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Malaysia’s rate of innovation to nearly double by AI by 2021

Malaysia’s business leaders have stated that by 2021, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will allow the rate of innovation to almost double and increase employee productivity improvements by 60% in Malaysia, according to a recent report.

The study from a major global tech company and a firm that provides data-driven research and analysis surveyed 100 business leaders and 100 workers in Malaysia.

While seven in 10 business leaders polled agreed that AI is instrumental for their organisation’s competitiveness, only 26% of organisations in Malaysia have embarked on their AI journeys. Those companies that have adopted AI expect it to increase their competitiveness by 2.2 times in 2021.

The managing director of the tech company’s Malaysia branch noted that in order to be successful in this new world, organisations need to be a fast adopter of best-in-class technology. Secondly, they need to build their own unique digital capabilities.

AI is the defining technology of the current era that significantly accelerates business transformation, enables innovation, boosts employee productivity, and ensures further growth. Economies and businesses that have yet to embark on their AI journey run a real risk of missing out on the competitive benefits that are enjoyed by leaders.

Adopting AI

For the organisations that have implemented AI initiatives, the top five business drivers to adopt the technology were (in priority order): Better customer engagements and higher competitiveness (both tied as the number one driver with 31% respondents respectively); accelerated innovation and improved efficiency (12%); as well as more productive employees (8%).

The research director of the analysis firm noted that 2018 saw organisations that adopted AI reap tangible improvements in those areas in the range of 17% to 34%. They forecast further improvements of at least 1.6 times in the three-year horizon, with the biggest jump expected in accelerated innovation, higher competitiveness and better customer engagements.

Malaysia should focus on building upon AI culture

The study evaluated six dimensions critical to ensuring the success of a nation’s AI journey. It uncovered that Malaysia needs to focus on improving on all areas, particularly its data and investments in order to accelerate its AI journey.

To succeed in the AI race, Malaysia needs to substantially improve its readiness. Organisations’ leadership should make AI a core part of their strategy and develop a learning agility culture. They have to continuously invest in this transformative technology for long-term success, sometimes without immediate returns.

Malaysia is facing an urgent need for talents and tools to develop, deploy and monitor AI models, along with the availability of a robust data estate with adequate governance.

Business leaders who are adopting AI face three top challenges a lack of thought leadership and leadership commitment to invest in AI; lack of skills, resources and continuous learning programs and lack of advanced analytics or adequate infrastructure and tools to develop actionable insights.

The study showed that to move ahead on their AI journeys businesses must create the appropriate organisational culture. Most business leaders and workers surveyed believe that cultural traits that support AI journeys, such as risk-taking, proactive innovation, as well as cross-function partnerships among teams, are not pervasive today.

Business leaders must now embrace a new culture, where innovation and continuous learning are core components of the organisational culture. It sets the stage for agility, adaptability and growth.

Organisations need to address skills challenge for an AI-enabled workforce

The study found that Malaysia’s business leaders and workers hold positive viewpoints about the AI’s impact on the future of jobs.

More than half (67% of business leaders and 64% of workers) believe that AI will either help to do their existing jobs better or reduce repetitive tasks.

With regards to creating or replacing jobs, 17% of business leaders believe that AI will create new jobs, while 10% also feel that technology will replace. Interestingly, workers are more optimistic, with only 7% expecting AI to replace jobs, and 18% to create new ones. At the same time, almost 11% of workers expect no impact on their jobs in three years from now.

The study also found that twenty-three per cent of business leaders felt that workers have no interest to develop new skills, whereas only 10% of workers are not interested.

It is encouraging to see that 82% of businesses prioritize skilling and reskilling of workers in the future. They plan to invest as much, or even more, in human capital than in new technology.

Even so, 72% of business leaders have yet to implement plans to help their employees acquire the right skills, which is worrying in today’s context. They must have the urgency to support the fundamental shift in training workers for the future.

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