Technology needs “responsible regulation” while governments try to put in place “safeguards” for their citizens, Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer (CEO) of Google and its parent firm Alphabet Inc, said on Monday.
“It is important to make sure you are balancing, putting in safeguards for people, you are creating an innovative framework so that companies can innovate on top of certainty in the legal framework,” he said during his company’s flagship Google for India event.
During a fireside chat with Union Minister for Communications, Electronics & Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Google chief said India as an export economy would benefit from an open and connected internet. “…We are engaging constructively. I think India has a leadership role to play here given the scale and the technological leadership it will have,” he said.
Later, Pichai, who is on an India visit, called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Inspiring to see the rapid pace of technological change under your leadership. Looking forward to continuing our strong partnership and supporting India’s G20 presidency to advance an open, connected internet that works for all,” he tweeted after the meeting.
The Indian government recently drafted the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill and the telecom Bill – part of a “comprehensive legal framework”. These are open for public consultation at present.
Vaishnaw said the PM’s vision is a digitally empowered society that has a comprehensive legal framework. “We are creating three horizontal regulations – the telecom Bill for the carrier, the digital data protection Bill focused on enforcing citizens’ privacy, and the digital India Bill, which looks at practically everything else required to be regulated,” he said.
He further added, “We should be able to complete this exercise in the coming 14-16 months. We have a very open process of consultations with all stakeholders. Most people who have interacted with us so far have expressed that this kind of template is needed in many other economies, which are rapidly getting digitised.”
Big push for AI
Both Vaishnaw and Pichai stressed the importance of artificial intelligence (AI) to solve scale issues as well as leverage India’s unique position in this high-skilled segment.
Vaishnaw said AI would transform the country in multiple fields and could help in providing better solutions and services. “India has been ranked the number one talent concentration geography for AI. We would like to channel that through a very stable, comprehensive legal and regulatory ecosystem,” the minister said.
“AI will have the most impact and will touch every sector. The focus on AI is core to our mission,” added Pichai.
The tech giant announced a series of initiatives around AI for India, aimed at addressing the language divide on the internet and supporting the digitisation of agriculture.
Key initiatives announced by Google include collaboration for Project Vaani – to capture diverse dialects for better AI language models, advanced AI and machine learning models for agriculture and healthcare, as well as a $1 million grant to the Indian Institute of Technology Madras to establish India’s first centre for responsible AI.
Pichai announced that a quarter of Google’s previously launched $300-million fund for Indian start-ups would go towards start-ups led by women or start-ups focused on bridging the gender divide. “There is no better time to do a start-up than the current moment, even though we are working through a macroeconomic moment like this. Companies like Google were created in moments of a downturn. I am very bullish about it over time,” he said.
The company also announced several product-specific announcements such as deep learning to improve fraud detection in Google Pay, improved speech recognition for ‘Hinglish’ speakers, a pilot of Project Relate, and integration of DigiLocker with Google Files allowing easy access to digital documents.
Pichai also called on President Droupadi Murmu on Monday. She described Pichai as “a symbol of Indian talent and wisdom” and urged him to work for universal digital literacy in India, the president’s secretariat tweeted.
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