‘Technology with a heart’ will unlock AI’s true potential, says Skymind

Datuk Yasmin Mahmood
Datuk Yasmin Mahmood at the World Economic Forum

Renowned Malaysian Industry leader Datuk Yasmin Mahmood is continuing to advocate ‘technology with a heart’ as a foundational approach to humanise and unlock the potential of frontier technologies.

“My passion around technology, especially with AI, is that it a powerful disruptive wave,” she told Disruptive Asia recently.

“AI is fast becoming mainstream. Among all the opinions and insights at both the global and local levels, it is the realisation that every application now contains some kind of AI engine in various forms.”

Even though semi-retired, Yasmin remains active in the international arena of frontier technology discussions.

Currently, advisor to fast-growing AI ecosystem player Skymind Holdings Berhad, Yasmin is one of the world’s most sought-after international speakers on digital technologies.

She has spoken at the World Economic Forum (WEF), and events hosted by Forbes, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), The Economist, World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) and CNBC, to mention a few.

Skymind, in turn, has a USD800 million (RM3.4 billion) fund to fuel AI innovation, with an aim of transforming Malaysia into an ‘AI Nation’.

Yasmin agrees with the view of many industry commenters that AI adoption is fragmented globally. “However, there are some adoptions with varying degrees of success and pockets of innovation – including here in Malaysia.”

Organisations’ desire to adopt AI is strong, she says, “but there is much uncertainty about the how to adopt meaningfully and profitably.”

“To gain some clarity and build a more meaningful and profitable path demands the examination of motive and goals,” said Yasmin, who is also chairman of Malaysia’s largest network courier Pos Malaysia Berhad.

“Humanising technology may not be a new concept but it is rarely practised. Most projects and initiatives are driven by the bottom line rather than the overall benefits. AI demands careful attention from the outset, especially with how we must drive its direction from the very beginning.”

‘Technology with a heart’

Explaining further why “technology with a heart” is a vital underlying theme, Yasmin said: “Digital technologies today are increasingly complex.”

“As users, we should focus on the basics – on the benefits that technology can bring to the way we work and live. As organisations, we should start by looking at the problems we want to solve or the goals we want to achieve first. Then work out the plan – how to manage the changes, the people, the processes.”

She stresses the importance of a holistic approach taken by Skymind, as an example of developing an effective ecosystem to spur innovation. “To get the right technology fit, working with experts is a must: Skymind’s key role to business and governments is as a digital transformation partner.”

“AI and data will – with other technologies – revolutionise our world. With 4th IR, it is important to look back to previous industrial revolutions and see that while old jobs disappeared – many more new jobs came into being.”

“I believe in technology with a heart: AI must help us come up with fresh solutions to problems,” emphasised Yasmin. “Companies of all sizes can tap some of the benefits by deploying some form of AI tech – provided it is used in the right place, at the right time, and with a clear idea of the objectives to be accomplished .”

AI must enrich lives and nations

Detailing her role at Skymind, she says it “is to advocate the use of AI to make the world a better place.”

“In practical terms, we are working as the world’s first dedicated AI ecosystem builder, which also serving as a ‘launchpad’ to drive innovation. Skymind also has a Talent Hub  essential for AI growth, and a strategic plan for ‘Future Cities’, because cities can serve to build the platforms of future communities, and a new way of life.”

Skymind is also looking to heavily expand its R&D team in every area needed to build a fundamental AI infrastructure from open-source standards. The company also participates in ethics committees while working with governments and enterprises to motivate good practices in the usage of AI.

 “Malaysia has the potential to become a key AI talent hub and all the development it demands to be successful,” she said, pointing to Skymind’s current call for 300 talents to form an AI Dream Team from Malaysia as an example of essential ecosystem development.

“Southeast Asia is still in its infancy when it comes to AI,” she admits. “But I see great potential and Skymind is deep in the process of building the infrastructure required for large scale industrial applications of AI solutions in the region.

“From our recent MoU with Huawei Cloud to develop a new cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) Innovation Hub in order to foster innovation and talent development in ASEAN, to our efforts in nurturing local talent, Skymind is committed to enabling the ecosystem in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.”

As Skymind estimates that the AI industry could conservatively touch USD2.9 trillion globally by 2021 and USD15 trillion by 2030, she concluded, “Malaysia – and ASEAN – cannot afford to miss the massive potential to win a good share of the AI pie. We need to continuously focus on everything needed to build innovations for the betterment of society and businesses.”

Global recognition

Yasmin was also recently recognised as one of the world’s forty most forward-thinking women who have positively impacted their industries and countries.

Organised by the Global Thinkers Forum (GTF), the 2020 Athena40 List is a merit-based selection which also includes New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Arden, the Duchess of Cornwall, Malala Yousafazai, Greta Thurnberg, Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie to name just a few.

GTF in turn is a non-profit organisation and launched in 2012 with the patronage of HM Queen Rania (incubated in Oxford University, Said Business School in 2011). It has a network of influencers across 70 countries that focuses on Leadership, Women Empowerment & Youth Development.

Distinguished for her promulgation of frontier technologies – such as AI and blockchain – Yasmin is the only women leader from Malaysia and indeed from the Southeast Asian region.

This latest distinction follows Yasmin’s other international recognition, such as her being named in 2018 as one of the world’s most influential people in digital government made by another UK-based global network Apolitical, which highlighted her contributions to the development of Malaysia’s digital economy as an engine of growth for the country.

As for Malaysia, the country is indeed fortunate to have Skymind and Yasmin charting a visionary – yet practical – AI ecosystem path that is certain to go a long way in elevating the country’s competitiveness level.

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