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How Malaysia Can Navigate Its Future Economy With AI

zArtificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere – making its way into various facets of our daily lives without us even knowing it. From banking to manufacturing industries, and even simple things like the autocorrect features and chatbots that we regularly encounter, AI has played a big role in shaping our society today.

In time, more and more devices will come with the ability to grasp, contextualize, and recognize images, acquire and build knowledge through deep learning, and teach themselves how to comprehend speech and understand us when we communicate with or using AI.

Industry analysts and governments believe that AI can be a great transformer for both developed and developing economies. Research by Accenture on the impact of AI in 12 developed countries concluded that AI has the potential to double annual economic growth by 2035. Similarly, research by PwC showed that global GDP could be up to 14% higher in 2030 as a result of AI. This is an equivalent of an additional $15.7 trillion – making it the biggest commercial opportunity in today’s fast changing economy.

There are tremendous economic and productivity gains resulting from AI. According to McKinsey, 50% of work time in Malaysia is spent on repetitive activities that are highly automatable. AI can automate routine tasks, augment employees’ capabilities, and allow time to focus on more stimulating and higher value-adding work. With increased automation, AI can potentially create 6 million new jobs by 2030 in Malaysia and this future of work will create new needs for skills and long-term learning in nearly every part of the workforce.

Therefore, it is with greater urgency now more than ever that nations implement AI strategies. In Malaysia, under the 4IR and MyDigital blueprint, the Government aims to boost productivity in Malaysia by 30% across all sectors by 2030, compared to 2020 levels – with AI being a critical enabler.

To support the nation’s aspirations, the Government of Malaysia has spearheaded the development of the AI Roadmap (AIRmap). AIRmap’s creation was led by experts from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and supported by leading industry consultants from PIKOM as well as the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation’s (MOSTI) National Science and Research Council. It was developed following a three-month project comprising consultations, along with workshops and surveys with the government, academia, industry players and the public.

Central to Malaysia’s AI success is to bootstrap an AI innovation ecosystem sooner, rather than later. Through AIRmap, we aim to create a catalyst hub to create a data-driven data ecosystem. It is a sandbox of facilitators that enables consortiums to come together to execute and deliver on national “grand challenges”, capitalizing on the use of AI to bolster innovation and drive growth. The solutions to these grand challenges are not business-as-usual solutions but will be world-leading in the application of AI – critical to the nation’s journey towards becoming data-driven leaders in the digital economy. In doing so, it must meet national needs, be principle-based and most importantly, benefit the rakyat (“people”) – especially B40 communities.

For AI to be successful, it must be supported by a healthy, purpose-driven, open-data ecosystem. To this end, we have worked with the government to develop the AI Innovation Ecosystem (AI-IE) model, embracing the quadruple helix approach in fostering participation and collaboration.

The primary aspect to consider are the socio-economic drivers in Malaysia. These represent the applications of AI in businesses and services that will benefit the community at large and how they can create demand and derive benefits from advances in AI solutions. It should be noted that AI is applicable across all sectors, and it is up to organizational leaders to adopt AI so that society and industries can benefit.

Another aspect highlighted in the AI Innovation Ecosystem model is industry, looking at who can supply AI technology and expertise. While there are many well-established organizations functioning within the AI sector providing world-class services to support businesses with new AI technologies, it is also important to tap into startups. Startups represent a hotbed of innovation and play a big role in transforming economies. For the AI Innovation Ecosystem model to succeed, a wholistic view must be applied – looking at all sources of innovation and technology providers, collaborating with them towards a singular goal. This is the essence of establishing a purpose driven data ecosystem.

However, it must be noted that AI adoption into any industry will not succeed without the right skills in place. A key component of the quadruple helix model is academia, representing the need for education and skilling among Malaysians to create a future-ready workforce capable of maximizing the full potential of AI. AI and data science skills will be vital in both supply and demand, to unlock the next generation of AI advancement, meaning a wholistic approach will be necessary when it comes to educating future generations of workers, whilst upskilling the existing workforce.

Acculturating AI and fostering AI talents are key pillars in the AIRmap because without a skilled workforce that understands how to optimally leverage the power of AI, economic and technological progress will inevitably be stunted.

The final aspect of the AI Innovation Ecosystem model is the government, who will lead the conversation for AI, coordinating large-scale initiatives to kickstart and grow the ecosystem, unlock ecosystem potential with enabling policies and ensure fundamental ethical trust principles are strictly adhered to. With an emphasis on public and private partnerships, the government must chart the way forward, influencing large-scale change and rolling out key initiatives designed to support each aspect of the quadruple helix model.

By aligning our AI vision at Microsoft with AIRmap’s goals, we hope to accelerate the nation’s digital transformation journey. We have witnessed the power of technology, especially in the most challenging times. More importantly, we have seen its ability to transform and improve lives, circling back to the fundamental concept that technology – in particular, AI – is here to augment and enhance lives.

As part of Microsoft’s Bersama Malaysia initiative, we hope that every person and organization in Malaysia is empowered to achieve more using AI, to lead richer lives and build a better nation for future generations to inherit.