Photo: via Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: As contactless option seems vital in stemming the spread of the disease that has jolted the world, adaptation of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in businesses and daily life seems more critical now than before.

Malaysia has seen a great deal of success in flattening the curve of Covid-19 transmission, but it is too early to let our guards down as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that it could take up to five years before the pandemic comes under control.

The country suffered RM63 billion losses during the 47 days movement control order (MCO) and paralysing economic growth. Although the government has allowed almost all economic sectors to operate under the conditional MCO, the risk of a second wave remains.

Under such circumstances, the usage of big data, AI, remote working and automation is the only option to future proof economies and businesses.

The pandemic has definitely hastened the need for it.

AI — The lifeline of ‘New Normal’

Artificial Intelligence (AI) ecosystem builder, Skymind Holdings chief executive officer, Shawn Tan said the MCO has demonstrated just how critical technology is to ensure business continuity, more so due to professionals working remotely.

“As Malaysia and the world settles into the ‘new normal’, we foresee that technology — particularly AI — would continue playing a vital role in enhancing productivity and generating revenue for companies deploying them,” he told Bernama.

Tan said this particular technology could be adopted into all sectors and the benefits of AI are limitless, including, saving time and money, generating business insights as well as enhancing customer experience.

AI has the ability to analyse vast amounts of data in a blink of an eye, a task that would take hours of arduous human labour or would be even impossible to accomplish.

There are various reasons to explore the use of AI and one of it is to process the ever-growing world of data

“Data is sometimes called ‘the new oil’ as it has become an invaluable resource of the digital economy. However, even big data is useless when you cannot make sense of it.

“AI can help businesses data-mine processing billions of data points in an instant. Whatever question you need AI to answer, it can do it and it will keep getting better at answering,” he said.

Furthermore, he said AI could provide accurate predictions about future outcomes based on historical data, which would greatly benefit businesses everywhere. 

Only 26 per cent have boarded on AI

According to a study from Microsoft and IDC Asia Pacific titled Future Ready Business: Assessing Asia Pacific’s Growth Potential Through AI released last year, Malaysia is not ready yet for AI with only 26 per cent of organisations have embarked on their AI journeys.

Tan said to succeed in the AI race, Malaysian businesses need to substantially improve their readiness with a deep appreciation as to how AI could improve accuracy, efficiency and productivity.

The Malaysian government, together with relevant agencies and industry players, are working together to promote and raise awareness on the need to invest in AI adoption.

“We are encouraged by the government’s push towards more digitalisation. Sustained policy-related announcements, especially the Budget tabled last year will be a key catalyst in continuing the drive in the uptake of more devices and platforms here. All of that will lead to an even increased data footprint,” he said.

However, Tan said business leaders in Malaysia are keen on AI adoption and many have embarked on their AI transformation journey with Skymind.

Malaysia’s potential as a strong AI-ready market

Despite the low AI adoption rate in Malaysia currently, Skymind sees Malaysia as a high-value growth market and the country has a lot of potential in terms of talent, infrastructure and partners that are keen to grow the AI ecosystem.

Tan said Malaysia has a large talent pool that would require Skymind’s expertise and infrastructure to make them realise their potential as a strong AI-ready market. 

Earlier this year, Skymind via its venture arm, Skymind Global Ventures launched an $800 million investment fund to support the advancement of the AI ecosystem by supporting global businesses specialising in AI, as well as, support independent research and university programmes focused on AI.

He said the aim of the fund is to make its portfolio of venture-backed companies profitable and to nurture the development of AI innovation around the world, with investment decisions for the fund would be made by the executive team based in Skymind’s London headquarters.

Skymind has identified six start-ups through the Skymind Launchpad programme in the first quarter of this year, with great talents from Malaysia, Singapore, China, Japan and Australia.

“What is really interesting is they are all ready to move and incubate their start-ups in Malaysia.

“With the programmes that we are currently conducting, we hope to see more locals in the region benefitting from the foreign experts we are bringing in and we hope to see more AI products built in either Malaysia or the region,” he added.

Malaysia’s National Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Policy was scheduled to be implemented in mid-2020 to complement the National Artificial Intelligence Framework. – Bernama