'Our mission is to democratise Artificial Intelligence': DcodeAI co-founders Kartik Sharma and Ashish Aggarwal - The Daily Guardian
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‘Our mission is to democratise Artificial Intelligence’: DcodeAI co-founders Kartik Sharma and Ashish Aggarwal

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Kartik Sharma and Ashish Aggarwal, co-founders of DcodeAI, recently joined NewsX for an insightful conversation as a part of its special series NewsX India A-List and talked about their mission of equipping India’s next generation of learners with Artificial Intelligence.

Talking about his personal journey and how DcodeAI came about, Kartik said, “I have been passionate enthusiast about AI, IOT, these emerging technologies for the last two years or so. We have been developing a lot of products and solutions for corporates and educational institutions, using chat bots and robotic process automation etc. But recently, I got more and more interested in the education of AI because even when you have to hire people to develop products on AI, there is a dearth of skilled people available in Artificial Intelligence not only in our country but around the world. So, we thought let’s fix this bigger problem- if we’re able to create a pipeline of people who are AI-ready and AI-empowered, that would solve a host of problems. I started writing books on AI for schools and that’s how I came together and met my co-founder Ashish, who comes from a publishing background and we developed an instant liking for each other. We started working and brainstorming that apart from books, what else can we do to create an AI-ready future for our country. In a meeting, we started developing small content and solutions; we started doing webinars on AI for teachers around the country. In short span of time, we got a community of almost 1000+ teachers who got connected with us and they pushed us to create something to help them teach AI to their students. And here we are in short span of six months, we have created a product which all educators and anyone who wants to learn AI can use. We essentially are on our mission of democratising Artificial Intelligence.”

When asked about what sets DcodeAI apart from the other EdTech companies, Kartik replied, “I personally believe that others watching this as well, there is a buzz around learning coding, developing computational thought process and algorithmic thinking, that’s all good but with Artificial Intelligence as most of you are aware of; AI can be generative. With AI, you know it can create code on its own and you do not need to explicitly code anything. The way we look at AI is not an incremental innovation, we look at it as a leap of innovation. It is going to completely disrupt and transform the way people do their jobs, people learn their skills and our mission is to future-proof young learners by teaching them AI. With AI, they may not need to learn coding from scratch. We have a host of low code, no code tools and we actually use AI to teach AI using chat bots and personalised learning elements in the entire product. Our genesis is that we are not taking an incremental approach on helping them learn coding and then making them develop apps etc, but we are fundamentally changing their way of thinking and making them think from an AI perspective, so that whatever product or solution they may choose to build in the future, its context-aware and suited to a world, which is going to be completely transformed using AI.”

“You do not need to have a heavy computational GPU, you do not need to know coding; there are a host of simple step-by-step low code tools available on the platform which can make anyone learn AI. So, democratising AI for everyone, democratising AI for all, which is Niti Aayog’s mission is what we firmly believe in.” he added.

Talking about their business priorities as the company is concerned, Ashish said, “At the present time, the priority is to scale up the platform, get the product ready for schools and teachers because teachers are eagerly waiting for this product to come up. We’re really trying to get that product fine-tuned so that when the training of teachers starts, we can anticipate the kinds of questions they will be asking us because we come from an education background and are backed by Sultanchand & Sons Pvt. Ltd., a leading educational publishing house. We know how teachers think, how schools work and we also know what kinds of problems they will face when starting a new subject as complex as Artificial Intelligence. Right now, our heart and soul are into getting this product out and available to all schools and teachers.”

