Daily Editorial Analysis for 12th August 2021

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Digital governance through AI

Why in News

  • In the last decade, proliferation of digital adoption has been seen across India, facilitated by the government’s focus on the JAM Trinity (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) to create a digital identity for each citizen.
  • From an internet penetration of just 4% in 2007, India currently covers nearly 55% of the population, and is slated to reach one billion users by 2025.
  • While successfully narrowing down the digital divide, India now has an exceptional opportunity to harness the data being created to benefit citizens through adoption of frontier technologies.

Artificial Intelligence in Indian Governance

  • As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes ubiquitous, India has the potential to leverage these massive datasets to build frameworks to empower people, create equity and race towards its goal of $1 trillion of economic value using digital technologies by 2025.
  • A recent PwC report indicates that AI can provide global economic value addition of up to $15.7 trillion by 2030.
  • Recognizing this potential, the government released the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (NSAI) in June 2018, which serves as a roadmap for the government to adopt artificial intelligence to increase efficiency in delivery of services, collaborate with the private sector to enhance public sector potential, and develop capacities to embrace and deploy innovation.
  • More recently, the government also deregulated the geospatial sector allowing private players to bring state-of-the-art solutions to the sector, and spur innovation in AIenabled hotspot mapping and analytics.
  • The same has been observed in the Philippines where UNDP’s Pintig Lab7 used AI models on geospatial data to make granular estimates that informed the country’s responses and recovery strategy against Covid19 as well as mapping poverty hotspots to identify the most vulnerable communities.
  • In India this can lead to transformation of various sectors such as infrastructure, health, and help in designing climate change resilient cities.

Cutting energy losses

  • Energy is another key sector which can benefit from the wide-scale adoption of AI.
  • Currently, Delhi and Kolkata alone account for $36 million of annual loss in revenue from renewable energy losses; across the country, the number is significantly higher in the billions of dollars.
  • By using AI in the energy sector, renewable energy generators and Discoms can cut losses and increase efficiencies by better predicting grid load management, and ultimately making the adoption of renewables cost-effective.
  • The Electricity Growth and Use in Developing Economies (e-GUIDE) tool from leading global scientists and researchers is one such example that seeks to transform the approaches used for planning and operations of electricity infrastructure in developing regions.
  • With the use of AI, the Power Ministry’s Renewable Energy Management Centers (REMCs) will be able to provide enhanced renewable energy forecasting, scheduling, and monitoring capabilities by processing large datasets of past weather , generation output history, and electricity requirement in a region.

Significance of Digital transformation through AI

  • Digital transformation through AI can help governments in being more responsive to emerging trends and act accordingly.
  • Within the government machinery, policymakers are moving forward with incorporating AI solutions for effective tax monitoring, data compliance etc.
  • In the scope of public sector adoption of AI, the critical need for sensitization and capacity building within the government cannot be discounted.
  • Initiatives like RAISE 2020, Digital India Dialogue and AI-Pe-Charcha have commenced a much needed discourse on ‘AI for good’, covering aspects of evolving technologies and their policy implications.
  • Further, we must create enabling environments in schools through multi-disciplinary approaches with AI at their core to empower the next generation to play an essential role in designing practical AI solutions for India and in India.
  • MeitY’s ‘Responsible AI for Youth’ has incentivized youth participation through a platform for exposure on a tech mindset, and digital readiness.

Public-private ties

  • Another initiative, Future Skills Prime, has exhibited the strength of public-private partnership by aggregating digital ready courses for consumers across citizens, government employees and businesses.
  • Such initiatives hold immense promise for the role of civil society and private sector in pursuing responsible AI through collaboration.
  • To channelize the promise of AI, it would be prudent to create an enabling environment that seeks to promote AI innovations in India while effectively governing them to prevent public harm.
  • Standardizing the rules of the game will help expand markets for positive AI-driven goods and services.
  • Robust public-private partnerships and collaborations, wherein the government creates an underlying public architecture as a ‘Digital Public Good’ on which private players build applications, must be encouraged.
  • The upcoming National Programme for AI is a step in this direction building upon existing partnerships and increasing governmental capacity in supporting AI innovations and research for public sector adoption.
  • As AI continues to course through every facet of our daily lives, it is quintessential for the myriad stakeholders including innovators, policymakers, academicians, industry experts, philanthropic foundations, multilaterals and civil society to collaborate to help steer AI’s future towards benevolent purposes.
  • Through its technological prowess and abundance of data, India can lead the way in thriving through Artificial Intelligence solutions, contributing to inclusive development and social empowerment.


Focus on food processing

Why in News

  • Going by the recent claims made by the government in Parliament, its policies have incentivised private investment in the food processing sector to facilitate value-addition of farm produce and reduce its wastage.
  • This assertion is correct to some extent as the sector has, of late, been clocking double-digit annual growth.

Government schemes in food-processing sector

  • Between 2014 and March 2020, this sector received direct external investment of about $4.18 billion.
  • With the changing lifestyle of people, especially that of the huge urban middle class, the household consumption of processed food items has also begun to look up, though the traditional preference for fresh foods does not seem to have waned.
  • The government’s initiatives that have helped the industry include the production-linked incentive scheme to facilitate the availability of world-class food products for the domestic and export market.
  • It will also facilitate building of global brands to boost exports, which are already rising rapidly but still have untapped potential.
  • Another well-thought-out scheme aims at promoting micro-food processing units based on the concept of one-district-one-product to capitalize on the popularity of items like oranges of Nagpur or mangoes of Malihabad.
  • However, there is a lot more that needs to be done as the food processing industry still faces some formidable constraints that need to be addressed urgently if India intends to catch up with developed countries where a sizeable part of the produce is processed to add value and, more so, stretch their shelf life.
  • That seems essential also to ensure year-round availability of food items, most of which are seasonal in nature. Both processing and preservation seem particularly vital in the case of mass consumed kitchen staples, such as potatoes, onions and tomatoes collectively referred to as TOP.
  • The key constraints include the limitations of supply chain infrastructure, seasonal production, lack of preliminary farm level freshness-retaining treatment, small scale of production, a lack of focus on quality and, the most forbidding, compulsion to source the raw material through the mandis run by the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs).
  • Only a few states have exempted horticultural products like fruits and vegetables from their APMC Acts, allowing them to be traded directly between the producers and consumers or other end-users, including the processing units.
  • The fact also is that for a country like India where a sizeable part of the population lives in tiny villages with no or difficult access to the market, food preservation is as— if not more— important as food processing.
  • This approach scores over the organized or unorganized sector food processing in terms of convenience as it can be practiced at the household level.
  • It has, in fact, been traditionally practised as a means of stretching the availability of seasonal foods. Conventional techniques like dehydration (sun drying), pickling (salted pickles or sweetened Murrabas) continue to be the chief methods of food preservation.


  • There is a need for greater research and development effort to refine the preservation methods to retain the quality and safety of preserved foods by preventing their contamination by hazardous bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms.
  • These are the most convenient means to make the available food go far.


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