(Sept 15): Generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology can potentially unlock US$113.4 billion worth of productive capacity in the Malaysian economy if it is fully adopted across industries. This is equivalent to one-quarter of the country’s 2022 gross domestic product (GDP), revealed a new report by the Malaysia Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) and MyDIGITAL Corporation.
The inaugural 'The Economic Impact of Generative AI: The Future of Work in Malaysia' report undertaken in collaboration with Access Partnership and Microsoft in Malaysia was launched on Friday.
The study seeks to provide early insights and raise awareness of the economic opportunities that generative AI can create and what it means for local industries and workforce readiness.
According to the report, 75% of the surveyed population is optimistic about generative AI technology believing that it can help them formulate ideas for their work. Close to two-thirds of the Malaysian workforce will potentially use generative AI for up to 20% of their regular work activities.
“This represents a paradigm shift that will redefine the focus in jobs rather than replacing jobs entirely,” said Deputy Economy Minister Datuk Hanifah Hajar Taib, who was the keynote speaker and was present to launch the report.
“Productivity growth is a key driver for economic growth for any economy and if we can unlock this untapped potential through the adoption of generative AI, it brings us closer to achieving our goal to become a high-income nation.”
Generative AI has the potential to contribute towards accelerated achievement of the objectives and aspirations of the 12th Malaysia Plan and the New Industrial Master Plan (NIMP) 2023 by driving innovation and economic growth, said Hanifah. The technology also serves as a catalyst to achieving the plans’ objectives by fostering data-driven decision-making and advancing the country's technological capabilities.
In the context of the 12th Malaysia Plan, generative AI technologies can be harnessed to optimise resource allocation and infrastructure development.
“AI-driven predictive analytics can help forecast demand for critical services such as healthcare, education and transportation, enabling the government to allocate resources more efficiently. Additionally, generative AI can facilitate data-driven policymaking, enabling policymakers to assess the impact of various strategies and make informed decisions for sustainable economic development,” she said.
Meanwhile, the NIMP 2023 has identified technology adoption as a key driver to develop a digitally vibrant nation. Hanifah said ambitious goals have been set to position Malaysia as the market leader in generative AI, strengthening Malaysia’s presence in the regional and global marketplace by developing local AI companies with system integrator capabilities.
“While these goals may be ambitious, they are not impossible as we have already set things in motion through the National Fourth Industrial Revolution Policy and the Malaysia National AI Roadmap,” she said.
“It can foster innovation by assisting in the development of new products and services, thus positioning Malaysia as a hub for cutting-edge technologies and industries, in line with the goals of the NIMP.”
Achieving these targets, however, requires a concerted effort from the public and private sectors as well as ownership and proactiveness from the people to reduce the digital divide and harness the potential of new technologies like generative AI.
“Employers will need to support their workforce in a smooth transition by providing opportunities for them to learn future-ready skills; industries will need to incorporate generative AI in their foreseeable organisational strategies; the people will need to be open and learn to take advantage of this transformative technology,” she said.
The report showed that generative AI will change the way we work by reprioritising the types of tasks undertaken, and skills needed in the workforce. This, in turn, will help unleash creativity, accelerate discovery and enhance efficiency.
“Generative AI has opened doors to more possibilities and is expected to play a role in tasks requiring creativity, curiosity, and looking at information differently. Therefore, the potential of generative AI lies in its ability to enable people to achieve greater creativity, effectiveness and efficiency in their work,” the report read.
On top of that, the technology has the potential to unlock US$113.4 billion in productive capacity in the Malaysian economy and the manufacturing sector will contribute to half of these potential economy-wide gains from implementing generative AI, because it comprises a large share of the local workforce and accounts for high labour productivity.
“Furthermore, the workers within the wholesale and retail trade and manufacturing sectors are responsible for a large share of total work activities that could be transformed by generative AI given that they comprise a large share of the local workforce, which means that leveraging the benefit of generative AI in these sectors could transform the work experience for a large number of workers in Malaysia,” the report read.
Generative AI possibly could transform the work experience for workers in Malaysia, as close to two-thirds (65%) of workers in Malaysia will potentially use generative AI for between 5% to 20% of their regular work activities.
Last but not least, Malaysia will need to equip its workforce with future-ready skills to thrive in an AI-powered future. The basic skills of reading, writing and critical thinking will remain essential and cross-functional skills will need to be re-contextualised for generative AI in the workplace.
“Furthermore, it will be important to close the digital skills gap in Malaysia, given that only 19% of Malaysians feel they have adequate digital skills to perform their job, as well as to improve AI aptitude — the ability to operate in an AI environment and leverage AI tools.
“This includes learning how to manipulate and apply AI technologies across a range of situations and use functions to enhance existing work tasks for more effective and efficient results.”