Speaking about how India startups need to take a lead in this field, Kartik said, “I am the living testimony of this problem statement. I was a startup that was building AI products and solutions, and I had a hard time hiring people. I couldn’t even get interns to train and upscale to AI because they have no background and that’s what got me into AI skilling in this first place. I was recently reading a report by a leading organisation that said,  ‘Almost 40% of job openings in AI are vacant around the world.’ Here we are talking about unemployment due to the pandemic and, on the other side, there’s an area of work (AI), in which there are more jobs available than people. The average starting salary of an AI employee is more than 8 lakh per-annum. So, here is a beautiful, lucrative opportunity for people to upscale themselves and at the same time for industry with advent of chat bots and robotic process automation-enabled tools, which we all use like Alexa, Siri to converse with them. More and more businesses are using AI tools to transform business, save costs and provide a 24×7 superior customer experience. They need extensive support from skilled people in AI and that’s where we step in to fill that gap. A big part of what we’re trying to do is tying up with industry partners so that people who want to learn AI on the platform, do not do so only for theoretical purposes. These people can be placed onto industry projects, they can work on live projects, internship, apprenticeship and they can even get a job on our platform. What we’re trying to do is make people not only skilled but employment ready for AI and then help the industry get the right talent and also creating micro-learning paths within AI. AI has got data sciences, computer vision, also meta-tagging various components of AI so the industry can get the right talent within AI, which they are looking for. Nobody in the world right now is solving this problem so we are really ambitious in taking on this project.”

Sharing their vision for the platform in the next 5 years, Ashish said, “This is an extremely ambitious project. We want to be the go-to platform for not only students to learn new technology, AI, we want to cater to other up and coming technology as well. Not only that, we want to be a talent platform for the industry who are looking for people with such high skills. We also want to be the go-to hiring platform where you can find those talented people who have learned at DcodeAI and developed skills with us, so that it is easy for them to go to the right people and get started on the solutions that they want to provide.”

On a parting note, the duo addressed people who want to learn at DcodeAI but are too overwhelmed to do so. Kartik said, “In the future, people assume AI will take up their job. It is not between AI versus humans, it’s about people who know AI versus people who don’t, because people who don’t know will become irrelevant. This is the right time to upscale yourselves and DcodeAI is there for your support and back up on this AI journey.” To which, Ashish added, “If I coming from a non-technical background can start learning AI with this tool and these modules, then it’s the perfect platform for people with no coding experience.”

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ICDMA FOUNDER TO INTRODUCE AI PLATFORM FOR IDENTIFYING AND MITIGATING DIGITAL RISKS

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ICDMA is a provider of IT services such as Cyber Forensics, IT Audit, IT Risk Evaluation, and Digital Security. In recent years, it has become a tried-and-true standard for businesses looking to defend their brands, enterprises, and reputations from crippling cyber attacks. They develop and deploy information security platforms and services, both standard and personalised, to protect, evaluate, and respond to cyber threats such as security breaches that occur in your systems and networks. The services they provide include Application and Web Development, Graphic Design, Security Audits, Cyber Security Services, Vulnerability Assessments, Fraud Risk Management, and IT Consultancy.

In addition, the firm achieved awards for being the best Cyber Forensics firm preventing businesses from external threats. A cybersecurity analyst is responsible for the security of an organisation, business, or government agency from cyber threats. Their primary role is to analyse any possible threat that might occur through or to your system and come up with plausible and practical solutions to protect you.

Being a cyber security expert and analyst, Dheeraj Kumar has years of experience and stays up-to-date with the current crimes and security trends. He believes that like many other professions, this is a never-ending learning field. They monitor your networks and then analyse them to find common threat patterns or trends. Further, they design software that suits the needs of the problem at hand and ensures that these measures are maintained properly. If, in any case, they encounter a new problem, they utilise their years of experience and knowledge to produce a unique solution.

Witnessing the increased cyber threats, Cybersecurity analyst Dheeraj advises people to use the Internet wisely and productively. Dheeraj is currently working on an Al-driven platform for identifying and mitigating digital risks and counteracting brand impersonation attacks with the company’s patented technologies at its core. Dheeraj’s experience in threat hunting and cyber intelligence has been fused into an ecosystem of highly sophisticated software and hardware solutions designed to monitor, identify, and prevent cyberattacks.

A cybersecurity analyst is responsible for the security of an organisation, business or government agency from cyber threats. Their primary role is to analyse any possible threat that might occur through or to your system and come up with plausible solutions.

