IIT Madras Hosts Colloquium on ‘Artificial Intelligence – A Priority for India’


Chennai: Indian Institute of Technology Madras Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (RBC DSAI) hosted a Colloquium on ‘Artificial Intelligence – A Priority for India’ on 22nd April 2019, bringing together leading researchers, academics, policymakers and industry leaders in India to understand and deliberate on the state of research and innovation in AI and Machine Learning in the country. It also focused on arriving at actionable programs for the Indian AI ecosystem to contribute, collaborate and co-create.

The Colloquium was anchored by RBC DSAI, IIT Madras, a premier multi-disciplinary AI Centre in India, along with itihaasa Research and Digital, a non-profit organization which studies the evolution of technology domains in India.

Addressing the event, Mr. S. Kris Gopalakrishnan, Chairman of itihaasa Research and Digital and Axilor Ventures, said, “Artificial Intelligence is an important technology driving global economic growth in the 4th industrial revolution and in which India should develop national capability and global leadership. This is essential to meet our aspirations of becoming a USD 5 trillion economy in the next five years. At itihaasa Research and Digital, we published the first-of-its-kind report on the landscape of AI research in India that sets the agenda for how we can build a strong capability in AI. We have co-anchored the IIT Madras AI Colloquium to spark a meaningful dialogue among researchers, industry, and policy makers. I am optimistic about AI making a positive impact on India’s growth.”

Delivering the inaugural address, Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, said, “There is a lot of excitement surrounding AI and it is our job in the university to figure out the way forward in such a way that its benefits and potential for misuse are clear. We should not discover security issues too late, as was the case with Internet.”

Further, Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi added, “We should move forward on AI in a sensible fashion. It is not just important to do research in AI and discover better AI/ML algorithms but also to leverage AI to meet India’s challenges and development goals. IIT Madras, as his alma mater, is happy to partner with Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan on this colloquium.”

The following sessions were conducted at the Colloquium:

1. Keynote Conversation between Prof. B. Ravindran, Head of RBC DSAI, IIT Madras and Faculty, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Madras and Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan on the state of AI research and market in India,

2. ‘AI In Engineering’ roundtable anchored by Prof. Raghunathan Rengaswamy, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Madras,

3. ‘AI And Ethics, Fairness And Explainability’ roundtable anchored by Dr. Harish Guruprasad, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Madras

4. ‘AI For The Next Billion Users In India’ roundtable anchored by Dr. Mitesh Khapra and Dr. Pratyush Kumar, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Madras

Speaking about the importance of this Colloquium, Prof Mahesh Panchagnula, Dean (International and Alumni Relations), IIT Madras, said, “Events like this colloquium that bring together people from a cross-section of stakeholders are crucial to the evolution of AI in a direction that benefits the society at large. Institutions like IIT Madras have to take a lead role in organizing such colloquia.”

Around 30 speakers delivered lectures during the Colloquium, which attracted more than 200 participants, with 65% from industry and the rest from the academic and student community.

Commenting on the design and intent of the Colloquium, Prof. B. Ravindran said, “The themes of the roundtables were chosen to reflect the key challenges that need to be addressed for wider adoption of AI, particularly in India. The deliberations in the colloquium would lead to greater awareness of these issues, and hopefully, result in more sustained dialogues between the different stakeholders in evolving India’s AI policy.”

During the event, a MoU was also signed between IIT Madras and itihaasa Research and Digital on research and innovation collaboration around AI and Ethics, Fairness and Explainability. The key objective of this collaboration is to bring together global academic researchers, policy makers, and industry leaders to understand the relevance and implications of ethical considerations in Indian AI implementations.

Several announcements were also made on new initiatives from RBC DSAI, IIT Madras, taking forward the themes discussed during the event.