Artificial intelligence for social good: How Wadhwani Institute for AI aims to improve healthcare, education and society

The one of kind AI institute will be set up by Mumbai University in collaboration with the Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a nonprofit independent research institute, which is based in California.

The ongoing Magnetic Maharashtra Summit, saw the big announcement of India's first artificial intelligence institute. The institute will be set up in Mumbai and will focus on improving India's sectors like healthcare, agriculture education and more, using the power of artificial intelligence (AI).

Representational Image. Wadhwani AI

Representational Image. Wadhwani AI

The institute will be set up in Mumbai University's Vidyanagari campus in Kalina.

The institute is partnering with the government of Maharashtra as it seeks to create "AI solutions for social impact." The state government will help the institute identify problems and test and scale solutions.

In partnership with Mumbai University and other institutions, Wadhwani AI will help in the creation of a talent ecosystem in data science and AI. It will do this by helping set up a masters program in data science, help in curriculum creation, faculty training and more.

The project will not just be a first for India, but for the world as well.

Founder of the Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Sunil Wadhwani in an exclusive interview with tech2 said that India is a huge testbed with 1.3 billion people, which is why it made perfect sense to setup such an institute in Mumbai and make it global center for applying AI to accelerate social development.

Wadhwani also said that despite challenges, AI has plenty of scope in multiple areas like how it can be used to improve agricultural productivity, healthcare for the poorer segments of society and even education in country with a very high student dropout rate.

P Anandan, the CEO of Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence, emphasised how data is important in the whole equation.

"As much as AI can help with societal development, a lot of things are driven by the power of data. If you look at what is happening in the mainstream market, even in terms of self-driving cars, all of it is driven by the fact that there is vast amounts of data," he said.

Anandan explained that machines use data to learn something, learn about the problem and then apply it very broadly, which in turn opens up tremendous possibilities.

"Because we are going to work in the societal domain, we will work with the government and the state of Maharashtra and they will give us access to a lot of data. Not only data, but also access to understanding what problems are really important to solve."

There are many problems, but as the CEO explained, some of them have a much bigger impact than others.

The problems with AI bringing about social change is not just the data but the integrity of the data. So finding the sweet spot is the one of the hurdles that the team will have to overcome.

Wadhwani also added elaborated on how AI can actually help.

Giving a simple example Wadhwani explained, "If there is a malaria outbreak, in one particular part of the country or say a district in Rajasthan, then using AI we can predict how that might spread and then bring resources (healthcare workers) in a very targeted way to stop the spread of that disease."

The collaboration will see the Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence gather a strong team of AI scientists and engineers. While work has been going on AI for social change, it has been happening in silos, which is why the AI institute is a big deal. This makes the new AI institute a global first hub for all AI efforts that interfaces with the government to bring about social change.




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