Microsoft Asia’s datacenter expansion to create 100,000 jobs
The pandemic has witnessed digital transformation on an unprecedented scale, with entire industries reimagined, and people connecting differently, and this rapid transformation is set to continue its momentum post-pandemic.
And Microsoft has been at the epicentre of such transformation across the Asia Pacific region, via expansion of its cloud datacenter regions, with four created during the pandemic, and cloud infrastructure investments, all helping the APAC region achieve its next wave of post-pandemic economic growth and empowering customers with faster access to the cloud and allowing for in-country data residency.
In fact, Asia now accounts for 60% of the world’s growth and is leading the global recovery with the digitalization of business models and economies, accoding to IMF’s Regional Economic Outlook: Asia Pacific.
“There is no doubt that during the past year we have seen the acceleration of digital transformation efforts across all industries,” says Ahmed Mazhari , President, Microsoft Asia. “Cloud will continue to be a core foundation empowering the realisation of Asia’s ambitions, enabling co-innovation across industries, government and community, to drive inclusive societal progress.”
Expansion of cloud datacenter footprint
Throughout the pandemic, Microsoft has fast-tracked its cloud datacenter footprint across Asia, adding four new markets, expanding from what was seven pre-pandemic to 11 now. While May 2020 saw the unveiling of the tech giant’s first datacenter in New Zealand, and the first by a major cloud provider, which was closely followed in October by one in Taiwan, this year has so far seen the launch of two more, one in February in Indonesia and the other in April in Malaysia. The aim? To better support and co-innovate with customers and partners and help the region accelerate its economic growth.
And the figures speak for themselves. Recent research by IDC shows that Microsoft’s most recent datacenter expansions, those in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan, in partnership with its ecosystem, is set to generate more than US$21bn in new revenue and create more than 110,000 new jobs over the next four years, including close to 20,000 new skilled IT jobs in Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan.
- Microsoft’s first datacenter region in Malaysia is helping to generate up to US$4.6bn in new revenues for the country’s ecosystem of local partners and cloud-consuming customers and will create more than 19,000 new jobs.
- Microsoft’s Indonesia datacenterregion is forecast to add US$6.3bn to the revenues of local cloud-using customers and partners, contributing to the creation of nearly 60,000 jobs.
- Microsoft’s Taiwan datacenter region will add more than US$10.4bn in new revenues and will add some 30,720 jobs to the Taiwanese economy.
China is next expansion focus
Adding to this, earlier this year in March, Microsoft announced a was coming to China in 2022, which would effectively double the capacity of Microsoft’s intelligent cloud portfolio in the country over the coming years and will “reinforce the capabilities to help further nurture local talents, stimulate local innovation, grow local technology ecosystems, and empower businesses in a wide range of industries to achieve more”, says Alain Crozier, CEO, Microsoft Greater China Region.
Furthermore, by the end of 2021, Microsoft has committed to expanding Azure Availability Zones to every country in which it operates a datacenter region, and the tech giant is set to unveil an immersive virtual datacenter tour to further empower every individual to experience the foundation for today’s work, life, and play – the Microsoft Cloud.
Chinese Firm Taigusys Launches Emotion-Recognition System
In a detailed investigative report, the Guardian reported that Chinese tech company Taigusys can now monitor facial expressions. The company claims that it can track fake smiles, chart genuine emotions, and help police curtail security threats. ‘Ordinary people here in China aren’t happy about this technology, but they have no choice. If the police say there have to be cameras in a community, people will just have to live with it’, said Chen Wei, company founder and chairman. ‘There’s always that demand, and we’re here to fulfil it’.
Who Will Use the Data?
As of right now, the emotion-recognition market is supposed to be worth US$36bn by 2023—which hints at rapid global adoption. Taigusys counts Huawei, China Mobile, China Unicom, and PetroChina among its 36 clients, but none of them has yet revealed if they’ve purchased the new AI. In addition, Taigusys will likely implement the technology in Chinese prisons, schools, and nursing homes.
It’s not likely that emotion-recognition AI will stay within the realm of private enterprise. President Xi Jinping has promoted ‘positive energy’ among citizens and intimated that negative expressions are no good for a healthy society. If the Chinese central government continues to gain control over private companies’ tech data, national officials could use emotional data for ideological purposes—and target ‘unhappy’ or ‘suspicious’ citizens.
How Does It Work?
Taigusys’s AI will track facial muscle movements, body motions, and other biometric data to infer how a person is feeling, collecting massive amounts of personal data for machine learning purposes. If an individual displays too much negative emotion, the platform can recommend him or her for what’s termed ‘emotional support’—and what may end up being much worse.
Can We Really Detect Human Emotions?
This is still up for debate, but many critics say no. Psychologists still debate whether human emotions can be separated into basic emotions such as fear, joy, and surprise across cultures or whether something more complex is at stake. Many claim that AI emotion-reading technology is not only unethical but inaccurate since facial expressions don’t necessarily indicate someone’s true emotional state.
In addition, Taigusys’s facial tracking system could promote racial bias. One of the company’s systems classes faces as ‘yellow, white, or black’; another distinguishes between Uyghur and Han Chinese; and sometimes, the technology picks up certain ethnic features better than others.
Is China the Only One?
Not a chance. Other countries have also tried to decode and use emotions. In 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched a heavily contested training programme (SPOT) that taught airport personnel to monitor passengers for signs of stress, deception, and fear. But China as a nation rarely discusses bias, and as a result, its AI-based discrimination could be more dangerous.
‘That Chinese conceptions of race are going to be built into technology and exported to other parts of the world is troubling, particularly since there isn’t the kind of critical discourse [about racism and ethnicity in China] that we’re having in the United States’, said Shazeda Ahmed, an AI researcher at New York University (NYU).
Taigusys’s founder points out, on the other hand, that its system can help prevent tragic violence, citing a 2020 stabbing of 41 people in Guangxi Province. Yet top academics remain unconvinced. As Sandra Wachter, associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, said: ‘[If this continues], we will see a clash with fundamental human rights, such as free expression and the right to privacy’.