AI is Essential to India’s Future of Work, Study Finds

AI is Essential to India’s Future of Work, Study Finds

Today at the 2020 Virtual Summit, Intel India and Indian School of Business (ISB) released a report, “The Impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the Indian Labor Market,” conducted by the Srini Raju Centre for Information Technology and the Networked Economy (SRITNE) at ISB. The study assesses the size and scope of the impact of AI on businesses, including shifts in the quantum and nature of employment and human capital development.

“Artificial intelligence is one of the leading cutting-edge technologies of our era to generate value for humanity at scale. Over 90% of respondents to the AI and Future of Work survey indicated that AI is essential or highly relevant to their business. Over 80% said that their workforce will undergo significant re-skilling due to AI implementations over the next two years. There is a need to better understand AI’s integration and impact at work in order to accelerate innovation and scale its benefits, especially in the context of emerging economies such as India. This study by Intel India and ISB will help drive future research to meaningfully inform policymakers and the industry about the impact of AI and machine learning.”

–Nivruti Rai, Intel country head for India and vice president of the Data Platforms Group

About the Key Finding: A key finding from the AI and Future of Work survey is that firms that have projects with a high suitability for machine learning (ML) are expected to receive investments that are broader in scope and quantum. These projects are also expected to see high growth in investments over the next five years. The survey also indicates a growth in workforce hiring and re-training over the next two years. The fourth day of the Summit also witnessed the unveiling of the AI index. This index will act as a first-of-its-kind barometer of Indian AI readiness and adoption patterns.

“Technological advances in recent years have ushered machines into the workplace and yielded significant growth in new forms of work,” said Deepa Mani, Professor of Information Systems and Executive Director of SRITNE, ISB. “The pandemic has only accelerated this growth, thereby rendering the work forms systematic and pervasive. It is, therefore, important for policymakers and organizations to develop an acute understanding of this future of work as they frame policies for work and workers.”

Who the Report Surveyed: The findings of the report are based on two surveys: the Suitability of Machine Learning (SML) Survey among 3,099 employees across 106 Indian occupations designed to measure the suitability for machine learning for each occupation, and the AI and Future of Work Survey of 301 firms across Indian sectors that have adopted AI/ML in their workflows.

What the report says: Using survey results, researchers from SRITNE undertook the following four studies:
Study 1: A survey of 3,099 individuals employed in diverse occupations across India was conducted to assess the suitability of machine learning (SML) and, in turn, the resultant susceptibility of 106 Indian occupations, as defined by the National Classification of Occupations (NCO 2004).

  • The task evaluation rubric comprised 23 questions pertaining to SML. Occupations such as painters, legal professionals, personal care, precision workers showed high SML scores whereas occupations involving mining, construction, printing, metal moulding, wood processing and others scored low on the SML Index. Sectors and occupations that score high on the SML Index are more suitable for ML, and firms in such sectors show greater potential to fully realize the benefits of ML by reimagining business models, processes and nature of jobs.
  • The study also enabled the SRITNE researchers to assess occupations from the perspective of amenability to remote work and need for human proximity during task execution.
  • The analysis of this survey was used to create occupational indices for SML, Need for Human Proximity (NHP) and Remote Work.

Study 2: To provide nuanced commentary on the interaction between machine and humans, job redesign for the future and re-engineering of businesses and business processes, the researchers at SRITNE conducted the AI and Future of Work survey. The survey, conducted over a period of three months with 301 firms in India that have adopted AI/ML in their workflows, captures information related to their AI/ML initiatives and their broad impacts on innovation, productivity and worker behavior, including the organizational mechanisms underlying such impacts. Some key findings include:

  • Over 90% respondents consider AI to be essential or highly relevant to their business.
  • More than 70% of respondents find shifts in competence acquisition with the advent of AI. Such shifts could either require incorporation of fundamentally new concepts or principles in task execution, new skills that the firm did not possess, learning from completely new or different knowledge bases, adopting different methods and procedures or carrying out a high degree of re-training.
  • Over 70% of respondents across various firm categories expect their organizational headcount to increase in response to AI over the next two years.
  • At least 70% of respondents have indicated the growth of all firm-level initiatives to support AI adoption.
  • An overwhelming 80% of their workforce will undergo significant re-training due to AI implementation over the next two years.
  • To evaluate the nature of the human-machine interaction for decision-making, the survey considered the following scenarios: lack of automation, decision support (system suggests; human decides and acts), consensual AI (human concurs with systems), monitored AI (human has veto) and full automation (no role of human).
    • Nearly 70% of high-revenue firms rely on consensual AI, monitored AI and decision-support mechanisms for decision-making.
    • In medium sized firms, nearly 50% of the firms rely entirely on human decision-making, as they do not use AI.
    • More than 40% of small and micro revenue firms use AI for decision support.
  • Over 80% of respondents from the survey indicated that either the organization or more than one department in the organization stood to benefit with AI deployment.
  • An overwhelming 80% of the surveyed small-, micro-, medium- and high-revenue firms have specific AI teams. Nearly 40% of all firms indicate that a designated program manager is responsible to provide oversight to AI initiatives.

Study 3: The SML index was also used to understand the implications of AI and ML for (online) economic activity. The researchers used Twitter posts of NIFTY 500 firms as a proxy for economic activity. They combined the sectoral scores with firm-level tweets and analyzed the differential impact of the nationwide lockdown imposed earlier this year due to the pandemic.

  • The study corroborates existing research on digital resilience that states digital platforms can increase the survival rate of firms during a crisis by providing continuity in access to customers.
  • Sectors and occupations with digitized operations will be able to counter the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, thereby demonstrating a high degree of digital resilience when compared to their peers with lesser or no digitization of operations.

Study 4: Lastly, the SRITNE researchers utilized a multi-source dataset consisting of the NHP scores for 106 job types estimated before the COVID-19 induced countrywide lockdown in India and a survey of employees’ experience working remotely conducted during the lockdown.

  • The analysis revealed that employees working in jobs with high NHP are both less productive and experience greater isolation than those working in jobs with low NHP.
  • The research highlights the need for organizations to optimally design workplace processes and structures to minimize communication and coordination challenges resulting from remote work that likely account for more adverse work outcomes for employees in high NHP jobs.

These results have also led the research team at ISB to develop an AI Index, a multidimensional repository of information that will provide a comprehensive understanding of AI for researchers, policymakers, executives and the general public to develop a deeper understanding of the state of AI in India.