Various initiatives prove government's seriousness in driving AI development - Analysts

The government’s commitment to nurturing the AI ecosystem is evident through various initiatives such as ‘AI Untuk Rakyat’ aimed at raising public awareness about the technology, and AI Sandbox 2024, with the goal of establishing 900 AI startups and nurturing 13,000 new talents by 2026.

12 May 2024 09:10am
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KUALA LUMPUR - The ability of a country to implement digital transformation and adopt artificial intelligence (AI) technology to stimulate innovation and enhance productivity and competitiveness has become one of the benchmarks in attracting foreign investment.

This was underscored by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who wants Malaysia to swiftly develop an AI ecosystem, particularly to cultivate a skilled workforce in the field to meet the demands of technology giant companies expressing interest in investing in the country.

The government’s commitment to nurturing the AI ecosystem is evident through various initiatives such as ‘AI Untuk Rakyat’ aimed at raising public awareness about the technology, and AI Sandbox 2024, with the goal of establishing 900 AI startups and nurturing 13,000 new talents by 2026.

On Friday, the prime minister launched three additional initiatives: the AI Talent Roadmap for Malaysia 2024-2030, the AI Faculty (FAI) at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), and the Malaysia AI Consortium (MAIC).

Dr Ahmad 'Athif Mohd Faudzi, a researcher at UTM's AI and Robotics Centre, said these initiatives encompass holistic aspects of AI ecosystem development which will complement each other.

"I believe the Prime Minister is deeply committed and views current technological advancements as a catalyst for the nation's economy.

"With rapid developments in Western countries and China, for instance, we need to harness and enhance Malaysian expertise to drive the economy with AI and robotics technology,” he told Bernama today.

According to Ahmad 'Athif, the AI Talent Roadmap for Malaysia 2024-2030 programme covers short, medium and long-term planning, supported by the establishment of FAI offering a Bachelor of AI programme with the first intake of students in October this year.

He said there would also be other related programmes introduced across various public and private universities.
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"The establishment of MAIC takes into account the current expertise from various universities and industries in the field of AI and related fields to provide advice, expertise and contributions to talent development and FAI,” Ahmad 'Athif said.

Meanwhile, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK) Data Science and Computing Faculty Deputy Dean Dr Hadhrami Ab Ghani said the prime minister’s emphasis for Malaysia to accelerate the use and development of AI is timely, considering that the technology has been rapidly evolving worldwide.

"Without such serious emphasis as demonstrated by the prime minister, Malaysia risks falling behind and could struggle to compete with other nations, despite already showing positive signs of economic growth through diverse foreign investments since his tenure as the 10th Prime Minister,” he said.

Hadhrami said AI has proven capable of expediting and facilitating various transactions, especially in the rapidly advancing economic and industrial activities worldwide.

Therefore, he stressed that cognitive economic development based on AI necessitates thorough preparation and comprehensive understanding among the people, which can be facilitated through AI faculties and their consortiums as proposed by the government.

To propel AI development and usage in alignment with other nations, Hadhrami recommended immediate and thorough studies to assess skills aspects, especially for AI applications required across various fields to maximise the benefits.

"All parties entrusted with spearheading AI usage must possess qualifications, dedication and transparency, besides being guided and monitored by relevant authorities in the ministry or at the relevant levels.

"Close collaboration among all involved agencies and stakeholders is key. AI is not a new concept; numerous experts in Malaysia can be leveraged, particularly from universities and industries,” he said.

On UTM’s AI Faculty, Hadhrami hopes similar faculties can be set up in other universities to provide more opportunities for Malaysians to learn AI, viewing this expansion as feasible, given that nearly all universities in the country boast experts in the field.

"AI is increasingly diverse and not confined solely to computer and computer science students. Therefore, AI faculties, if expanded nationwide, are likely to be extremely popular,” he said. - BERNAMA