Microsoft has announced its plans to invest A$5 billion ($3.2 billion) in expanding its artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing capabilities in Australia over the next two years. This investment is part of a larger initiative that includes skills training and cybersecurity. As part of the plan, Microsoft will raise its computing capacity in Australia by 250%, which will allow the country to meet the increasing demand for cloud computing, expected to double from 2022 to 2026 as AI becomes more prevalent.
The investment represents a significant move by Microsoft to expand its presence in Australia, a country that has just begun public consultations on the regulation of AI. Microsoft-supported OpenAI made headlines in 2022 with the launch of its lifelike language program, ChatGPT.
In addition to the A$5 billion investment, Microsoft has pledged to train 300,000 Australians in the skills needed to succeed in the digital economy. It will also expand its cyber threat information-sharing agreement with the Australian Signals Directorate, the country’s cybersecurity agency.
According to Microsoft Vice Chairman and President Brad Smith, the investment plan is “a testament to our commitment to the country’s growth and prosperity in the AI era.” Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has described the investment as “a major investment in the skills and workers of the future.”
Microsoft’s managing director for Australia, Steven Worrall, believes that the spending will enable a safer and more secure digital economy while providing a platform to foster growth and innovation in the era of AI. Although the company has not provided details on how it will spend the A$5 billion, it has revealed that it will significantly expand its computing capacity and increase its data center footprint in Australia from 20 sites to 29.
A recent report, co-written by Microsoft, has indicated that generative AI, a form of automation that adapts to new data inputs, could contribute up to A$115 billion per year to Australia’s economy by 2030 if quickly adopted. While Australia has no AI-specific regulation, experts have called for safeguards to protect against bias, copyright infringement, and privacy breaches