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EXPO 2020 A GLOBAL PLATFORM TO HIGHLIGHT ACHIEVEMENTS OF SPACE SECTOR: EMM PROJECT MANAGER

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The six-month Expo 2020 Dubai is a crucial window for the participating countries to present their accomplishments across different sectors, and the space sector is one of them. The event will shed light on the development of this sector around the world, emphasising its importance for humans in particular and the planet in general.

Expo 2020 has devoted a full week to space, from 17 to 23 October, during which a dialogue session will be held with Emirati astronauts along with entertainment, art and science activities. Also, information related to space sciences will be disseminated among other related space activities. In an interview with the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Omran Sharaf, Project Manager of Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), said, “This year, the UAE has achieved milestone accomplishments in the space sector by its arrival to Mars, and before that, it had played a key role in stimulating this sector besides the science and technology sectors.”

On the role of Expo 2020 Dubai as a prominent global platform to highlight the country’s achievements in the national space sector, Al Sharaf pointed out that Expo is not only a global event to showcase the cultures of other countries, but rather a platform for presenting scientific, technical and cultural achievements around the world.

He added that one of the reasons for the quick establishment of the space sector in the country “is because this sector depends on international cooperation, and the UAE did not consider its space programme as a race with other countries, but viewed it as an opportunity to cooperate with different nations, which contributed to activating the role of the sector and speeding its development, thus placing the UAE at the forefront of countries in this sector.”

Regarding the most nationally prominent projects in the space sector during the current period, Sharaf said, “The space sector is going through a very important and sensitive stage today, as the UAE has previously invested through the ‘Hope Probe’ project and other related projects to attract knowledge to the country from abroad and build on the capabilities of Emirati youth through knowledge transfer programmes.”

“Today, after His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai; and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, announced the upcoming mission, which is a new space programme to explore planet Venus and seven other [asteroids] in the solar system, the focus will be on transferring knowledge from the UAE space sector to the private sector to create a stimulating environment and support the science and technology sector in the country, and at the same time serve the UAE’s economy is facing various challenges, including water resources and food resources, among others,” he added.

When asked regarding the sector’s participation in the Space Week at Expo 2020, Sharaf said that the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre and the various specialised authorities have a great role in Expo. As for Space Week, there are various participations, including lectures, seminars, or receiving various delegations to discuss cooperation in the space sector.

“This is a great opportunity for countries to work together, and we, as the Emirati space sector, have decided to take advantage of this opportunity at Expo to build and strengthen these relations, and it will be the beginning of greater cooperation and ambitious projects across the world and the region.”

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IIT KANPUR STUDY EXPLAINS THE SUCCESS OF COVID-19 CONTROL MODEL OF UTTAR PRADESH

The information has been collated and reviewed by the Social and Political Research Foundation, a policy think tank based in New Delhi, aimed at making public policy research holistic, accessible, and evidence-based.

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The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the health system across India. Most states struggled to prevent the surge in cases and ensure adequate supply as the virus created a situation of upheaval. However, a recent study led by Padma Shri Awardee Prof. Manindra Agrawal of IIT-Kanpur elaborates that with careful planning, multiple strategies and close monitoring Uttar Pradesh’s Covid-19 response model turned out to be more effective in comparison with many other states.

TABLE 1: NTPR DURING THE SECOND WAVE

Source: IIT Kanpur studyGraph 1: Source: Prowess monthly employment database

The data points out that the daily case count was brought down to just 1,497 on 31 May after the peak of 38,000 was recorded on 24 April. It can be noted that the reduction in numbers happened quite fast in the state as compared with many other ones, for example, Maharashtra and Kerala, which supports the study’s arguments.

Beginning with the foremost concern of reducing the spread, the UP model followed the Test, Trace, Treat, Tackle (TTTT) approach. Under the strategy, the TTTT teams were instated in rural UP to conduct door to door testing, enabling early detection and ensuring isolation and treatment. These TTTT teams covered around 97,941 villages. Niti Aayog and WHO also lauded the efforts of the state in conducting a mammoth house-to-house testing and tracing drive, supported by micro-planning and concurrent follow-ups. As highlighted by the IIT-Kanpur study, other measures of the state involved capacity building through intensive training on all major aspects of Covid-19, provision of infrastructures like ICU beds, ventilators, and creation of safety nets and incentives via state and central funding schemes (PMJJBY, PMSBY, AKBY, etc.).

