OpenAI's Sam Altman bullish on AI's role in India

The chief executive of the ChatGPT creator met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and called for a united front in regulating AI industry

Sam Altman, chief executive officer of ChatGPT creator OpenAI, during his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. Photo: Sam Altman / Twitter
Powered by automated translation

Sam Altman, the chief executive of ChatGPT creator OpenAI, is confident that artificial intelligence will play a crucial role in India's technology and economic sectors, he said during a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The one-hour meeting focused on the opportunities AI presents for Asia's third-largest economy and a call for better regulation of an industry that has gained momentum as capabilities advance.

Mr Altman hinted at plans to support Indian start-ups, without going into detail.

“The potential of AI in enhancing India's tech ecosystem is indeed vast and that, too, among the youth in particular. We welcome all collaborations that can accelerate our digital transformation for empowering our citizens,” Mr Modi said.

India is a hotbed for technology, with entrepreneurs taking advantage of a population of more than 1.4 billion who rely on smart digital services every day.

Many technology companies have set up shop there to take advantage of the opportunities India offers.

There are 272,732 businesses recognised by the government's Startup India programme, and 2,517 of them are focused on AI. About 416,000 professionals work in India's AI industry, according to latest data from trade body Nasscom.

Among the sectors that have gained momentum in the country are AI, the cloud and data centres, among others, all of which address the nation's technological needs.

“India embraced technology to revolutionise governance and uplift service delivery. Technology has brought efficiency and convenience to the lives of people. It also enhanced efforts to build a digitally empowered India,” Mr Modi said on Twitter.

AI, in particular, has long been used by businesses in their operations, but it has gained momentum with the advent of generative AI. The technology – made popular by OpenAI's ChatGPT – can produce various kinds of data, including audio, code, images, text, simulations, 3D objects and videos.

The rise of ChatGPT has started a race with Google's Bard, drawn interest from Twitter chief executive Elon Musk and prompted Apple to work on improving its digital assistant Siri.

Investors poured more than $4.2 billion into generative AI start-ups in 2021 and 2022 through 215 deals after interest surged in 2019, recent data from CB Insights showed.

Mr Altman is on a cross-continent tour to meet government leaders to discuss AI's prospects and threats.

After travelling across Europe last month, he has made stops in the UAE, Qatar, Jordan, Israel, India and South Korea this week. He also addressed a conference in Beijing by video on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, he tweeted that he was off to Japan, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia.

His trips have been “amazing”, saying that he has seen “incredible talent and energy focused on AI everywhere”.

This week in Abu Dhabi, where he was hosted by global technology and start-up ecosystem Hub71, he commended the Emirates' “desire, commitment and willingness to participate” in the field of AI.

He also pointed out that the UAE “has been talking about AI since before it was cool”.

Throughout his trips, he has encouraged governments to engage and help create standards to regulate AI.

The potential of AI in enhancing India's tech ecosystem is indeed vast and that too among the youth in particular
Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India

In Seoul on Friday, Mr Altman met South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and urged the country to play a leading role in drawing up international standards for the sector.

He also spoke to about 100 start-ups, and asked the country to create chips needed by AI to support the industry.

In May, Mr Altman told a US Senate panel regulating artificial intelligence was “critical”, urging Congress to impose new rules on Big Tech, despite deep political divisions that for years have blocked legislation aimed at regulating the internet.

Last week, Mr Altman signed a short open letter warning that AI may lead to humanity's extinction if risks are not addressed.

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” the statement read.

Updated: June 10, 2023, 7:44 AM