PanIIT Conclave 2019 on AI Brings IITians and Global Thought Leaders


NEW DELHI, January 21, 2019 – Vijay Goel – Hon’ble Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation – inaugurated the two-day TCS – Pan IIT Conclave 2019. The theme of the conclave is – ‘Artificial Intelligence: What does the future hold for India?’ Mr. Goel reinforced the application of AI and ML across industries to propel India to be future ready. Taking this thought further, K Ananth Krishnan, Chief Technology Officer, TCS, and the key note speaker, shared his vision for AI’s future in India.   

The conclave is being organized by Pan IIT Alumni India (PIAI) and has brought together leaders in academics and research, business and industry, and policy-makers. The platform helped dive deep into challenges and opportunities with AI. It helped build a framework for implementation of AI in several industries. The recommendations from the conclave will be actioned along academia, government, industry and startup partners by the Pan IIT AI forum in the coming months.

Various sessions through the day, covered the importance and growth of AI across sectors. The session on AI for Social Good witnessed a riveting discussion addressing the fears associated with the new technology. The eminent panel led by Dr. P Anandan, Chief Executive Officer, Wadhwani AI highlighted that the new technology need not necessarily compete with us and rather complement our efforts to magnify the positive impact for betterment of the society at large. Eminent leaders like Ajay Sawhney, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information technology were part of the session.

The session on AI for Education, showcased the role of AI in redefining India’s education landscape with a greater focus on improved learning outcomes. Session was moderated by G. S. Raghavan, Professor, IIIT- Bangalore, who shared his outlook on the opportunities and challenges within the education sector. Sudha Ram, Professor, CSE and IS, University of Arizona and Anand Rangarajan, Director, Google emphasized, “Key is content creation and curation of information. AI is really helping with predictive suggestions towards sieving information on the web. Hyper-personalization – it is now possible for you to have test applications to train you better on your weaknesses. We need to focus on creating more engaging content for the students to build connect.”

A critical question that confronts policy makers is how to think about human employment in an era of increasingly intelligent machines that are capable of sophisticated decision making. The session on The Future of Work, focused on the aforesaid dilemma. The discussion was led by Surjit Bhalla, Member, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India who shared insights on how policy making has to be relooked before conversations on future and training for new jobs are developed. He said, “In addition to the temples of wisdom referring i.e. the IITs, a far greater focus is needed to upgrade the primary and secondary education. We have to step back and rethink several policy decisions.”

Artificial Intelligence has transformed the manufacturing industry in more ways than one and the session on AI in manufacturing saw a gripping discussion on the contribution of AI in defining the future of the manufacturing industry as well as the potential challenges that must be addressed. Session Leader, P P Chakraborty, Professor – Director, IIT Kharagpur, shared his thoughts and emphasized on prognosis in manufacturing and its significance in quality, safety and lastingness of tools used in manufacturing processes. In the same session, Dr. Satyam Priyadarshy enunciated the importance of digital twin in the manufacturing industry. He deliberated on how a digital twin continuously learns and updates itself using sensor to optimize operations & maintenance of manufacturing processes. He said that building self-healing system is the future of oil & gas industry. Dr. Aloknath De, Corporate Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Samsung, said, “AI’s contribution in manufacturing is dependent on three pillars – people, process & technology. If AI is used as a vital contributor – people’s safety could be made better, processes could be made more efficient & predictive and lastly, AI to make better products & designs.” He also said that, AI can be one of the major tools to compress constraints in the manufacturing processes reducing human intervention.

As we become increasingly dependent on the technology and it embeds deeper into our lives, we also expose ourselves to higher vulnerability owing to possibilities of hacks, systematic biases and breach of data privacy. Thus, making it imperative to understand and create boundaries and regulatory frameworks for technology and these were discussed at length during the session – Ethics, Privacy and Security of AI Systems. Session leader, Prof. Rajat Moona, Director, IIT Raipur further elaborated on the concern. Drawing analogy with fundamental rights, elaborating on the fact why government and private organizations ought to levy judicial control of data, Shyam Divan, Sr. Advocate, Supreme Court, said, “Lot of rights are interdependent. If you pluck one away, the others get impacted. For instance, if freedom of speech is impinged, then other related rights like freedom of movement, making political and religious choices get affected. Hence, control on data comes with a rider.” He suggested a three point framework to identify core institution values; environmental values and values related to national and public interest. 

Finally, the session AI for Agriculture highlighted the potential of technology to enhance the efficiency and productivity of the agricultural sector. Right from selecting seeds to harvesting crop, AI holds potential to complement human effort at each stage of the farming industry. Accurate weather prediction, soil monitoring, early detection of pest infestation and disease identification are other areas of successful application of AI. The session was led by Prof. T A Gonsalves, Director, IIT Mandi who further elaborated on these efforts. Professor T V Prabhakar, CSE, IITK said that, “A farmer’s consistency doesn’t depend on one crop. In order to edify the agriculture sector, all we require is vision and leadership.” Sriram Raghavan, VP, IBM Research & CTO IBM India/South Asia, said, “We need digitization in agriculture accompanied with educating our farmers about its use.”

Besides these engaging and enlightening sessions, the conclave is also hosting:

  • The first Pan IIT AI Hackathon 2019, that aims to promote AI and ML among the wider community of young software and AI professionals and showcase the talent among them
  • An exhibition area to provide an excellent opportunity for exhibitors to interact directly with the delegates, comprising of eminent IIT alumni, policy makers and heads of large companies

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