While preventing the surge in cases was one aspect of the model, the government also managed the high demand crisis of oxygen resounding throughout the nation then. To tackle the surge in demand the government set up an oxygen monitoring system to track oxygen tankers and rolled out a stringent oxygen audit which saved around 30 MT of oxygen per day. Also, the state’s strategy to airlift empty tankers with the help of IAF lessened the turnaround time saving 10 hours. Apart from ensuring these, the model also addressed the concerns regarding the livelihood of the people. With the commitment to save the lives and livelihoods of people, the UP government did not resort to strict lockdowns and opted for partial curfews to break the Covid-19 chain. And, adapting to the situation of the pandemic, the government supplied policies for ease of mobility (separate buses and trains for migrant workers), employability (DBT 1000 to migrants) and sustenance (cash transfers to marginalised sections). The study also states that such measures helped in keeping the unemployment rate below the national average as depicted in the graph below.

Formulated on the four essential pillars of protection of livelihood, optimisation of economy, facilitation of healthcare services and restriction of virus spread, it has been pointed through the study that the UP Covid-19 model has created a benchmark. The study then draws a comparison among the states based on the Normalised Test Positivity Rate (NTPR) which is the ratio of Test Positivity Ratio and percentage of active cases. It shows that the strategy of the UP model was to aggressively change the pandemic which helped in the control.

Furthermore, the study also found that the timing of the containment measures was near-optimal, which in any other situation could have caused a peak of more than 70,000 daily cases as shown in the graph below.

Nonetheless, the second wave has dealt a heavy blow to not just India’s but globally existing health infrastructure, unveiling a systemic failure that led many to conclude that no model or strategy is perfect. This points towards a large scope of improvement for all state administrations and governing bodies.

The information has been collated and reviewed by the Social and Political Research Foundation, a policy think tank based in New Delhi, aimed at making public policy research holistic, accessible, and evidence-based.

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LIFE SKILLS COLLABORATIVE LAUNCHED TO CHAMPION SKILLS FOR INDIA’S YOUTH

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Eighteen organisations have come together to announce the launch of the Life Skills Collaborative (LSC) with the aim to support government agencies and education institutions by building a life skills platform that can aid in the transformation of India’s learning ecosystem. In the first phase, the LSC will work in tandem with state governments across Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, and Mizoram to bring contextual, social and cultural inputs to the development of life skills among the young people of India.

The Collaborative comprises organisations with diverse and global expertise in education, skill development, health and gender with a commitment to collaborate in deepening the understanding of life skills, designing learning tools that nurture life skills, and developing context-relevant assessments to measure progress, share learnings and inform system change India. The current collaborators include Breakthrough, Centre for Science of Student Learning, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Dream A Dream, Echidna Giving, Gnothi Seauton, ICRW, Kaivalya Education Foundation, Magic Bus, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Omidyar Network India, Porticus, Pratham, Quest Alliance, Room To Read, Sattva Consulting, Shantilal Muttha Foundation and The Teacher Foundation. Speaking about the launch, Vishal Talreja, an LSC Collaborator and Co-founder of Dream A Dream, said, “One in three children in India live in extreme poverty and have stunted and/or wasted growth. Children from vulnerable backgrounds are exposed to a combination of adverse experiences causing an irrefutable impact on their physical and mental health. Empathy-based transformative pedagogy, experiential learning, and mentoring can help young people immensely.”

The Life Skills Collaborative will focus on three core areas:

1. Voices, a nationwide engagement with youth, parents, and teachers to capture their voices and translate them to insights that can drive the integration of life skills within public education systems.

2. Glossary, a set of definitions that serves as the vocabulary to discuss life skills in India and establish the foundation for discussing and aligning on outcomes, designing assessments across community, practitioners, and government.

3. Assessments, will focus on creation, establishment, and dissemination of an assessment repository for adolescents, teachers, and the system. At the adolescent level, this will assess student’s capacities and strengths in the age groups 11-14 years and 15-18 years; at the teacher level, it will assess the ability of the teacher to foster life skills in an adolescent; at the system level, it will assess the readiness of the system to deliver life skills.

