These days, the words artificial intelligence (AI) and China are almost synonymous. In fact, any media or business circle discussions regarding AI would seem incomplete without a mention of China, and it’s no secret that the Chinese government and Chinese tech companies continue to invest heavily in building AI-related capabilities as part of their goal to make China a global AI leader. China is undeniably well on its way to becoming a world leader of the AI age. However, in the midst of their excitement over China, many global leaders are underestimating the potential for AI adoption that the rest of the Asia Pacific has to offer.
In my recent report, I noted that almost every country and every industry in the Asia Pacific region is interested in becoming AI-first. From South Korea to Japan, Singapore to India, Asian governments are developing national-level plans for how AI can be used to enhance domestic and regional competitiveness. Aggressive government policies pertaining to artificial intelligence, freedom from legacy assets and an abundance of data have put the region in a bright spot for the adoption of AI. For instance, the Singapore government plans to double-down on its efforts to build AI capabilities and is probably the only country in the world that has taken a very innovative approach towards skill development for AI. As part of Singapore’s AI for Everyone program, ten thousand people will be taught the AI basics for free in order to equip the country’s current and future workforces to participate meaningfully in an AI-driven future. With such a forward-looking stance, Singapore will certainly drive AI growth in Southeast Asia. In other regional countries such as India, the AI revolution has just begun. As indicated in a recent industry report, AI will boost India's annual growth rate by 1.3%. However, despite these promising advances, in order to truly capture Asia’s next growth phase, we must deconstruct the very meaning of Asia.
The essence of Asia lies in its diversity of languages, cuisines, demographics, cultures, and politics (in fact, even the successful Hollywood movie, Crazy Rich Asians, was not considered Asian by many Asian people because of the impossibility of incorporating all aspects of Asia into one movie). Each country in the region has different political and business priorities, outlooks, technological readiness, consumption patterns and consumer expectations, and the AI priorities of businesses should reflect these differences. In fact, creating an AI strategy as diverse as Asia itself will be a key factor to success in a region where each country faces a specific set of challenges. For instance, while using smart robots in Japan’s hospitals is an effective way to deal with the aging population, the AI-driven solutions used in India will need to address more core issues such as healthcare, medicine, agriculture, food, water, education, and urbanization.
Using AI to address local issues is not only an effective strategy, but is also a critical step for companies looking to scale opportunities in Asian markets, especially since Asian consumers have a growing appetite for innovative products and services. According to ANZ’s 2018 Asia Opportunity Report, Australian businesses could earn close to $283 billion additional revenue with strategic Asian expansion—a clear case for Asian and global companies to become more Asian by integrating AI technologies into their everyday business practices.
As the AI revolution gains momentum in Asia Pacific, leaders must look at ways to Asianize their business priorities with AI. And while China continues to dominate the AI-first world, other Asian countries are right on its heels. So, the next time you think about Asia’s AI potential, take a moment to think beyond China and delve a little deeper into the diverse AI innovations the rest of the Asia Pacific has to offer.