June 16, 2024

Mikayla Macfarlane

Serving technology better

Microsoft wants to arm 2.5 million people in Asean with AI skills

3 min read
Microsoft wants to arm 2.5 million people in Asean with AI skills

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Microsoft has unveiled plans to boost artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities by training 2.5 million people by 2025 across five Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member states: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. 

The initiatives will be facilitated through partnerships with governments as well as nonprofit and commercial organizations, the U.S. cloud vendor said on Tuesday. These measures aim to add 2.5 million people to an “AI-ready” talent pool that is part of the Asean Digital Masterplan 2025, Microsoft said. 

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Asked to elaborate, Microsoft declined to provide details on the investments or funds it is setting aside to facilitate its plans. Instead, the company pointed ZDNET to the four key areas its skilling initiatives will focus on, which include plugging the cybersecurity talent gap and boosting developers’ AI skills.

These initiatives will run alongside other schemes, such as Microsoft’s Ready4AI&Security program, which aims to train 15,000 youths in Indonesia and Malaysia, emphasizing opportunities for women to build careers in cybersecurity. The program includes access to Microsoft’s security training and certifications. 

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With the Asia-Pacific region facing a cybersecurity skills gap of 2.7 million people in 2023, Microsoft said AI-powered security capabilities are increasingly necessary to combat modern-day cyber threats. 

The company said vocational institutes are also critical in providing practical training for industry-focused roles. It hopes to boost the region’s vocational educational systems with AI skills via a collaboration between the Asean Foundation and education ministries in the 10 Asean member states. This initiative is estimated to benefit 644,000 vocational students, Microsoft said. 

Microsoft also plans to expand its partnership with the United Nations Development Programme Asia Pacific and offer 570,000 youths from underserved communities access to AI training to enhance their employability.

Upskilling Asean youth in AI is a “pivotal step” that is aligned with the region’s 2025 digital masterplan, Asean Foundation Executive Director Piti Srisangnam said. Fostering a sustainable digital talent ecosystem will also contribute significantly to the region’s development, Srisangnam added. 

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“Investing in AI skills is investing in a future where economic growth is inclusive, giving every person a chance to contribute and benefit,” Microsoft Asean President Andrea Della Mattea said. “With a robust pool of talent skilled in disruptive technologies, Asean is well positioned for the global tech race.” 

The U.S. cloud vendor on Wednesday also unveiled plans for a new data center region in Thailand, as part of its efforts to build up the market’s cloud and AI infrastructure and provide AI skilling opportunities for more than 100,000 people. 

Microsoft said AI is projected to add almost $1 trillion to Southeast Asia’s gross domestic product by 2030, citing research from Kearney. Thailand is expected to account for $117 billion of this figure. 

“Thailand has an incredible opportunity to build a digital-first, AI-powered future,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said at Microsoft Build: AI Day in Bangkok. The new data center region and the vendor’s other investments, including in cloud and AI, will look to help Thai organizations in both public and private sectors “drive new impact and growth,” Nadella said.

Microsoft currently operates a data center region in Singapore, which supports Southeast Asia, among several other sites across Asia-Pacific, including South Korea and Japan. The company is also planning new sites in Indonesia and Malaysia. 

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