There was a time when it was unimaginable that you could generate original prose or poetry, write code, or create art – just by prompting a digital tool using our everyday, natural language. By now, many of us at least experimented with such a tool – generative AI. Generative AI is a form of AI that can generate new outputs based on the data they have been trained on.
Here is one example of how it is being used in India. A research group, AI4Bharat, developed an AI-powered chatbot, Jugalbandi, to help Indian villagers gain easier access to government services. Accessible via mobile phones, the chatbot can understand questions in multiple languages. It then gathers information on relevant government initiatives and relays it back in local language. In less than half a year, Jugalbandi has expanded to cover 10 of India’s 22 official languages and 171 government programs.
Now, imagine the possibilities of applying generative AI in your day-to-day work. A recent report released by the Malaysia Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Malaysia Centre4IR) and Access Partnership, titled, ‘The Economic Impact of Generative AI: The Future of Work in Malaysia’, estimates that generative AI can potentially unlock USD113.4 billion of productive capacity for Malaysia, equivalent to 28% of GDP in 2022.
The report also identified three channels, through which generative AI will change the processes of production within an economy, and reprioritize the types of tasks undertaken, as well as the skills that will be valuable in the workforce.
Three channels of change
The first channel of change looks at unleashing creativity using generative AI, which can help generate new ideas to augment the creative process, enabling efficiencies of time and cost. Today, it is already being used to support creative endeavors across industries.
This aligns with findings from Microsoft’s recent Work Trend Index, which found that 87% of workers in creative roles who are extremely familiar with AI said they’d be comfortable using AI for creative aspects of their job. Closer analysis of the findings revealed that more than 4 in 5 workers in Malaysia would be comfortable using AI not just for administrative tasks, but also analytical work and creative aspects of their role.
Secondly, generative AI can help in accelerating discovery, reducing the cost of research and potentially supporting better learning outcomes. For instance, students can use generative AI to help them better understand difficult topics by making use of the technology’s ability to simplify complex concepts and provide an easy-to-digest summary to speed up the learning process.
Beyond education, the potential of generative AI in accelerating discovery is also relevant in jobs across other sectors. The top occupations with the greatest share of tasks that can be transformed by this capability of generative AI include biochemists and biophysicists, astronomers, and biologists.
The third channel of change is the role generative AI plays in enhancing efficiency, primarily in tasks that require analyzing data sets and information sources.
Across the world, the pace of work has accelerated faster than humans can reasonably manage. We have all likely seen or experienced this ourselves, as 77% of Malaysians say that they do not have enough time and energy to get their work done. While there are some (62%) worried about AI replacing their jobs, many more (84%) would delegate as much work as possible to AI in order to lessen their workloads. Likewise, managers in Malaysia are 1.4x more likely to say that AI adds value to their workplace by boosting productivity rather than reducing headcount.
With its ability to break down, summarize, and interpret large amounts of data in a matter of minutes or seconds, the AI-assistant becomes a powerful tool to support decision making and problem solving.
The opportunity for Malaysia
Shifting to an economic perspective, the report also finds that, given the structure of the nation’s economy, the highest potential impact of the use of generative AI is most likely in the manufacturing sector, taking up 46% of the contribution to economic value potentially unlocked by the technology. This is followed by the wholesale and retail trade sector (13%) and financial intermediation sector (7%).
At Microsoft, we believe that AI is the defining technology of our time, and we are optimistic about what it can do to help people, industries, and society. Understanding its transformative capability, we are cognizant that this technology will undoubtedly play a part in reshaping how we work. It may change the nature of some jobs, allowing people to focus on the more meaningful and enjoyable parts of their work, and may also lead to the creation of new jobs that did not exist before. In line with our aim to democratize our AI breakthroughs, Microsoft is committed to help prepare Malaysians for this future.
As part of our Bersama Malaysia initiative to empower the country’s inclusive and sustainable digital economy, we have pledged to upskill an additional 1 million Malaysians by the end of 2023 to ensure every person has an equal opportunity to thrive in the digital era. To realize this, we are working closely with government agencies, non-profit organizations, corporates, and education institutions, among others. With their support, we have achieved more than 90% of our target as of November 2023.
Harnessing the potential of generative AI
It is vital to have a strategy to harness the potential of AI. Following through from the study, which includes insights from key stakeholders, as well as recommendations for harnessing the potential of generative AI as a country, which include:
- Increasing access and adoption – the need for AI-ready infrastructure as well as conducive digital policies and regulations, so organizations and employees are encouraged to implement and leverage the technology. Additionally, public-private collaboration to ensure workforce readiness, so employees are equipped with the skills to best leverage the technology, will be important.
- Mitigating risks – the need for necessary guard rails needed to minimize risks and prevent the harmful use of the technology. As designers of the technology, we understand there is a crucial need for responsibility when creating and working with AI, and we aim to continue collaborating in this area, including with sharing our best practices.
- Inspiring innovation – Taking both the benefits and potential risks of generative AI into account, it is critical to find the right balance between protecting and promoting innovation. While accelerating innovation is important to build an AI-ready culture, policy frameworks should also be regularly reviewed in order to achieve a balanced approach that encourages innovation while protecting human interests.
AI is poised to deliver significant benefits and it is a great time for us to work together to ensure that these can be enjoyed by all, to enable inclusive economic growth to be truly achieved.
I recently also had the chance to share my thoughts with BFM on the opportunities that generative AI brings to the table and how it’s redefining our nation and way of work.
I wrote this article with support from generative AI. The image featured at the top of this article was also designed using Microsoft Image Creator.
Listen to the full podcast with BFM here.