Cisco's Predictions for 2024: Navigating Malaysia's Tech Horizon

If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that the future is unpredictable.

From the widespread embrace of digital transformation to the burgeoning importance of cybersecurity and the transformative potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) which will only continue to gather pace in the new year, many emerging trends have impacted the country's business landscape.

Here are some of the key business and technology trends we foresee to open a new chapter for Malaysian companies in the year ahead.

1) AI will move from a "nice-to-have" to a "must-have" technology...and not all organizations will be fully prepared to leverage it.

AI will be a central driver of technological advancement in Malaysia. Its application across various industries will enable more efficient operations, better decision-making, and innovative products and services.

The government's vision to foster an AI innovation ecosystem with its AI Roadmap and various initiatives to develop AI skills and enable businesses to capitalize on the technology has been encouraging.

But companies are not yet fully ready to take advantage of this opportunity.

1 Cisco's inaugural AI Readiness Index has found that only 13% of organizations in Malaysia are fully prepared to deploy and leverage AI, with over half (59%) admitting severe concerns about the impact on business if they fail to act in the next 12 Months.

2 The good news is that there is urgency to embrace AI and most companies have taken the first step.

Almost all (99%) organizations reported their company's urgency to deploy AI-powered technologies has increased in the past six months.

94% of organizations already have a robust AI strategy in place or are in the process of developing one. However, considerable gaps exist across other key business pillars like infrastructure, data, governance, talent, and culture – such as ensuring that their data is AI-ready and cultivating a strong talent pipeline and change management plan, among others.

As we welcome 2024 and the next waves of AI revolution, Malaysian companies will need to wrestle with how to address AI across their organizations, not just from a technology perspective, but also among the humans who are ready, or not, to use that technology.

2) A movement for responsible, ethical AI will begin with governance underpinned by trust and transparency.

AI promises transformative benefits but navigating its adoption is fraught with risks that demand organizations have a strong framework of policies and protocols in place to guide the ethical and responsible management of data and AI systems.

While most organizations in Malaysia recognize the importance of AI governance, there is still room for improvement.

Data privacy is a key risk, with only one-third of respondents saying they have highly comprehensive AI policies and protocols in place.

Bias is another with about 1 in 4 (22%) of organizations not having systematic mechanisms to detect data biases.

As AI's impact grows, regulatory frameworks will continue to evolve, making it imperative for companies to stay updated on relevant local and international regulations and deploy timely, internal policies that address data privacy and security, and the responsible and ethical use of AI technology.

This includes implementing robust cybersecurity measures that consider potential vulnerabilities introduced by AI systems and continuous training and upskilling to ensure employees remain competent to handle risks.

Companies building AI applications will have to think about embedding security, privacy, and trust by design processes throughout their innovation lifecycle and its application in products, services, and enterprise operations.

3) A new era of intuitive network infrastructure will emerge to deliver unmatched security and intelligence to businesses.

As companies continue to capitalize on emerging technologies to deliver their business outcomes, their digital infrastructure will play a more important role than they think.

Connectivity is essential to business growth.

The Malaysian government has recognized this with its goal to cover 50% of rural areas with 5G by the end of next year.

Building a modern and intelligent network will be an important part of companies' growth as the scalability and integration of their networks with AI workloads or emerging technology could be the single differentiator in their success in leveraging AI and innovation.

Companies will realize the need for integrated security platforms that can provide end-to-end visibility for their organizations, especially when cybersecurity is becoming more complex in a multi-application and multi-cloud environment, and as employees work from different locations, use multiple connections, and access information across diverse platforms.

At the core, the network will play a crucial role in providing broad and deep visibility into every user, device, or entity that flows through the enterprise.

This in turn allows it to be the sole control point to detect and remediate security threats and enforce security policies to contain the lateral movements of threats across the network and minimize the time needed to isolate threats when detected.

4) 2024 will be a year of reckoning and accounting for progress on climate action.

With 2023 on track to be the hottest year on record, there is a critical need to limit the temperature rise to no more than 1.5C to avoid catastrophic changes to the climate.

As we get closer to that milestone, it will be increasingly clear that public-private partnerships are essential in creating a consistent and accurate way to measure progress, both within countries and industries and globally.

The demand for mandatory reporting will be a growing conversation as regulatory bodies step in to turn plans into concrete outcomes.

Companies will face pressure to make progress on their sustainability journeys with technology playing an important role in providing visibility and insights from the data center to company premises to help them accurately measure their emissions and put together plans to create smart buildings and intelligent workspaces.

Service providers, who will also be held accountable for their sustainability goals, will increasingly look to increase capacity and scalability in their infrastructures to power increasing workloads while reducing energy consumption.

5) People and their receptiveness to change will remain core to the success of digital transformation efforts.

As companies in Malaysia continue their digitization journeys, they must ensure that their talents keep pace with growth.

While the technology industry continues to blossom in Malaysia, there remains a shortage of tech talent and demand is high.

This presents a window of opportunity for organizations to develop future-ready tech professionals who are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skillsets to adapt to the evolving technology landscape.

This is where skills-to-job programs like Cisco Networking Academy can help bridge the current tech talent gap.

The program has partnered with higher learning institutions to equip over 120,000 students in Malaysia with highly sought-after industry skills like cybersecurity, data science, and networking.

It also aims to train 6.7 million people in Asia Pacific in digital and cybersecurity skills by 2032.

Apart from cultivating a strong pipeline of talent, organizations also need to ensure that they foster the right culture that is rooted in purpose.

We have seen first-hand how this has helped teams stay connected to each other and the company as they navigate a complex macroeconomic environment.

This also helps to build stakeholder support and receptivity toward change as companies adapt to an ever-changing world.

*The writer is the Managing Director, Cisco Malaysia. 

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