SERDANG: The MADANI government highly hopes to realise the aspiration of driving artificial intelligence (AI) technology in transforming Malaysia into a high-income country, but the community’s “misunderstanding” and their reluctance to change is the main challenge.
Undeniably, with AI technology, one of the branches behind Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0) increasingly taking place in the economic and industrial landscape around the world, Malaysians are becoming worried, seeing it (AI) as a threat rather than a positive impact.
Regarding it as an ‘enemy’, several experts interviewed by Bernama said the public’s lack of understanding of the true context of the importance of the technology led to the perception that it will take over human functions and subsequently conquer the world.
For them, the application of AI will eliminate employment opportunities for humans with them being replaced by technology as is happening in some employment sectors currently, such as the hospitality sector, thus risking an increase in the unemployment rate.
However, that assumption is completely unfounded because the transition to AI technology will not completely replace human resources, but will create highly skilled job opportunities that can be filled by locals.
“Society needs to change and be ready to accept the use of AI technology because with that technology it will allow the country to produce a new generation of workers who can use various technology applications, thus increasing employment opportunities for the people.
“If in the past, the country’s labour industry depended on foreign labour. This will change with AI technology, which will also help deal with problems in various sectors such as agriculture and so on,“ said Prof Dr Rusli Abdullah.
The Deputy Chairman of the ICT Cluster, Council of National Professors (MPN) sees the AI For People programme launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim yesterday today as one of the best initiatives of the Unity Government in disseminating the importance and benefits of the technology.
A basic understanding of AI technology is very important because it is the most important stage in attracting the community to together adapt the technology to realise the government’s aspiration towards building a digital economy thus generating higher value on the world stage.
He said society will also be able to open a wider context that AI technology is not a substitute for human labour but complements it and if explored well, it will inject positive effects in various sectors.
This is also in line with the report, ‘The Economy Impact Of Generative AI: The Future of Work In Malaysia’ issued by the Malaysia Center for 4th Industrial Revolution that Generative AI technology alone has the potential to open productive capacity worth USD113.4 billion in the Malaysian economy if it is fully adopted across all industries.
The government’s move to introduce the AI For People programme, which is a collaboration with Intel Malaysia, is also seen by experts as helping to address the gap in digital literacy and understanding of AI among the community, especially between the urban and rural residents.
This is because the problem of the digital divide in Malaysia is still large and one of the factors causing some quarters to not want to participate in the shift to the technology paradigm, said UPM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Ahmad Farhan Mohd Sadullah.
“The biggest problem is when society doesn’t understand and this gives rise to various assumptions. This needs to be addressed, especially for rural communities and those in the urban areas considering that the country is currently dealing with the problem of the digital divide.
“However, I see the implementation of the AI For the People programme as one of the best approaches of the government to expose to society as a whole the most basic things when we talk about AI so that people are not left behind or refuse to change,“ he said
Anwar, in his speech when launching the programme, emphasised the importance of all parties to immediately respond to this paradigm shift towards AI technology to ensure that the country does not fall behind as it would be a great loss if it is not utilised.
Therefore, the prime minister, who is also the Minister of Finance, wants the programme to start as soon as possible to create a digitally literate and AI-literate society by targeting one million users by the end of this year.
Whether we want it or not, society has no choice but to adapt to AI technology and because of that, the AI programme, which is an online self-learning programme to increase public understanding and awareness about it can help them to together respond to the government’s call towards making Malaysia a high-income country.