NRI Billionaires Set Up India’s First AI Research Institute for Social Good 

The Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence was launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Mumbai.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence, founded by Indian American Wadhwani brothers, in Mumbai on Feb. 18. It is said to be the first research institute in India that is dedicated towards finding artificial intelligence solutions for social good.

The project is the initiative of Sunil Wadhwani, the Pennsylvania-based co-founder and co-chairman of Mastech Digital, Inc. that had revenue of over $40 million in 2017, and Romesh Wadhwani, the California-based founder of Symphony Technology, who was named as one of the richest men in the United States in 2016.

“I have had various interactions with Indian diaspora across the globe during the last three and a half years or so. I have felt an intense desire, to make a contribution to India. Through this Institute, Romesh ji and Sunil ji have blended this desire with a futuristic vision of a prosperous and vibrant India. In doing so, they have set an example that is worthy of emulation,” Modi said at the launch of the institute.

“This is a prime example of how the public sector and the private sector can combine with good intention to build a world-class institute aimed at benefiting the poor,” he added.

The institute, which will seek AI solutions in the fields of agriculture, health, education and infrastructure, will be based at the Kalina campus of the Mumbai University. The institute will collaborate with renowned education and research centers such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford, University of Southern California, NYU, University of Washington, Alan Turing Institute, IIT Bombay, IIT Madras and IIT Delhi, among others.

The Wadhwani brothers have committed $30 million for the first 10 years of the institute, which has tied up with the Maharashtra government to identify problems and find solutions. Wadhwani AI also intends to created a talent pool of AI and data science experts. It will be led by AI pioneer and founding MD of Microsoft Research India, Dr. P. Anandan.

According to a recent report by Forrester Research, Asian countries are quickly adopting artificial intelligence. The investment and adoption of artificial intelligence in Asia showed a marked rise between 2016 and 2017, led by China (from 31 per cent to 61 per cent) and India (from 29 per cent to 69 per cent).

“Indian systems integrators are also actively participating in AI consortiums such as OpenAI,” the research stated.

The NITI Aayog is also planning a national program on artificial intelligence.

“The road ahead for Artificial Intelligence depends on and will be driven by Human Intentions. It is our intention that will determine the outcomes of artificial intelligence,” Modi said.

However, the increasing adoption of AI has also fueled fears of job loss. The Indian prime minister, however, dismissed them. “Such fears are neither un-founded nor new,” he said. “At every stage of technological evolution, we have faced such doubts and questions. This leads to two views of the future. First brings hopes and aspirations and second brings fears of disruption…New opportunities have always outnumbered the lost ones. Human ingenuity has always prevailed and it will continue to do so in the future.”

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