13/05/2024 09:57 AM
Opinions on topical issues from thought leaders, columnists and editors.

By Datuk Dr Kasim Md Mansur

On May 2, 2024, Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella announced during a meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in Putrajaya, and at the ‘Microsoft Build: AI Day’ programme in Kuala Lumpur, the largest commitment in its 32-year history in Malaysia with an investment totalling US$2.2 billion (RM10.5 billion) over the next four years to support the digital transformation of the country.

This investment includes building cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure in Malaysia, creating opportunities to master AI skills for another 200,000 Malaysians, strengthening collaboration with the Malaysian government to establish an AI Centre of Excellence to drive the adoption of AI in critical industries, enhancing the nation’s cybersecurity capabilities, and supporting the growth of the software development community in Malaysia.

Andrea Della Mattea, President of Microsoft ASEAN, remarked, "We are delighted to collaborate with the Malaysian government and lend our support to the National AI Framework, which will further enhance Malaysia’s global competitiveness. This collaboration enables the country to build capabilities as a regional hub for digital innovation and smart technology, reflecting a forward-thinking leadership approach that prioritises sustainable development and societal well-being through digital transformation."

Microsoft’s record-breaking investment in Malaysia

This record-breaking investment by Microsoft in Malaysia is evidence not only of Microsoft's confidence but also that of many other foreign investors in the country’s economic foundation and political stability, as well as its clear and directed government policies, particularly in the cloud and AI sectors, and in line with Malaysia’s role as a global semiconductor supplier, which has attracted the interest of many technology companies to make significant investments in the country.

Earlier, Anwar received criticism when Satya announced a US$1.7 billion investment in Indonesia during the ‘Microsoft Build: AI Day’ programme in Jakarta on April 30 and announced significant commitments to build new cloud and AI infrastructure in Thailand through a US$1-billion investment in an Azure data centre in Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor during the ‘Microsoft Build: AI Day’ programme in Bangkok on May 1.

Some in Malaysia cynically questioned why Microsoft was not interested in investing in Malaysia but chose these two neighbouring countries. However, in the end, this question was answered, and the cynics were silenced when Microsoft announced on Thursday the largest investment of US$2.2 billion in Malaysia.

This investment is not Malaysia’s first success but has occurred several times due to Anwar’s hard work. On October 18, 2022, Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud computing division of Inc (AMZN.O), initially announced plans to invest US$5 billion in Thailand over the next 15 years.

However, under Anwar's leadership, AWS announced on March 2, 2023, plans to make an investment of US$6 billion (RM25.5 billion) in Malaysia, higher than its investment in Thailand, over the next 14 years to strengthen its cloud service infrastructure in the country and to open opportunities to establish Malaysia as a data centre hub for Southeast Asia and a digital gateway for the region.

Anwar’s meetings with technology giants pay off

During the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting in San Francisco from Nov 14 to 17, 2023, Anwar met with several technology giants, including Google. As a result of these meetings, Alphabet and Google Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat announced on Nov 16, 2023, a strategic partnership with the Malaysian government to create inclusive growth opportunities for more Malaysians and local companies in the digital economy.

This collaboration aims to help businesses of all sizes advance their digital competitiveness through skills programmes, investment in digital infrastructure, responsible AI innovation, and cloud-first policies. It includes collaboration to launch joint AI initiatives to create new jobs, enhance public service delivery, help local companies explore global markets, and provide Inclusive Skills Enhancement Opportunities to 300,000 Malaysians by 2026 through five no-cost digital learning methods.

Google announced two initiatives on March 23. The first initiative involves the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) to enable local youths to acquire digital skills at no cost by providing up to 500 Google Career Certificate scholarships to 161 public universities, polytechnics, and community colleges in Malaysia by the end of 2024. The second initiative introduced by Google involves the National Digital Agency (JDN) to enable 445,000 civil servants to use Google Workspace.

Other than that, on Dec 8, 2023, as a result of discussions between Anwar and NVIDIA Corporation CEO Jensen Huang, and YTL Power International Managing Director Datuk Yeoh Seok Hong, NVIDIA, the 6th largest multinational technology company in the world by market capitalisation, agreed to enter into a strategic partnership with YTL Power International to build an AI data centre in Kulai, Johor, involving an investment of US$4.3 billion (RM20 billion). It will also help develop the AI ecosystem in Malaysia by supporting the establishment of centres of excellence to facilitate AI learning and research and the creation of Malaysia’s own AI Cloud system.

All these significant investments by leading multinational companies in the country are evidence that foreign investors are increasingly confident in Anwar’s ability to lead the Unity Government, strengthen the economic foundation, and stabilise the country’s politics through stable and focused policies.


Datuk Dr Kasim Md Mansur is the Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)