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Malaysia ideal place for AI research

Malaysia, uniquely located at the heart of Southeast Asia, is well-positioned to be a leader of research in and development of the ethics in Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Communications and Multimedia Minister recently stated.

It is important that Malaysia builds the necessary data and AI capabilities to ensure its industries, government and people are able to take advantage of the opportunities being offered.

Malaysia recognises the potential and opportunities that data and AI have to offer and, according to a recent study, the Big Data and analytics software market in Malaysia is forecast to reach RM595 million by 2021.

The minister stressed that three key components — talent, trust and ethics — are required to develop a proper AI and data ecosystem.

The consensus amongst governments, industry leaders and recruitment firms worldwide is that there is a global shortage of AI talent. Malaysia, like the rest of the world, needs to develop deeper talent to further grow our AI ecosystem.

The growth of AI would require big data capabilities and what has been categorised as privacy preservation technologies which would be critical for the continued capitalisation of data.

There is a growing need for privacy solutions that can enable data integration across organisational boundaries as well as more secure solutions, especially new methods of encrypting data on the public cloud.

With the growing use of AI in the economy and workforce, it is crucial to proactively address the national cybersecurity risks holistically and adequately.

This can be done through a national strategy, legislation and enforcement, innovation and industry development as well as raising the awareness of the citizens.

AI must be developed to include the assimilation of ethical values, taking into consideration the interests and well-being of society.

The minister added that in building AI capabilities in Malaysia, the government will take a practical approach to get the best returns to investment in the field.

The participation of the government, industry partners and the private sector are welcomed; they will, in fact, play key roles in enabling the country to compete with developed nations.

The Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) was capable of playing a key role through close collaborations with industry partners and tertiary institutions to develop talents in AI to meet the needs of the industry.

Malaysia needs more talent strengths to improve the AI technology eco-system and the government will continue to focus on developing talents in the field of AI.

Attracting foreign tech firms

In addition to local AI talent, Malaysia is also welcoming foreign talent.

For example, efforts to strengthen technology tie-ups between Malaysia and the UK have started to bear fruits with five UK artificial intelligence (AI) companies that have so far set up operations in the country.

The UK’s Trade Commissioner for the Asia Pacific region said the collaborations are in line with aspirations by both countries to promote ethical AI, which has drawn concerns from some quarters lately.

The technological collaboration between Malaysia and the UK could drive the adoption of AI in Industrial Revolution 4.0 at a faster rate as it could boost productivity across the board.

Moreover, a safe AI environment for all could contribute to a healthier and fairer global economy.

New AI policy

The government is also looking at introducing a policy on artificial intelligence (AI) and big data soon.

The Minister of Communications and Multimedia stated that the move was crucial to develop the capabilities of AI and data needed to ensure that the industry, the government and the people could capitalise on the opportunities offered.

The agency is bound by any timeframe, he noted but once MDEC is done with the framework, the minister will strongly advocate for the development to come out with a national policy on AI and big data.

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