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Artificial intelligence the next big thing, says Microsoft official
(Seattle, May 13, 2017): Artificial intelligence or AI as it is called in cyber parlance, and believed to be the next big thing in information and technology, can play a key role in good governance, a senior Microsoft official has said.

"We are seeing that governments are benefitting through Artificial Intelligence and are able to bring (governance) closer to people in their countries," Dave Forstrom, director of communications for the Artificial Intelligence (AI) group at Microsoft, told PTI.

"Absolutely," he said when asked if AI can be a tool in good governance.

"In terms of helping create good governance we're seeing an approach industry-wide right now where it's focused on ethical design and those principles that will help to really govern that," he said on the sidelines of the Microsoft's annual developers conference Build 2017.

Microsoft's India-born CEO Satya Nadella has identified AI as the center piece of the company's growth strategy.

Forstrom said Microsoft is having partnerships with a number of governments in this regard.

"Singapore is one that we recently worked with last year to actually help them create bots to better engage their customers," he said.

"We're seeing organisations, we're seeing governments, Singapore being one of them, where they've actually been working at creating bots where people can come to their bot through their website and be able to access any information that they want. They can ask questions, it really shortens the process and the interaction between government and customer," Forstrom said.

With the amount of data that is being now generated, it is but natural that artificial intelligence has now arrived at a take off stage, he said.

Microsoft, he said, is currently working with numerous governments on different AI related technologies, not just bots, but also cognitive services and how they can take those and infuse those into different solutions for folks who govern.

In India, for instance Microsoft is working on the applicability of AI on improving approach to agriculture and crop sowing.

"It's a great example of what we're doing in India where we're actually using the power of AI to help farmers determine best times for seeding and for sowing their crops. And they're seeing 30 per cent return from it," Forstrom said.

The senior Microsoft official said AI could be of great usage in various fields, including public health, law and order, education and even city sanitation and cleanliness.

But AI comes with challenges too, he said.

"How do you make sense of the data that exists within an organisation, within a government? AI is starting to help fuel that, and a lot of the products and services, the tools that are coming out, are helping to fuel that too," he said in response to a question.

At the same time, he acknowledged that AI has a long way to go.

"If you look at where we are in terms of AI's progression, it has been around for 50-60 years, the historical research and what's been going on. But it's only been these last few years where we really see things start to accelerate because of these areas like cloud computing, progress in terms of algorithms and the power of data, being able to use these massive amounts of data, but it's really early days now," Forstrom said.

"We're actually able to see tangible results and outcomes now in terms of how we can use AI in consumer scenarios and business scenarios. We will start to see that just continue to explode exponentially as we move forward over the next ten years," he said.(PTI)

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