Global Affairs Desk

Tue Jun 18 2024

India-US Cooperation on Artificial Intelligence

~ By Aarush Joshi on 5/30/2024

India-US Cooperation on Artificial Intelligence

The Biden Administration plans to prioritise federal funding for US research and development on artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies. If products created from these technologies are to enter the global marketplace, administration officials will need to work with like-minded countries to create new AI standards and principles consistent with democratic values and fair markets.

India is well-placed to be an essential part of these efforts. A key advocate for the developing world and the home of a significant information technology (IT) sector that fits well with the United States.

The United States and India are logical partners in charting the future growth of AI, which promises economic growth and social benefits to both countries in key sectors such as healthcare, education, energy, financial technology, retail and mobility. While India is not a major AI player yet, it has a talented IT workforce and strategic plans to develop its AI capacity. Many of the largest US investors in India are leaders in the development and application of AI and related technologies. This includes IT-focused firms such as Microsoft and Google, e-tailers Amazon and Walmart and aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed. Google and Facebook have together invested more than $10 billion in Reliance Jio, which aims to develop platforms in AI-forward sectors such as education and healthcare. US companies such as IBM and Intel have partnered with the Indian government to educate Indian students in the skills needed to work in AI and related fields. On a government-to-government basis, the United States and India have cooperated on India’s ‘smart-city’ planning and deepened their defence relationship significantly over the past years. Both sectors will rely heavily on AI and machine learning.

In a midterm review of the India-US initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), senior officials from both countries reiterated the importance of artificial intelligence (AI) to their strategic bilateral partnership. Based on closed-door discussions held at the Global Technology Summit 2023 on the sidelines of the iCET, five areas where India and the United States should collaborate to advance their partnership on AI have been discussed subsequently:

i) Enabling Access to Compute: Access to computing power, also referred to as ‘compute’ is now a critical geopolitical issue. The scarcity of resources required to run advanced AI systems and the acute concentration of such resources in a few Western countries could lead to an unequal distribution of the benefits of AI between the Global North and the Global South. India and the United States can play an important role in bridging this new digital divide through a combination of technical innovations, market interventions and developmental aid.

A good model is the US-India Global Digital Development Partnership, which promotes the adoption of digital public infrastructure (DPI) in developing countries. India can also share its experience with building DPI for low-resource settings to support AI deployments in regions with limited connectivity.

ii) Enhancing Cybersecurity: India and the United States have a shared interest in using AI for cybersecurity, as recognised by the launch of the Defence Artificial Intelligence Dialogue at the Ministerial Dialogue in April 2022. On the US side, an executive order issued by President Biden calls on government agencies to examine how AI can be used in cyber defence. However, India’s national cybersecurity policy is more than a decade old thereby failing to capture the value of AI in cyber defence and the protection of critical infrastructure.

With AI being elevated to a strategic priority, the right time has set in for both countries to collaborate on using AI in intelligence gathering, military training and counterterrorism.

iii) Innovation and Skilling: Bilateral engagements on AI research and skilling are closely connected. While investment capital is necessary to support foundational breakthroughs, developing and maintaining advanced systems to facilitate such breakthroughs will also require specialised talent. In this regard, both India and the United States must share critical computing resources, research facilities and data sets. Export barriers for high-performance computing systems must also be removed so that both countries can collaborate on the development of supercomputers.

To address the shortage of skilled AI professionals, the easing of H-1B visa requirements for Indians is crucial, along with facilitating deeper cross-border cultural exchanges. Further, academic universities have an important role to play in preparing the workforce for future employment opportunities through skilling programs focused on AI.

iv) Promoting Data Sharing: Data sharing between India and the United States can help promote linguistic diversity in popular LLMs such as OpenAI’s GPT 2, which is primarily trained in English-language content. Both countries possess complementary strengths in this domain. India India, there is a strong push to make local language readily accessible, while the United States is leading the development of powerful LLMs, which are accessed by millions of people around the world.

An immediate priority is to develop trusted models for cross-border transfers of data, ideally as part of the India-US trade and commercial dialogue and anchored around the implementation of India’s new data protection law. There is hope that the India-US partnership on data sharing will provide a blueprint for the Global South to develop demographically representative AI models. This could prove especially useful in the African Union, which faces similar challenges due to its multilingual culture.

v) Developing common standards: As founding members of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), both India and the United States can help build scientific consensus on the nature of risks emerging from AI systems. A mutual understanding of safety risks would help establish a set of common standards to mitigate concerns around bias, privacy, security and a lack of trust.

While there have been efforts made and some efforts are already being put in to develop such standards, more needs to be done. Specifically, there is a need for global benchmarks to evaluate the safety and efficacy of large language models before they can be made available to consumers. Another potential area of collaboration is to develop a common taxonomy for AI systems so that they can be classified and defined based on their primary function and the risk of causing harm.

Given the prior experience in developing standards for the telecom and space sectors, the expectation is that India and the United States will adopt a balanced approach that incentivises innovation and nurtures a vibrant technology ecosystem while promoting the principles of fairness, accountability and transparency in AI systems.

A strong partnership between India and the United States on AI research, data sharing, cybersecurity, standard setting, compute access and skilling would go a long way in enhancing the strategic bilateral partnership. The COVID-19 pandemic shone light on AI’s benefits across a range of sectors. This partnership will enable faster development of this critical technology while mitigating its downsides.

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