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$2.9 billion Investment in AI, cloud infrastructure in Japan

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Vusi Melane
Vusi Melane
Staff Writer

Microsoft announces its investment of US$2.9 billion over the next two years to bolster its hyperscale cloud computing and AI infrastructure in Japan. This initiative accompanies an expansion of digital skilling programs, aiming to train over 3 million individuals in AI over the next three years. Additionally, Microsoft will inaugurate its first Microsoft Research Asia lab in Japan and deepen collaboration on cybersecurity with the Japanese Government.

These investments support Japan’s strategy to combat deflation and invigorate the economy by bolstering infrastructure, cultivating skilled talent, and enhancing security measures to expedite digital transformation and AI adoption. The announcement coincides with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to the United States, where he met with Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith, and Microsoft Japan President Miki Tsusaka.

Largest Invest In 46 years

The US$2.9 billion commitment marks Microsoft’s largest single investment in Japan since its establishment there 46 years ago. It doubles the company’s current financial pledge to expand AI and cloud infrastructure throughout Japan, enabling the provision of more advanced computing resources, including crucial graphics processing units (GPUs) for accelerating AI workloads. This expansion builds on Microsoft’s backing of the Generative AI Accelerator Challenge (GENIAC), a program fostering generative AI technology in Japan.

In addition to infrastructure investments, Microsoft plans to train 3 million workers across Japan in AI-related skills over the next three years. This initiative, targeting both full-time and part-time employees, will focus on aiding organizations, with a particular emphasis on women, developers, and students. Microsoft will extend its Code; Without Barriers program to Japan, offering specialized training for women in AI-enabled work and providing free educational content on AI, cybersecurity, and digital skills in partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

AI Entrenchment in Various Fields

To cultivate advanced AI professionals, Microsoft will offer courses and reference architectures for AI developers and technology firms in Japan, supported by tools like GitHub Copilot. Startups will receive assistance through the Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub, and AI-centric programs will be implemented in vocational high schools. Microsoft will also continue supporting AI adoption across various sectors, assisting organizations in developing internal AI policies to ensure responsible and secure use.

Furthermore, Microsoft Research Asia is establishing a lab in Tokyo, focusing on embodied AI and robotics, societal AI and wellbeing, and scientific discovery, aligned with Japan’s socioeconomic priorities. This move underscores Microsoft’s commitment to Japan and belief in its potential for innovation.

To bolster research collaboration, Microsoft will provide US$10 million resource grants over five years to The University of Tokyo and the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence Research between Keio University and Carnegie Mellon University.

Cybercrime Resilience

On the cybersecurity front, Microsoft will collaborate with Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat to enhance cybersecurity resilience across government, business, and society, aligning with the nation’s updated National Security Strategy.

Leaders from various sectors, including government officials and Microsoft executives, expressed enthusiasm for these initiatives and their potential to advance Japan’s digital capabilities and societal well-being. They anticipate fruitful collaboration to drive innovation and address societal challenges through responsible AI practices.

Great Collaboration Investment

Vice Chair and President, Microsoft, Brad Smith said “Today’s announcement represents Microsoft’s most significant investment in Japan since we set roots here in 1978. These investments in digital infrastructure, AI skills, cybersecurity, and AI research are essential ingredients for Japan to build a robust AI Economy.”

President, Microsoft Japan, Miki Tsusaka said “We are honored to contribute to Japan and its future with our largest investment to date, technology and knowledge. In collaboration with our partners, Microsoft Japan is fully committed to supporting the people and organizations of Japan to solve social problems and achieve more.”  

Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of AI, Microsoft, Kevin Scott said ““The impact that AI is poised to create over the coming years has the potential to generate unprecedented societal benefit for the entire world. The steps we are taking today to empower Japanese citizens through AI technologies and programs—whether job training and skilling, improvements to infrastructure capacity, or new research investments—will in the aggregate help accelerate this process of beneficial innovation. We’re particularly excited for Microsoft Research’s global footprint to further expand into Japan, extending the ability for our world-class research efforts to both contribute to and benefit from local diversity of thought and talent.” 

Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida said “As economic activities in the digital space increase, it is important for the Japanese industry as a whole to work with global companies like Microsoft that are equipped with a set of digital infrastructure. We appreciate Microsoft’s announcement of its new investment in Japan. Microsoft has made significant contributions to the social implementation of generative AI in Japan through various initiatives, and we look forward to further collaboration. We also look forward to deepening our cooperation in the field of cybersecurity.” 

And Head of Hiroshima Office, UNITAR, Chisa Mikami said “Through the collaboration between UNITAR and Microsoft, we will strive to democratize access to AI education, ensuring that knowledge is freely available to all. Together, we pave the way for advanced AI professionals, foster innovation in startups, and promote responsible AI practices across industries and sectors. With collective effort, we harness the transformative power of AI for the betterment of society.”

Credit: Microsoft (Source)

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