Microsoft’s Japan Chief Sees Country Accelerating Its Use of AI

 Japan has been one of the fastest countries to embrace the use of new artificial intelligence tools and has the potential to accelerate its economy and tech sector by going further, according to Microsoft Japan President Miki Tsusaka.

The country’s digitalization push got a boost during the pandemic as businesses adapted to new work-from-home arrangements, and Tsusaka believes Japan has made up lost ground after previously being a laggard.

“The Japanese have caught up. And I think it will continue to accelerate at this point because the technology enables things that we haven’t been able to do,” Tsusaka said in an interview. “We don’t have enough people, our population is aging, and yet generative AI has the power to accelerate growth.”

The Microsoft Corp. executive said she’s particularly interested in helping skill up more women in the local workforce. It’s one of the US company’s four focus areas in Japan, headed by a $2.9 billion investment over the next two years to scale up its AI data centers in the country.

The announcement of that new funding in April lifted the country’s utility and industrial shares on expectations of rising power demand. The country’s surging energy needs have spurred Tokyo’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry to lobby local officials about restarting the country’s — and the world’s — largest nuclear power plant.

Tsusaka identified cybersecurity as another key priority, because “you can’t use AI without security. It’s security, security, security. And then you get to use AI.” Microsoft works closely with the Japanese government — at both national and local level — and businesses to ensure technology is deployed responsibly and safely, she said. Still, she sees AI as an inevitable and revolutionary new part of tech.

“We all were wowed when the internet came,” she said. “Mobile phones now are part of our bodies. But generative AI, I think, is a technology revolution that surpasses all of those.”

–With assistance from Takashi Mochizuki.

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