IBM prepares for ‘Chapter 2’ of AI and cloud adoption

  • IBM Malaysia to continue with focus on the development of skills,diversity and inclusion
  • The integrity and trustworthiness around AI and data will help them stand out

IBM Watson has long been the face of its AI prowess.

“MALAYSIA remains important to IBM. It is in a very good position, and it reflects where we are,” says IBM Asean general manager Patricia Yim.

That’s where the Malaysian arm of IBM (International Business Machines) stands for the company as a whole. It’s currently seeing a shake-up – on April 1, the company announced the appointment of Catherine Lian as managing director.

She comes in at a time of uncertainty – a country that is undergoing its own digitalisation challenges, while IBM as a company is navigating its pivot into newer businesses surrounding cloud and artificial intelligence.

Lian lays down IBM Malaysia’s current focus, which is on the development of skills as well as diversity and inclusion.

She reiterates the importance of IBM’s longstanding collaboration with Malaysian universities and educational institutes, including the decade-long partnership with Tunku Abdul Rahman University College and the INTI-ICE alliance that will allow students to graduate with knowledge in IBM technology.

Yim explains why ensuring that people are skilled in the right technological knowledge is so important. “Technology skills have a shelf life of two years,” she says, dead serious. “Skills and reskilling are important, even on the C-level.”

On diversity and inclusion, Lian (pic, below) says that they will continue to ensure elevating the female workforce in Malaysia. Diversity here, however, doesn’t just mean gender – Lian says that it also includes a diversity of races. This can be seen in IBM Malaysia’s Centre of Digital Excellence (CoDE) and Client Innovation Centres (CiC), which house talent from all across the world.

IBM prepares for ‘Chapter 2’ of AI and cloud adoption

On the same page  

If anything, Malaysia is right on the path of IBM’s global goals. The company’s CEO, president and chairman Ginni Rometty has recently been talking about how companies are entering “Chapter 2” of AI and cloud adoption: the move from experimentation to true transformation.

Malaysia is already on this page. As Yim points out, Malaysian companies are already deep into utilising AI, especially chatbots. Notably, TIME dotCom last year became the first Malaysian telco to leverage on IBM’s Watson AI technology to create interactive and smart virtual assistants for its customers.

“AI is now something pervasive [in Malaysia]. We see it used in banks, through mobile apps, in analysing client questions and providing answers,” Yim says, adding that AI has even expanded to sectors like healthcare and hospitals, with IBM’s Watson Oncology being used in Malaysia and other countries like Vietnam and Thailand.

As for the cloud, Yim says that IBM has announced a series of offerings to help Malaysian companies on their cloud journey. This includes providing cloud advisory to companies on what they can do around the cloud; and helping them with migration, management and their entire cloud journey.

The opportunity in Malaysia is mouthwatering. IDC predicts that by 2021, on cloud services and cloud-enabling hardware, software and services will reach USD$621 million (RM2.56 billion) in the country. Notably, out of which 50% of the cloud environment will be multi-cloud. At the same time, the research outfit predicts that 21% of Malaysia's GDP will be digitalised by 2022. Digitalisation is expected to drive an astounding US$82 billion (RM338.5 billion) in IT related spending from 2019 to 2022.

Yim notes that in an era of digitalisation, companies need to take their innovation to the cloud. Yet 80% of client data and core applications are still located on-premise and not on the cloud. The reasons are usually due to legality and dealing with legacy systems, as well as the fact that it’s not easy to move everything to the cloud.

Some companies are in positions where they are dealing with cloud systems that are both on-premise and public. For this, Yim (pic, below) says that IBM’s Multicloud Manager can help organisations manage hybrid cloud systems, while the recent US$33 billion (RM136.2 billion) deal with Red Hat is helping to bridge different platforms.

IBM prepares for ‘Chapter 2’ of AI and cloud adoption

Key tenets

Yim further elaborates that “Chapter 2” now revolves around people, processes and data. IBM’s approach to this is to ensure the “trustworthiness and integrity of data.”

What she means by this, are the three key elements that form IBM’s philosophy towards the next step in AI and data. First is the fact that “data belongs to whoever creates it.” Second, that “data and AI do not supplant human beings” and, third, that “algorithms and the analysis of data have to be transparent.”

“The focus of our whole AI and data journey has to be in these tenet,” she says. “We need to understand how we get the data, and how we remove the biasness of it.”

Essentially, Yim says that in handling algorithms, there needs to be transparency in how it arrives at a conclusion. While we may tout artificial intelligence as cold, hard logic, AI can actually create its own bias depending on the data it’s fed. As such, it’s important to know how the algorithm came to a particular conclusion.

IBM has a Watson product that solves just that. Called Watson OpenScale, it can provide insights into AI health and recommend steps to improve outcomes and remedy issues surrounding accuracy and fairness.

“We believe our integrity [around AI and data] is what makes us stand out,” Yim concludes.


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