Tapping Into AI’s Potential

As AI peaks in popularity across the globe, industry experts are warning it is key that its key policies are put in place to regulate the growing sector, with investment needed to enable Cambodia to tap into its potential
FILE - The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
FILE - The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes a buzzword across the globe, Cambodia's focus is on establishing a digital framework that integrates AI with existing infrastructure and information and communication technology.

As part of this mission, in May, the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology & Innovation (MISTI) published a 75-page report titled ‘AI Landscape in Cambodia: Current Status and Future Trends’.

To ensure the effective implementation of AI, it is crucial to have appropriate legal regulations regarding data and cybersecurity in place. This is essential to combat cybercrimes and provide reassurance to businesses, practitioners, and consumers.

Cambodia already possesses a basic technological foundation that has been gradually built over the years, and it will be utilized to maximize the impact of AI.

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AI is a transformative technology with the potential to enhance productivity, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness across various sectors. To foster trustworthy AI ecosystems, it is important for countries to develop policies that prioritize the well-being of individuals and society, as well as responsible AI research and development.

These policies should encourage investment in AI initiatives and align with the national development vision, as well as regional and global trends. Initially, the focus should be on nurturing skilled professionals and utilizing AI solutions to address critical national issues with immediate socio-economic impact.

The rapid progress of AI has significantly transformed industries, economies, and society. From its early beginnings in the 1950s to the present day, AI has evolved and revolutionized various fields, including neural networks, deep learning, image analytics, and natural language processing.

The commercialization of AI has disrupted traditional business models and led to the adoption of digital and technological capabilities.

This photo, in New York, Thursday, May 18, 2023, shows the ChatGPT app on an iPhone. The free app started to become available on iPhones in the U.S. on Thursday and will later be coming to Android phones. Unlike the web version, you can also ask it questi
This photo, in New York, Thursday, May 18, 2023, shows the ChatGPT app on an iPhone. The free app started to become available on iPhones in the U.S. on Thursday and will later be coming to Android phones. Unlike the web version, you can also ask it questi

Enterprises are leveraging AI for management and production processes, as well as using data mining to anticipate trends and enhance their products and services. Industries, such as finance, healthcare, education, retail, manufacturing, media, agriculture, and logistics, are also undergoing changes to optimize relationships and improve consumer access to product features.

AI Landscape in Cambodia: Current Status and Future Trends

"The future workforce will also see transformations through virtual and augmented realities, gesture recognition, and robotics to boost productivity. AI is reshaping industries, fostering digital advancements, and driving competitiveness in the global landscape."

According to the report, with Chhem Kieth Rethy leading the editorial team, AI adoption among ASEAN member states is still in its early stages, with 83 percent of ASEAN in the initial phase and only 15 percent in advanced stages.

The varying national priorities, strategic investments, pilot initiatives, scaling efforts, and end-to-end implementation of AI contribute to this disparity. Cambodia, in its early AI adoption stage, focuses mainly on the primary sectors.

Among the report authors, Richard Yim, CEO of Quantum Engineering and Manufacturing, co-wrote the section ‘AI-powered business and industry: Transforming Business Landscape in Cambodia’.

The report noted, “AI algorithms can be used to automate customer service, data entry, and other routine tasks, freeing up employees to focus on more complex and value-added activities.”

It added,

“This can help to increase productivity and reduce costs. In Cambodia, simple machine AI for use in industrial factories is being developed by Quantum Engineering and Manufacturing.”

Hin Sopheap, Co-founder of DG Academy, a digital education platform based in Phnom Penh, said he sees Open AI’s ChatGPT-like Bing and Google Bard as partners that can help him improve productivity and create a competitive advantage for his business.

"My staff at DG Academy have used these tools to help with their jobs. I planned to recruit more staff, but due to the availability of these tools, I don't need to. And my staff have enjoyed using them to help them produce more output," Sopheap told Kiripost in an interview.

He added that AI is moving toward human-like intelligence that can take action with little or no human intervention. This has stirred up fears among governments of many countries, and many AI scientists propose to delay or regulate AI development and contain it at a certain level of intelligence.

He believes it is crucial that Cambodians work together to promote AI development in a beneficial way for society. To establish a functioning system, the government must act as a regulator.

Academia and businesses, especially those in the banking and financial sectors which have the most consumer data, need to make high-level efforts. These three organizations can promote AI development and build an AI factory that will benefit everyone in Cambodia.

He added that collaboration and the potential of AI capabilities in different sectors will be much needed. They may work within and across sectors to create real value for customers, not just capturing value from customers for their own benefit.

A controlled robot performs first aid during the International Conference on Robotics and Automation ICRA in London, Tuesday, May 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A controlled robot performs first aid during the International Conference on Robotics and Automation ICRA in London, Tuesday, May 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

AI is not evolving in a local context; it is a wider network of customer data with global access. All related parties, such as government, academia, and industry, must work together to develop initiatives, regulatory frameworks, cybersecurity, and international linkages.

Sopheap emphasized that a good start is the development of human resources in AI, requiring world-class scientists and engineers in AI and computing to drive AI development in Cambodia. This needs full support from the government and collaboration with academia and training providers.

Meanwhile, sectors should contribute to supporting this development through sponsorship of training and development and acquiring people to avoid brain drain, where talented scientists and engineers move out to other countries.

Academia should start offering AI-related courses and data science, incorporating input from the industry. With the necessary infrastructure in place, such as research labs, students, engineers, scientists, and teachers, key stakeholders can work together in an AI-conducive environment.

All three parties need to unite and engage in global collaboration forums to establish a common vision. It was suggested that educational institutions should have close relationships with private firms to build a curriculum that matches industry demands. This partnership benefits students, teachers, and industry staff, providing real-world exposure and opportunities for research and upskilling.

Sopheap also highlighted collaboration challenges at both local and global levels. Different institutions with different goals, priorities, resources, data privacy concerns, and competition can hinder collaboration in the beginning. Multinational firms may have an advantage with AI resources located at headquarters in technologically advanced countries.

At the global level, each government has a different vision, economic and technological stage, culture, language, national priorities, and security concerns. International political polarization and regional blocs or partnerships can create obstacles to develop a common AI framework that avoids disastrous consequences.

"If collaboration succeeds, AI will benefit Cambodians by improving productivity and accelerating digitized transformation in the public and private sectors. With global collaboration, Cambodia can gain access to advanced AI tech resources pools and expertise,” Sopheap added.

“But to make it successful, we must develop our human capabilities in digital literacy, not just limited to social media usage. Then, we can develop our AI resources, both soft and hard."

Sopheap cautioned that without successful collaboration, the world may become fragmented and competitive, similar to the nuclear weaponization world. This could cause disaster to human security and existence. It is important to regulate AI if it becomes a superintelligence without proper oversight.

AI has rapidly grown in Cambodia, with its application becoming a reality across various sectors. Initiatives including robotic technology and the deployment of AI technologies in flood detection, fraud detection, smart cities, and other areas demonstrate the country's progress.

Universities and institutes are offering AI courses to nurture local talent. The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of businesses, with online platforms and services gaining popularity. As such, integrating AI will have potential benefits for businesses in Cambodia.

AI has the capability to simulate intelligent, human-like behavior in computers. For instance, machine learning, which encompasses neural networks and deep learning, allows machines to observe, analyze, and learn from data and errors.

Over time, machine learning algorithms improve their performance by learning from data. This enables computers to adapt to unforeseen conditions and come up with novel solutions.

"The application of AI is limitless. Its purpose, who should adopt it, and where it should be adopted must be carefully determined," states MISTI’s 2023 AI report.