Artificial intelligence to drive job creation across Asia

The digital economy is set to form S$1.35 trillion of Asia's GDP by 2021, creating high-value jobs in the process.

It’s time to stop the doomsday rhetoric surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) and digital transformation.

A new study from Microsoft and IDC Asia/Pacific found that by 2021, the use of digital technologies such as mobility, Cloud, Internet of Things, and AI, will contribute to approximately 60% of Asia-Pacific’s GDP.

Ralph Haupter, President, Microsoft Asia, singles out AI as the “primary catalyst for further growth”.

“Our customers across Asia are already demonstrating a strong sense of urgency to integrate AI into their business as part of their digital transformation initiatives,” Haupter tells HRM Magazine Asia.

“We need to democratise and demystify AI for all individuals," he adds.

Furthermore, the fear of jobs being displaced by automation appears to be overstated. The study revealed that 26% of new jobs will be created as a result of digital transformation, thus negating the threats presented by automation to many of today’s workers.

While some 85% of jobs are expected to be transformed in the next three years, half of these will be refreshed as higher value roles. 

With the Singapore government’s Budget 2018 heavily centred on innovation, digitalisation, and deep core capability-building, Daniel-Zoe Jimenez, Research Director Digital Transformation Practice Lead, IDC Asia/Pacific, expects Singapore to reach IDC’s economic projections even faster than initially predicted.

At present, however, a majority of companies that have embarked on the transformation journey still continue to face problems in the areas of data monetisation and security.

Although 85% of Asia-Pacific organisations are in the midst of digitalisation, only 7% can be considered as what the research refers to as “leaders”. These are organisations that have some form of digital transformation strategy in place, in addition to a third of their revenue coming from digital products and services.

As early as 2019, however, at least 40% of digitalisation initiatives will be supported by AI and other cognitive tools, which are expected to reinvent operating and monetisation models. 

“The study shows leaders seeing double the benefits of followers, with improvements in productivity, cost reductions, and customer advocacy. To remain competitive, organisations must establish new metrics, realign organisation structures, and re-architect their technology platform," says Jimenez.

For workers, Kevin Wo, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore, says AI skills like machine learning programming and computational creativity, which are currently lacking, will become most sought-after in the near future.

Apart from organisations re-thinking their training and development approach so as to ensure their people are future-ready, he says government interventions are also key to bridging this gap.

“Through efforts like the Capability Transfer Programme announced in this year’s Budget, foreign expertise can be brought in to impart their knowledge and skills to locals,” says Wo.

One organisation currently looking to deliver projects through data mining and AI is Keppel Urban Solutions (KUS), the master real estate development unit of Singapore marine giant Keppel Group formed in October 2017.

KUS’ maiden project is Saigon Sports City, a 64-hectare residential and recreational development situated in Ho Chi Minh City.

The backbone of the development is smart solutions like security and access control, remote monitoring and control of energy and utilities infrastructure.

In order to integrate these latest urban solutions, KUS Managing Director Cindy Lim says the key was in leveraging digital platforms from providers like Microsoft that “are scalable, adaptable and allow our people to share data”.

“It is not only about helping us to build a smart infrastructure, but also improving workforce management, and how we can create more enjoyable facilities management roles for our people,” says Lim. 

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