In recent years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a force with immense potential for revolutionising processes and bringing about unprecedented levels of productivity. However, in our recent study of Malaysians’ perception of AI, we found that despite its immense potential, the adoption of AI within organisations has yet to pick up steam, with AI usage not being as widespread as some might expect.
Looking at the current circumstances surrounding AI, it becomes evident that despite the increasing availability of AI, there are still significant concerns that prevent it from being implemented in the majority of workplaces such as technological constraints, privacy/security risks, cultural resistance, and a shortage of skilled professionals. With these concerns in mind, it’s understandable that many businesses choose to approach the subject of AI with caution which hinders the realisation of AI’s full potential.
Join us as we delve into Malaysia’s current AI landscape and take a closer look at how Malaysians perceive AI to gain a better understanding of how it has been adopted by Malaysians both in and out of the workplace, as well as the challenges that organisations face when it comes to adopting AI.
When we look at Malaysians’ awareness of AI over the years, we see that the overall awareness has been steadily increasing since 2020, which is a trend that we believe will continue to grow in the years to come.
Despite an overall lower awareness being recorded so far in 2023 (Q1-Q3); the level of awareness going from Q2 to Q3’2023 recorded a spike indicating that we are indeed moving in the direction of higher awareness of AI as time goes on.
With the awareness of AI increasing year by year, it might only be a matter of time before the majority of people become aware of the vast transformative potential of AI, with industry leaders such as Accenture estimating that the usage of AI tools could enhance the banking industry’s value by $1 billion in the next three years, while PWC expects AI to improve productivity by 40% by the year 2035.
Despite the high awareness that Malaysians have displayed towards AI, the actual adoption of AI technology by Malaysians has been fairly low so far, as only 25% of respondents claimed that they use AI applications which is less than half of the 63% of respondents which claimed to be aware of AI. Despite the appearance of a seemingly well-dispersed sample set, our data indicates a notable trend: Chinese males aged 35, earning an income of RM7,713.10, exhibit a heightened inclination towards AI usage. Intriguingly, a substantial portion of this demographic resides in Johor Bahru, diverging from the conventional expectation of higher adoption in the economic hub of Klang Valley.
AI has become readily accessible to the general public through tools like ChatGPT and Google Bard , which are available for free. However, the skills and knowledge necessary for its effective implementation are not widespread, largely attributable to its status as a relatively new technology.
Furthermore, while some businesses may highlight the ability to use AI as a desirable skill for employees, not many businesses have the framework or learning resources in place to help their current employees adopt these skills.
The majority of individuals primarily use AI applications for personal purposes, with a very small percentage opting to use it for work or business purposes instead. Out of all respondents, the smallest group was those who claimed to use AI applications for all three purposes (personal, work, and business)
The small proportion of AI users may be due to the barriers hindering widespread AI adoption. One of these primary barriers is the intricate nature of the technology itself, where many organisations need help to integrate AI into their existing infrastructure and work processes. The technical complexities involved in developing, implementing, and maintaining AI systems often demand substantial resources and expertise, which deters smaller organisations from adopting AI, while larger organisations face the challenge of having to overhaul their current infrastructure to do so.
Concerns regarding data privacy and security also present a significant hurdle. As AI heavily relies on vast amounts of data for training and decision-making, there is a constant risk of private data being misused or exposed to cyberattackers. The continued evolution of AI will also create a landscape where new issues for data protection. Due to these considerations, lawmakers will be compelled to periodically examine and revise regulations to ensure the protection of consumers’ data privacy. If organizations face increasing pressure to meet stringent compliance standards in response to potential risks associated with AI usage, it may further dissuade companies from adopting AI in their workplaces.
When it comes to the reasons that Malaysians used AI for personal purposes, exploring new ways of doing things was the most commonly cited reason as it was mentioned by 44% of the AI users. Meanwhile, generating inspiration for themselves was the second most common reason at 40%. Besides seeking sources of inspiration, being able to reduce manual tasks was also a big incentive for Malaysians to use AI at 38%.
When we investigated what the most used type of AI applications was, we found that virtual personal assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Bixby were the most commonly used applications, being utilized by 48% of the AI users. This could be attributed to the relatively long-standing presence of smartphones amongst the general public, many of which come equipped with built-in personal assistants as an industry standard.
When asked about their likelihood of continuing to use AI, the majority of people who use AI for personal purposes said that they were likely to continue using it, which is a testament to the usefulness of contemporary AI tools.
One of the challenges that businesses face in adopting AI is the scarcity of skilled AI professionals, as the demand for individuals with expertise in machine learning, data science, and AI development far exceeds the current supply. This talent gap makes it difficult for organizations to build and sustain AI initiatives, hindering their ability to harness the full power of AI technologies. On the other hand, this also means that those Malaysians who can build AI-relevant skills on their own will have a competitive edge in their respective industries, making them more desirable to prospective employers.
Malaysians’ main motivations for using AI for work/business purposes include finding inspiration, automating repetitive tasks, and reducing manual tasks, all of which contribute to greater operational efficiency in the workplace.
The majority, specifically 91%, of respondents utilizing artificial intelligence for professional or business-related purposes concurred that its integration has enhanced their operational efficiency. Consequently, among the Malaysian populace currently leveraging AI, there exists a noteworthy 76% probability of sustained and continued usage.
When it comes to what Malaysians think about the future of AI, it appears that the extent of an individual’s current experience with AI heavily influences their outlook on its future.
Those who haven’t used AI so far tend to be more skeptical about its potential positive impact in the future, while those who already have experience using AI are generally more optimistic about a future where AI continues to have a lasting positive impact.
The fact that the majority of those who have used AI acknowledge its benefits and potential for positive impact in the future does indicate that AI can indeed be a useful tool moving forward. However, the conflicting opinions between members of the general public who don’t have experience with AI and those who have experience using AI could indicate that awareness of AI is still not as widespread as it could be, as those who have not used AI before might be unconvinced of AI’s potential due to them not knowing the benefits that AI tools are already bringing to many individuals and workplaces.
The overall sentiment of Malaysians who have not used AI before also hints at another barrier regarding its adoption, which is the cultural resistance that AI faces both in and out of workplaces. Employees and decision-makers may be wary of the perceived threats that AI poses to job security, or they may be skeptical of the supposed benefits of AI relative to the investment that would be required to incorporate it. This leads to resistance to accepting and incorporating AI technologies into daily workflows. Overcoming this resistance would require effective communication, training programs, and a cultural shift in the public’s opinion toward recognising AI as a beneficial tool in the long run that will complement human capabilities rather than replace them. With the ongoing development of AI still in its infancy relative to the vast potential that experts envision, it will still take some time before the cultural landscape changes to fully embrace AI. This process will become exponentially faster as more and more key industry players adopt AI into their operations.