Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are undoubtedly giving rise to some of the brightest minds in the country. Apart from innovative research and development activities being fostered among students, IITs have been at the forefront of identifying and encouraging the adoption of new-age technologies such as data science and machine learning. In an interview with Dataquest, Prof Ajit Kumar Chaturvedi, Director, IIT Roorkee talks about the importance of re-skilling in machine learning and data science, and the measures being taken at IITs to build the workforce of the future.
DQ: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the adoption of new-age technologies like machine learning and data science?
Ajit Kumar Chaturvedi: The pandemic has underscored the significance of technology and innovation to tackle such a crisis. Many startups and companies spearheaded the efforts to come up with viable solutions to combat the challenges of the pandemic-from manufacturing masks, PPEs to new-age innovation such as various kinds of UV sanitizers, ventilators, etc.
We foresee these trends to intensify owing to the thrust by the government, initiatives by the corporate sector, the penetration of Internet connectivity and the advent of 5G. Agile approaches and dynamic models will be the key to tackle future crises and naturally ML and data science will have an important role to play.
DQ: What are some of the trends we see as far as these technologies are concerned?
Ajit Kumar Chaturvedi: COVID-19 has played a catalytic role in accelerating digital transformation and intensifying several technological trends such as Data Science, Deep Learning, Cyber-Physical Systems etc. Data Science involves the use of scientific processes and methods, algorithms and systems to gain insights and knowledge from a vast amount of structured and unstructured data. Deep Learning focuses on the deployment of machine learning tools to solve complex problems and make decisions. Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) are a new group of engineered systems that integrate computation and physical processes in a dynamic environment.
The increased usage of technology has also given a fillip to the cyber-security and privacy concerns. We expect the increased demand for cyber-security services and novel approaches to tackle privacy and cyber-security.
Cloud service providers are likely to offer Machine Learning as a Service (MLaaS) to businesses without on-premise Data Management facilities. ML services such as natural language processing (NLP), predictive analysis, and data visualization could be the most sought-after in the coming years.
DQ: Are there enough skilled individuals in India in ML and data science?
Ajit Kumar Chaturvedi: The automation and digitization of businesses have fuelled the demand for emerging technologies such as ML, data science and many more. India faces a shortage of skilled workforce in these technologies. A report by NASSCOM and Aspiring Minds on the hiring trends in BPM (business process management) and startups sector had estimated the demand for digitally skilled professionals, and predicted the IT industry to face a shortage of 230,000 skilled professionals as jobs in AI and Big Data are estimated to be 780,000 by 2021.
Data Science is an emerging discipline and a sunrise sector that needs skilled professionals. It is multi-disciplinary and draws insight from statistics, mathematics, science, graphic design and business. According to a recent survey, there is a shortage of 97,000 data science professionals in India. Data Science helps companies and organizations to draw useful inferences from a vast amount of data and influence the trends in the industry. Data Scientists are in great demand in e-commerce, banking, manufacturing, healthcare and transport sectors.
DQ: What is the role played by Academia in encouraging students to pursue these technologies?
Ajit Kumar Chaturvedi: Being in the league of ‘Institutes of National Importance’ confers a special responsibility on IIT Roorkee to usher a tech-driven ecosystem and help shape the growth trajectory of the Indian economy.
Academia has an important role in equipping learners with new-age skill-sets such as Design thinking, critical reasoning and decision making. We are continuously upgrading our curriculum and pedagogy in tune with the requirements over time. A mix of theoretical learning along with practical components such as laboratory work, projects, immersion programs and internships are the hallmarks of our courses.
The tech-driven economy has underscored the need for educational institutions to spearhead this change by adopting technology while retaining the core mission of educating future leaders. They also have a shared responsibility to drive innovation and catalyze economic development.
IIT Roorkee has a vibrant entrepreneurship cell to encourage students to take up entrepreneurship as a career option. Several IIT Roorkee-incubated startups came up with innovations to tackle the pandemic.
DQ: What are some of the initiatives being undertaken in IITs to bring about a Deep Tech revolution in India?
Ajit Kumar Chaturvedi: From robotics to cybersecurity, from human-computer interface to augmented reality, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have taken the initiative to foster a tech-driven ecosystem by aiming for high impact research in the domain of emerging technologies.
The proposed Tech Hub called iHub is being set up at IIT Roorkee for fostering Cyber-Physical research in several different domains. It will also explore potential collaborations with academic institutions such as Washington University, Tokyo Institute of Japan, Colorado State University, School of Engineering, Malaysia, Central Scientific Instruments Organization Chandigarh etc. to further its objectives.
(IIT) Roorkee has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Centre for Development in Advanced Computing(C-DAC) to establish a state of the art 1.3 Petaflop High-Performance Computing (1.3PF-HPC) Facility to facilitate research and development activities.
The Indian Railways has recently renewed its MoU with IIT Roorkee to intensify outreach to leverage its domain knowledge and expertise in undertaking core and fundamental research for use on the Indian Railways network. The MoU will facilitate research in the core area of Track, Bridges and Structures, Civil Infrastructure of High-Speed Rail, Bridges, Structures, Track Management System, Remote monitoring of Railway Assets.
In an endeavour to make its expertise accessible to learners around the world, IIT Roorkee has collaborated with the leading Massive Open Online Course(MOOC) player Coursera, to launch high demand programs like Advanced Certification in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) and Certification in Data Science. With this partnership, IIT Roorkee joins the ranks of 170 top universities, including Yale, University of Michigan, Stanford and Imperial College of London — that offer programs on Coursera. Coursera’s 67 million learners across 190 countries will now be able to access IIT Roorkee’s highly sought-after programs.
IIT Roorkee has collaborated with TSW, the executive education division of Times Professional Learning (a part of The Times of India Group) to launch a Post Graduate Certificate Program in Data Science & Machine Learning (PGCPDSML). The 11-month program has been designed especially for working professionals with insights from academics and industry experts. The program will be covered in 11 modules and include three specialisations (Computer vision and Image recognition; Speech Recognition; Data Engineering) and a 40-hour campus immersion session at the IIT. The participants on successful completion will be certified by IIT Roorkee.