Microsoft has announced plans to invest $3.2 billion in Australia to enhance its artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing capabilities over the next two years. The investment comes as Australia is considering the regulation of AI, following the introduction of the lifelike language program ChatGPT by Microsoft-backed OpenAI in 2022. Microsoft’s investment is seen as a strategic move to position itself favorably in Australia ahead of potential AI regulations.
As part of the investment, Microsoft aims to increase its computing capacity in Australia by 250%. This will allow the country to meet the growing demand for cloud computing, which is expected to double between 2022 and 2026 as AI becomes more prevalent. The company plans to expand its data center footprint from 20 sites to 29.
In addition to the financial investment, Microsoft will support the training of 300,000 Australians in the skills needed to succeed in the digital economy. This initiative aims to equip Australians with the necessary skills to take advantage of job opportunities in the AI era. The company will also expand its cyber threat information-sharing agreement with the Australian Signals Directorate, the country’s cyber security agency.
The investment is seen as a major boost to the Australian economy and its future prospects. A report co-authored by Microsoft suggests that generative AI, a form of automation that adapts to new data inputs, could contribute up to $115 billion per year to Australia’s economy by 2030 if it is rapidly embraced.
The announcement has been welcomed by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who recognizes the importance of providing the skills needed for the jobs of the future. He views Microsoft’s investment as a major commitment to the country’s growth and prosperity in the AI era.
Microsoft’s managing director for Australia, Steven Worrall, highlights the broader benefits of the investment. He believes that the increased computing capacity will not only enable a safer and more secure digital economy but also foster growth and innovation in the era of AI.
Despite the positive impact of Microsoft’s investment, some concerns over AI regulation remain. Australia currently has no AI-specific regulations, but copyright lawyers and human rights groups argue that some guardrails are necessary to protect against bias, copyright infringement, and privacy breaches.
In summary, Microsoft’s $3.2 billion investment in Australia’s AI and cloud computing capabilities demonstrates the company’s commitment to the country’s growth and prosperity in the AI era. The investment will not only increase computing capacity but also support skills training and enhance cyber security. While Australia considers AI regulation, Microsoft’s investment positions the company favorably and could potentially influence the direction of AI regulations in the country.