Microsoft pledges $2.2bn in AI investment in Malaysia
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Microsoft pledges $2.2bn in AI investment in Malaysia

Microsoft pledges $2.2bn in AI investment in Malaysia
Workers work at a construction site in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (File photo: Reuters)

KUALA LUMPUR - Microsoft Corp will invest US$2.2 billion to build digital infrastructure in Malaysia, the latest in a series of big-ticket bets on Asia’s rising prominence as a technology market.

The company plans to spend the money over four years, constructing infrastructure for its cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) services, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Satya Nadella said during a visit to Kuala Lumpur Thursday. It will also give AI training to 200,000 people in Malaysia and work with the government to boost the nation's cybersecurity capabilities.

Microsoft is vying with the likes of Alphabet Inc, Inc and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd to win over businesses in Southeast Asia, a fast-digitising region of more than 650 million people. Tech companies are expanding their operations in Malaysia and nearby countries such as Singapore, diversifying beyond China to reduce geopolitical risks amid tensions between Beijing and Washington.

"We are committed to supporting Malaysia's AI transformation and ensure it benefits all Malaysians," Nadella said at the end of a whistle-stop tour of three countries in the region. In Kuala Lumpur, he met Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim before addressing business leaders and developers at a company event.

The investment is the biggest by Microsoft in its 32 years in Malaysia and underscores Microsoft's effort to emerge as a winner in Asia. Nadella has pledged at least $7 billion to build out the company's services from Japan to India, while touting AI as a growth engine and prodding countries to boost investment in the technology.

In Malaysia, the southern Johor Bahru region — connected by a causeway to Singapore — is emerging as one of Asia’s rising AI data centre hotspots. Nvidia Corp last year teamed up with local utility YTL Power International Bhd. to build a $4.3 billion AI data centre park in the area.

AI adoption is still nascent in Southeast Asia but has the potential to add about $1 trillion to the region’s economy by 2030, with Malaysia capturing about $115 billion of that, according to a report by consulting firm Kearney.

Microsoft this week said it will train a total 2.5 million people in AI skills in Southeast Asia by 2025. About 680,000 developers in Malaysia used the Microsoft-owned coding platform GitHub platform in 2023, a 28% annual increase.

Earlier during his trip, Nadella announced a $1.7 billion investment in Indonesia and an undisclosed amount in Thailand in similar efforts to build out AI cloud and digital infrastructure. As part of the Thailand outlay, Microsoft plans to invest about $1 billion for a new data centre in Thailand, the Bangkok Post reported.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, left, welcomes Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and presides over the “Exclusive Networking Lunch Microsoft Build: AI Day” at Santi Maitree Building in Government House, Bangkok, on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Government House)

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