Rathish Balakrishnan, an LSC Collaborator and Co-founder and Managing Partner at Sattva Consulting, said, “Young people often struggle to access education and employment opportunities, limiting their engagement in society and stunting their potential to live a full life. Equipping them with life skills can change this immensely. While there is a lot of interest in life skills, there is a lack of a common vocabulary and effective assessments, which limits its potential. By building credible and system-ready public goods, the Life Skills Collaborative can accelerate the effective adoption of life skills across the ecosystem.”

In recent times, the need for developing stronger life skills has become more acute. Focusing on building life skills in the next generation is imperative in enabling them to handle different situations capably. In a country like India, where a vast majority of the population is young, life skill development enables young people to direct and manage their lives positively.

Geeta Goel, an LSC Collaborator and Country Director, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF, India), added, “The Life Skills Collaborative is an innovative attempt to solve a wicked problem – the development of life skills among the young people of India. To achieve this goal, it is essential to support organisations, institutions and government agencies in building a more inclusive learning environment suited towards promoting life skills.”

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RED FM launches World Cup campaign ‘Totka Chalao India Ko Jeetao’

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93.5 RED FM has kick-started its World Cup campaign ‘Totka Chalao, India ko Jeetao’. Capturing the passion and craze of fans, RED FM will celebrate the ‘totkas’ and will have RJs follow some of these tricks shared by listeners as part of the campaign.

Witness the best of entertainment with ‘Nand Kishore Bairagi’ aka RJ Kisna taking a spin on the ‘totkas’ in his unique style. The campaign will also have Bauaa aka RJ Raunac calling up opponent teams as part of his prank calls series. Keeping the passion of the World Cup alive, RED FM will also launch the anthem, ‘Totka Wala Gana’ capturing the craze of cricket fans across the country. Speaking on the campaign, Nisha Narayanan, Director & COO, RED FM and Magic FM, said, “Cricket generates a kind of excitement that cuts across all sections of the society in India. Fans have been eagerly waiting for the mega tournament to start after the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to all sporting activities. Over the years, cricket has united fans and radio has been a crucial part in bringing them together. There’s no denying that luck and superstitions go hand in hand with a cricket fan and this year we are bringing some of those practices the fans have subconsciously picked up over the years and now cannot let go. Our campaign, ‘Totka Chalao, India ko Jeetao’ will highlight some of the crazy ‘totkas’ that cricket fans follow across the country. We hope that you will share your favourite ‘totkas’ with us and cheer for team India with RED FM.”

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MICHAEL KORS TO LAUNCH MK MY WAY IN-STORE POP-UPS THROUGHOUT INDIA

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Michael Kors has announced the launch of an exciting new pop-up store activation throughout India to celebrate MK My Way—the popular interactive experience that immerses customers in the luxe world of Michael Kors and lets them customise their Signature logo print handbags with their initials.

The MK My Way activation will take place in stores with a colourful pop-up kiosk. Equal parts elevated and high-energy, the pop-up’s countertop and facade are splashed with metallic hues and punctuated by oversized, graphic takes on the brand’s signature print. After selecting their Signature print handbag, customers have the chance to have their bags hand-painted by Bangalore-based artist and illustrator Srishti Guptaroy (@srillustrator) with either their English/Hindi initials or with one of four unique motifs designed specifically for Diwali.

As an extension of the in-store program, the motifs will also be made into gify stickers available for all Instagram users. Supplies are provided by Angelus Paints, a California paint company and world leader in luxury customisation. To celebrate the launch, the brand has also created a digital campaign starring Bollywood actress Janhvi Kapoor (@janhvikapoor).

The pop-up store activations will take place in several cities throughout India, including:

Jio World Drive in Mumbai (from 8 to 31 October)

DLF Emporio in Delhi (from 11 to 31 October)

UB City in Bangalore (from 23 to 30 October)

Tatacliq Luxury (online) (from 18 to 31 October)

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