AI park will help Malaysia take the lead in digital future


“It all starts with the ability to gather data from trillions of sensors and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices and extract actionable insights, ” Dr James Tee (pic) tells StarBizWeek. He is the new executive director of G3 Global Bhd, an associate company of Green Packet Bhd.

MALAYSIA’s development of an artificial intelligence (AI) park will be vital to cement its position as the leading South-East Asian nation in the field of AI as the country takes a step forward.

AI technology is expected to contribute some US$115bil (RM476.84bil) to Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) by the year 2030, according to a report by consultancy firm Kearney.

Neighbouring countries such as Indonesia are expected to see an inflow of US$366bil (RM1.52 trillion) while Thailand and Singapore could see AI bringing in US$117bil (RM485.43bil) and US$110bil (RM456.39bil) to their respective GDPs.

Financial services and retail have been early adopters of AI in Indonesia.

On a whole, there is a lot of potential in the logistics and supply chain sector. AI usage in South-East Asia is mainly for marketing and sales, followed by supply chain and manufacturing.

“The world today revolves around a rapid pace of technology convergence that enables efficiency, elimination of wastage and gains in productivity.

“AI has indeed delivered new ways of working and for AI players like us, both from the technology and smart city fields, to really build sustainable cities and assist in maintaining infrastructure and in improving public services.

“It all starts with the ability to gather data from trillions of sensors and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices and extract actionable insights, ” Dr James Tee tells StarBizWeek. He is the new executive director of G3 Global Bhd, an associate company of Green Packet Bhd.

Key among G3’s initiatives would be the realisation of an AI park to position Malaysia as the AI and digital hub for Asean.

The company inked an agreement last year with Chinese partners SenseTime Group Ltd and China Harbour Engineering Co Ltd (CHEC) on the setting up of Malaysia’s first AI park, with a total investment of more than US$1bil (RM4.15bil) over the next five years.

Tee is of the view that the AI park will place Malaysian on the forefront of AI research and commercialisation of innovation, which will stimulate a new generation of high-tech businesses and jobs in Malaysia.

He adds that the beauty of Malaysia’s AI park is that it is a private sector-driven investment and not with the public sector at the forefront. It is also of utmost importance now because the public sector is not in a very good position to be able to spend and pump prime the economy.

“G3, together with our technological partners from abroad, are going to bring in investments from domestic and foreign sources.

“If you look at the demand side of the economy, where is that growth going to come from?

“Private consumption, which is around 60% of our GDP, is going to grow at a tepid pace because people are uncertain and they don’t spend as much, ” he says, adding that exports are needed to lead the charge.

In order for exports to continue growing, Tee says, investments need to come in at the upstream and the AI park is one of the projects that will drive this upstream investment.

All they hope for is that government facilitates in terms of providing relevant incentives to attract global companies to the AI park and bring in foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country.

With Budget 2021 due next month and the 12th Malaysia Plan early next year, Tee hopes the government prioritises policies that will encourage private investments and FDIs into the technology sector.

“In association with Green Packet, what we’re bringing into the picture are fintech (financial technology) and proptech (property technology) solutions to create a truly touchless economy and touchless operation to fully transform us into an intelligent city.

“Our vision is for the AI Park to be Malaysia’s very first AI-powered Technopolis, with schools, residences, factories, and transportation and infrastructure facilities equipped with the latest AI solutions.

“This will be important for the nation as it will house the necessary AI research-related public service infrastructure as a base to promote the technology within our country, ” says Tee, adding that a data centre will be one of the key components in the AI park, which will facilitate cloud computing and the digitisation of enterprises.

He also points out that South Asia lags two to three years behind the US and China in terms of AI adoption, according to Kearney and Singapore-based investment firm EDBI.

A survey conducted has shown that the AI adoption rate stands at 14% across South-East Asia, an improvement from 8% last year.

Malaysia’s AI adoption rate of 8.1% also lags significantly behind Indonesia at 24.6% and Thailand at 17.1%.

One of the main issues is that many Malaysian organisations are concerned over the cost of solutions and doubt the quality of the model.

Despite that, Tee believes opportunities are abundant to harness the potential of AI technology to improve productivity and generate revenue. He stresses that Malaysia has to do more in terms of educating enterprises.

“Manufacturing, especially electrical and electronics (E&E) manufacturing, will be an important part of the Malaysian growth as other sectors on the supply side will not be able to support the country’s economic growth in the years to come.

“This is where AI comes in, because it is plugged into the supply chain of the E&E sector. And it is not just the semiconductor that will benefit. Those in integrated circuit design, those who do tests, measurements and packaging are all going to fit in that growth.

“The growth in AI will support E&E manufacturing and that gives our economy a very strong boost, especially when our services and mining sectors are coming under tremendous pressure, ” he says.

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