Microsoft, a major U.S. technology company, has announced its commitment to invest A$5 billion (equivalent to $3.2 billion) over the course of two years for the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing capabilities in Australia. This substantial investment encompasses a broad initiative that focuses on skill development and improvements in cybersecurity.
Microsoft’s intended expansion will result in a 250 per cent increase in computing capacity within Australia. This augmentation will enable the 13th largest economy globally to cater to the burgeoning demand for cloud computing, which is projected to double between 2022 and 2026 as AI applications become more pervasive.
Brad Smith, Microsoft’s Vice Chairman and President, emphasised that this significant spending is a testament to the company’s unwavering commitment to contributing to the growth and prosperity of Australia in the AI era.
Apart from the substantial financial commitment, Microsoft has pledged to provide training to 300,000 Australians, equipping them with the skills essential for success in the digital economy. Additionally, the company will expand its cyber threat information-sharing agreement with the Australian Signals Directorate, bolstering the nation’s cyber security capabilities.
According to Reuters, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hailed this initiative, emphasising that it represents a substantial investment in the skills and workforce of the future, asserting the importance of providing Australians with the necessary skills to excel in the rapidly evolving job landscape.
Steven Worrall, Microsoft’s Managing Director for Australia, highlighted that this investment will not only enhance the digital economy’s security but will also create a foundation for growth and innovation in the era of AI.
While Microsoft’s announcement includes a substantial financial commitment of A$5 billion, specific details regarding the allocation of these funds were not provided in the statement. However, the company disclosed its intention to significantly expand its data centre presence in Australia from 20 sites to 29.
A recent joint report co-authored by Microsoft underlined the potential economic impact of generative AI, a form of automation that adapts to new data inputs. It stated that this technology could contribute up to A$115 billion per year to Australia’s economy by 2030 if it is rapidly adopted.
Australia, despite its current absence of AI-specific regulations, has initiated public consultations in 2022 regarding AI regulation. This move is in response to the fast automation developments and follows Microsoft-supported OpenAI’s introduction of the lifelike language program ChatGPT in 2022. While AI holds promise, concerns about bias, copyright infringement, and privacy breaches have prompted discussions around safeguarding this evolving technology.