?

A/ India is a country with a diverse geography, linguistic variations, and socioeconomic differences, and this provides a significant opportunity for AI to bridge the digital divide and create an inclusive society. Over the past few years, India has established itself as an AI hub by fostering deep-tech startups, promoting academic research, and enabling digital transformation across every major sector. The government has also leveraged AI and data to address challenges and enhance crisis and city management, critical citizen services, and financial services.

In the digital-first world, companies that can use AI to unlock real-time value from their data will have a significant competitive advantage. The possibilities for AI are endless, ranging from precision farming to customer service, health care, and traffic management. For instance, through multilingual support, an NLP chatbot or conversational AI can bridge the language gap between India’s English-speaking and non-English-speaking populations. By recognising handwriting across various languages, AI can simplify data entry and create a clean data lake, which amplifies India’s demographic advantages. By investing in research and development and collaborating with industry, academia, and government, India can become the world’s AI innovation garage.

Q/ Once AI evolves further, what is the shape it will take, and what are the transformative effects we can expect?

A/ As AI continues to evolve, we can expect it to become increasingly central to India’s economic growth, revolutionising everything from manufacturing to innovation and workforce productivity. India, in particular, is poised to benefit significantly from AI, with AI expected to add $967 billion to the Indian economy by 2035, according to Meity. Several government missions are already using artificial intelligence to boost research and solve problems. Through the Digital India Bhashini portal, for instance, the government is enabling access to resources, AI and natural language processing (NLP) for startups and academia working on making their products available in Indian languages.

As AI models scale, the focus will shift to the quality of input data and the development of platforms and services that make it easier and faster to train, tag, and manage models. Today, we are already starting to see AI coming to the rescue of IT Ops teams to help automate routine tasks such as monitoring, provisioning, and troubleshooting. Generative AI is another exciting area that we expect to see grow, particularly in AI-powered language applications that have the potential to revolutionize virtual meetings. AI will also become increasingly important in security, with applications such as threat detection and prevention, malware detection and analysis, user behaviour analytics, vulnerability management, fraud detection, and security response automation. As we work toward creating a green economy, AI will also play a vital role in helping companies mitigate environmental risks through more transparent, traceable, and decarbonised supply chains.

Q/ What are the worry points regarding the use of AI?

A/ Organisations need to ensure their priorities regarding the use of personal data are aligned with those of consumers when leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation to make decisions. This is especially true when the data is used to take actions that may affect individuals. Cisco’s 2022 Consumer Privacy Survey found that 60 per cent of consumers are concerned about the way organisations use and apply AI today, and 65 per cent have already lost trust in organizations over their AI practices. This disconnect can lead to several issues even when consumers generously share their anonymised data and lend their support for better AI solutions. What organisations can do to make the use of AI a more comfortable option for consumers is first by providing opt-out options. Increasing the level of human touch and assurance by ensuring that a human is involved in the decision-making process. Imbimbing a code of transparency throughout and adopting AI ethics principles are certain approaches companies can look at while tapping AI.

Additionally, there are also concerns regarding the potential for AI to amplify biases and its misuse. To address these concerns, organisations must prioritise transparency, fairness, accountability, privacy, security, and reliability when developing and using AI. They should adopt AI ethics principles, imbibe a code of transparency throughout, and provide opt-out options.

Another significant opportunity and challenge is the shortage of skilled talent in India. TeamLease reports that there will be more than 2 million AI, cybersecurity, and blockchain jobs unfilled by 2023. This can be addressed by investing in education and training programs to upskill existing professionals and promoting collaboration between academia and industry to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical applications.