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AI for rakyat and digital readiness

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Introducing appropriate ICT skills and digital literacies will give the better opportunity to rakyat. Photo by John Schnobrich - Unsplash

By: Dr. Sayed Mohammad Reza Yamani Sayed Umar

The government of Malaysia has just introduced the integrated system of central database hub (PADU) three weeks ago. This database hub was announced by the current MADANI unity government as a new game changer in data management in Malaysia. Within three weeks, another digital programme, Artificial Intelligence (AI) for rakyat (people of Malaysia), was then launched by the government through the Ministry of Economy on 16 January 2024 in Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) last week.

Dr. Sayed Mohammad Reza Yamani Sayed Umar

This initiative programme is aimed to narrow the digital literacy gap among Malaysians nationwide. It is also brought in line with transforming Malaysia into a digitally driven, high-income nation and a regional leader in the digital economy. The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, highlighted the objectives of AI for rakyat, which are to increase the awareness of AI and to encourage the appreciation of AI among rakyat.

In addition, the Ministry of Economy, Rafizi Ramli, explained that this online self-learning programme hopefully can provide basic understanding of AI as well as bringing great technology benefits to rakyat as individuals. From understanding the early steps of AI, someone is able to unbuckle opportunities to deepen technological knowledge in which it is very much needed in the current digital world.

The online learning website can be accessed in 4 languages: Malay, English, Mandarin and Tamil, which is built by the support of Intel Malaysia and MyDIGITAL. This online self-learning programme is designed to persuade public understanding and awareness of AI. Two interactive and interesting learning modules, AI Aware (Kesedaran AI) and AI Appreciate (Hargai AI), can be attained by anyone, anytime and anywhere. AI usage cases and any common confusion about AI is introduced and discussed in AI Aware module. AI Appreciate meanwhile includes application features and impacts on industries as it targets anyone who wants to improve their knowledge about AI.

During the launching event, Ministry of Economy, Rafizi Ramli, emphasised the benefit of this programme for students to attracting their interest and pursuing further build a future career in digital technology sector. He further said that the government has set a target of one million Malaysians being able to master AI skills in three years.

The Department of Statistics Malaysia’s (DOSM) ICT use and access report describes the current annual figures of digital usage and accessibility in the country. The 2018 percentage of individuals using computer by state, type of ICT skills and strata lagged behind in nine common computer-related skills such as copying or moving a file or folder, sending an email with attached files, using basic arithmetic formulas in spreadsheet, connecting and installing new device, transferring files between a computer and other devices, writing a computer programme using a specialised programming language, and searching, downloading, installing and configuring software.

However, within 4 years, the 2022 percentage of individuals using computer by state, type of ICT skills and strata improve significantly. The five activities show the highest percentage in 2022 are copying or moving a file or folder (97%), using copy and paste tools to duplicate or move information within a document (96.3%), sending an e-mail with attached files (89.4%), transferring files between computer and other mobile devices (83.1%) and connecting and installing new devices (79.2%).

The post pandemic era of COVID-19 has brought some positive effects of pandemic in the area of digital technology. We could see the soaring percentage of individual using computer by ICT skills in Malaysia as it is reported in the latest DOSM ICT Use and Access by Individuals and Households Survey 2022.

In facilitating the application of high-tech equipment and improving technology-enabled innovations in education, the problem, project, production-based learning can develop critical, creative and innovative thinkers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

Henceforth, the AI for rakyat programme comes in the right time to encourage youth and students of any level of education in the country to participate in shaping human talents for digital advancement. The education system must emphasise lifelong learning, encourage more interest in STEM degrees and strengthen ICT literacy skills (i.e. computational mathematics, coding and educational robotics, peer-to-peer learning, artificial intelligence, collaborative machine learning, etc.).

Therefore, introducing appropriate ICT skills and digital literacies will give the better opportunity to rakyat. Malaysia need to ensure the economic and potential benefits of the emergence of digital economy. The digital economy helps forwards Malaysia to achieving sustainable and productivity growth, and greater inclusivity.

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The author is a Research Fellow at the Ungku Aziz Centre for Development Studies, Universiti Malaya, and may be reached at uacds@um.edu.my

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