India is poised to lead the world in the era of artificial intelligence, says GitHub CEO

“I am optimistic about India’s future. There is still a lot to do, but you have the opportunity to become a leading country in software and artificial intelligence,” said Thomas Dohmke, CEO of GitHub, in an interview Mint on the sidelines of Tuesday’s GitHub Galaxy event in Bengaluru.

The age of artificial intelligence

Amid the global shift to artificial intelligence, India boasts over 15.4 million developers on GitHub compared to just over 21 million in the US. There are over 100 million developers worldwide.

Dohmke believes this large group of developers will bring significant benefits to India as more people leverage AI to advance businesses and society. “Last year was all about artificial intelligence. This year is all about scaling and implementing AI…India will not only be a global leader but also a leader in the era of AI,” he said. This was Dohmke’s first visit to India as GitHub’s CEO.

While GitHub defines developers as “any person with a GitHub account”, it is currently estimated that there are 4-5.5 million in India developers out of approximately 30 million worldwide.

Dohmke believes that India’s huge population and growing number of computer science and other engineering graduates will ensure a steady increase in the number of programmers. “People of all ages will learn to code in their native languages ​​(with generative artificial intelligence)… It will be impossible to catch up with India for a long time,” he noted.

Increased productivity

GitHub was founded in 2007 by Chris Wanstrath, PJ Hyett, Tom Preston-Werner, and Scott Chacon. Dohmke, who co-founded HockeyApp in 2011, joined Microsoft when his company was acquired three years later.

Microsoft acquired GitHub for $7.5 billion in 2018, and Dohmke became CEO of the code-sharing platform in November 2021, replacing Nat Freidman.

According to Dohmke, GitHub maintains “complete independence” regarding its products, design, roadmap, branding, marketing and events such as GitHub Galaxy. However, its integration with Microsoft helps GitHub scale and leverage Microsoft’s “co-pilot stack”. Dohmke noted: “Developers using Copilot are already 55% faster, powering the software economy, valued in the trillions worldwide, to run even faster thanks to AI.”

Students have free access to GitHub. Individuals pay $10 per user per month, and businesses pay $19 per user per month. “Most premium users can access Copilot Enterprise for $39 per user per month,” which allows enterprises to tailor Copilot to their needs, Dohmke explained.

GitHub Copilot has 1.8 million paid subscribers and has been deployed by over 50,000 organizations worldwide. In India, companies like Cognizant, MakeMyTrip and Paytm use Copilot.

For example, around 35,000 Cognizant developers are trained on GitHub Copilot, with an additional 40,000 developers expected to be trained. According to Prasad Sankaran, vice president of software engineering and platforms at Cognizant, GitHub Copilot has helped the company increase productivity, improve software quality and accelerate software delivery.

According to Mohammed Rafee Tarafdar, chief technology officer at an Indian IT services company, Infosys is also using GitHub Copilot to help its developers “become more productive and efficient and enable them to focus on value-creating tasks.” “Generative AI is transforming every aspect of the software lifecycle, and by leveraging the resources of Infosys Topaz, we are accelerating the adoption of generational AI for our customers,” he said in a media statement on Tuesday.

Paytm monitored its expanding public cloud infrastructure using third-party tools, which impacted productivity and raised security concerns. Using GitHub Copilot, Paytm has launched “Code Armor” – “a solution that revolutionizes the way we approach security and development,” according to Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and CEO of Paytm.

Similarly, MakeMyTrip uses GitHub Copilot to improve productivity. Sanjay Mohan, Group CTO of the online travel agency, also present at the event, said, “Developers don’t have to get bored coding mundane things, freeing up time to solve higher order problems, which is the core of our travel business.”

AI innovation and the open source community

Dohmke believes that the creativity of India’s open source community will flourish, leading to more AI innovations and startups. While GitHub is not an open source software company, Dohmke explained, “Where the top of the (software) stack is closed source, everything in the stack is open source.”

Millions of developers around the world collaborate using code and natural language to build the future. For example, Open Healthcare Network improves healthcare delivery and management with the help of Copilot. Srikanth Nadhamuni, Founder CTO of Aadhaar and President of 10BedICU, an initiative under the eGov Foundation, noted that the 10BedICU project, now deployed in over 200 hospitals, has “significantly improved CARE EMR with the help of GitHub Copilot”, increasing productivity in coding, documentation and testing.

Of course, GitHub competes with similar platforms, including GitLab (in which Google parent Alphabet has a small stake), GitKraken, SourceTree, Amazon Code Whisperer, IBM Code Net, Meta’s Code Compose, Tabnine, and Codeium. Despite this competition, GitHub has about 79% market share, according to research firm 6Sense.

“You wouldn’t want to watch a cricket match if there was only one team in the league. It’s a lot more fun to compete when you have players who push you forward,” Dohmke said. “We were the first to build a second pilot, so given that we have four years of experience in this, we know that we did a lot of research and over time developed the product into what we call a Copilot-based development platform. “

Automation and job losses?

Dohmke addressed concerns about automation and job losses, noting that although artificial intelligence will write 80% of the code, developers will still have to write descriptions in human language.

“We invented programming language compilers to write 100% machine language, and open source powers 90% of all applications today. So even though AI will write 80% of the code, we will still need programmers to write descriptions in human language,” he insisted.

Despite advances in artificial intelligence, the world still relies on legacy code, such as COBOL-based banks from the 1960s, Dohmke stressed, requiring constant modernization efforts on the part of developers.

Most developers “will become systems thinkers – they’ll tackle big problems that AI can’t handle today, like building Facebook, building a self-driving car, or building a car for that matter,” Dohmke said.

Understanding programming languages ​​remains key to systems thinking, which “can be learned with a co-pilot, but you still need to understand things like coding and databases.”

He added that fast engineering or artificial intelligence engineering will help realize the full potential of large language models. If the result is not satisfactory, you can adjust the prompt and instruct the model to behave differently.

However, even rapid engineering is becoming automated. “But the model still requires user input,” Dohmke argued. “There is no AI company yet that has a conscious model; and there is no AI company that is creative in the sense of creating the model itself – it needs an operator because today’s neural network has no human skills.”

Dohmke emphasized that companies will need rapid engineering to retrain employees to effectively use AI models. “This will become an essential skill that will help us learn to use artificial intelligence, just as we learn to use social media or create websites,” he said. Dohmke concluded optimistically: “Today’s children don’t have to worry about the incredible pace of artificial intelligence development. Rather, they should be more excited than ever about the future.”