IoT & AI applications to generate more than 2.8 million jobs in rural India over a period of 8-10 years

Broadband India Forum (BIF), a think tank for Digital Transformation held a seminar on ‘The Impact of IoT on Jobs in Rural India’ to highlight the positive impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) on job creation in the agriculture and healthcare sectors in India. As part of the seminar, BIF also released the findings of an on-going study that has being done in consultation with the Electronics Skill Council of India, Agriculture Skill Council of India and the Healthcare Sector Skill Council. The study highlights that IoT and AI based applications can have a transformational impact with regards to rural job creation and at a conservative estimate, will create over 2.8 million jobs in rural India over a period of 8-10 years with an annual value of Rs. 60,000 crores (approx. US$ 8.9 billion).  Of this, at least 2.1 million jobs will be created for the agriculture sector and another 0.7 million jobs will be created for the rural healthcare sector. These jobs will be created over next 8 – 10 years and the pace and quantity of job creation is likely to further increase post 2021-22 once 5G technology is implemented. The Electronics Skill Council of India, Agriculture Skill Council of India and Healthcare Sector Skill Council of India have also supported BIF in this seminar and a formal report on the study is expected to be released shortly.

Agriculture

Some of the highlights of the ongoing study were presented by Mr. Devendranath, COO, Feedback Consulting which is conducting this research jointly along with BIF, about the principal challenges affecting the Indian agriculture sector, where land holdings are getting smaller and farm incomes are declining. The percentage of employment in Indian agriculture sector has consistently reduced from 52% in 2010 to 42% in 2018. The potential of IoT based applications in reversing this trend represents a huge positive impact. The study highlights that key applications such as Satellite Mapping, Electronic Market Place, Livestock Traceability, Climate Sensing Stations, Product Traceability, and Agriculture Drones have the potential to transform the ailing sector. These applications will help create smart farms and will bring lot more predictability in agriculture output which in turn will help improve incomes and lives of farmers.

The key applications that will generate employment in the agriculture sector across rural India are:

# Applications Realistic Job Creation Potential
1 Satellite Mapping 255,343
2 E-Market 122,530
3 Livestock Traceability 891,030
4 Product Traceability 13,403
5 Climate Sensing 316,430
6 Agriculture Drones 522,640
  Total 2,121,376
Job Role Creation in Agriculture (Nos)
1 Field Worker 1,377,650
2 Drone Flyer 520,000
3 Data Analysts 109,451
4 Agri Quality Certifiers 52,500
5 Warehouse Managers 17,500
6 Geo Tagging Persons 44,000
7 Software / App Developers 175

The above tables show that by adopting various IoT based applications on a realistic basis, approx. 2.1 million additional jobs with an annual job value of approx. INR 34,000 crores, can be estimated to be created in agriculture sector across India. These jobs are likely to be created over the next 8-10 years horizon (2028/2030). These applications will bring in more predictability in farming practices and will help improve farm incomes and the quality of life of Indian farmers.

Healthcare

The study also highlights the significant potential when it comes to job creation through IoT in the rural Healthcare sector. At present as much as 60% of India’s healthcare professionals serve 30% of the population (residing in urban India). This trend is likely to change as leading healthcare service providers open new specialty hospitals in Tier 3 and Tier 4 towns. The government’s Ayushman Bharat initiative is also expected to transform the primary healthcare sector in the country and will help introduce IoT based applications to a rural patient ecosystem. Applications like Remote Medical Assistance & Surgery, Smart Diagnosis, Cloud Based Eye Screening, Pre-Emptive Oncology Diagnosis, Smart Ambulance &Emergency Care, Medical Record Digitization, and Smart Consulting can help bridge the gap between rural healthcare centres and urban hospitals.

The key applications that will generate employment in the healthcare sector across rural India are:

# Applications Realistic Job Creation Potential
1 Remote Medical Assistance & Surgery 485,000
2 Smart Pathology 153,000
3 Cloud based eye screening 65,650
4 Oncology Diagnosis 75,750
5 Ambulance & Emergency Care 15,150
6 Medical Record Digitisation 300,000
  Total           1,139,550
Job Role Creation in Healthcare (Nos)
1 Skilled Nurse (upskilling) 315,000
2 Data Entry Experts (new job) 300,000
3 Health Workers / Professionals (new jobs) 290,000
4 Ayush Doctors (upskilling) 150,000
5 Data Analysis (new jobs) 54,550
6 PHC Maintenance Staff (new jobs) 30,000

The above tables show that by adopting various IoT based applications on a realistic basis, approx. 0.7 million additional jobs with an annual job value of approx. INR 11,500 crores, ( after accounting for 0.4Mn Ayush workers already in place ) can be estimated to be created in healthcare sector across India. These jobs are likely to be created over the next 6-8 years horizon (2026/2028). The pace of job creation is likely to increase post 2021-22 once 5G has been implemented. 5G is expected to be a game-changer for the healthcare sector. 

The release of the findings was followed by three panel discussions that centered around: (i) National strategy for AI & IoT in Agriculture & Healthcare; (ii) Impact of AI and IoT on healthcare and (iii) Impact of AI and IoT on Agriculture.

In his inaugural address, Shri Yaduvendra Mathur, Special Secretary, NITI Aayog said, “There is no denying the role that avant-garde technologies such as IoT and AI can play in the agriculture and healthcare sectors – especially in rural areas. India is the Saudi Arabia for generation of data.. It is important to realize that India has the hardware, we have the data scientists, we have the algorithms – what we don’t have is real-time, clearly labelled and relevant data from the field.  From a Niti Aayog perspective, our focus is on data and that we get access to real-time data that can impact the creation of policy. We are therefore looking at a huge volume of real-time data being harvested from both the healthcare and agriculture domains and shared with us. A lot of work using AI is currently already underway by the government in the healthcare domain – for example the programme for the elimination of Tuberculosis is using AI to improve TB diagnosis. From an agriculture perspective, AI and IoT are important because the diversification of Indian agriculture will not happen unless the farmer trusts the data that is shared with him. This will also require the participation of the private sector, specifically start-ups in the collation of labelling of this data, which in itself will create a huge number of jobs at the data-labelling level.”

Dr. Saikrishna Nanduri, CEO, National Skills Sector Council in his address said, “Indian agriculture employs 50% of manpower and we’ve been seeing declining levels of employment as people leave the sector for better opportunities. The net contribution to the GDP also remains low. IoT and AI can make a huge contribution to transforming Indian agriculture, specifically with regards to productivity enhancement. What is a huge enabler to this is also the high levels of digital literacy in India and our demographic dividend that makes us the world’s youngest country. We need to begin by data collection and aggregation – much of it through start-ups. This data will need to be collated and labelled by large Big Data companies and public sector organisations. Once this is done it can be integrated into the user interface and then used by communities, organisations and individuals who will gladly even pay for this.”

Mr. TV Ramachandran, President Broadband India Forum further added, “It is no secret that the impact of AI and IoT will be truly transformational across industry. The BIF report, for the very first time, shares very significant findings in relation to the impact of IoT on job creation in rural India, specific to agriculture and healthcare. Given India’s young demographic profile, sustained job creation is the most critical aspect to keep the wheels of the economy running. Rural India, with 50% of the country’s workforce needs to ensure that it garners a significant share of this.”

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