All posts by jaredhamzah

Microsoft in talks to invest $10 billion in ChatGPT-owner OpenAI – Semafor

Microsoft Corp is in talks to invest $10 billion in ChatGPT-owner OpenAI as part of funding that will value the firm at $29 billion, Semafor reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The news underscores rising interest in the artificial intelligence company, whose chatbot has dazzled amateurs and industry experts with its ability to spit out haikus, debug code and answer questions while imitating human speech.

The funding could also include other venture firms and documents sent to prospective investors outlining its terms indicated a targeted close by the end of 2022, according to the report.

Microsoft declined to comment, while OpenAI did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

The software giant had in 2019 invested $1 billion in OpenAI, founded by Elon Musk and Sam Altman. Microsoft’s cloud services arm also provides the computing power needed by the AI firm.

Microsoft last year unveiled plans to integrate image-generation software from OpenAI into its search engine Bing. A recent report from the Information said similar plans were underway for ChatGPT as Microsoft looks to take on market leader Google Search.

According to Semafor, Microsoft will also get 75 per cent of OpenAI’s profits until it recoups its initial investment.

After hitting that threshold, Microsoft would have a 49 per cent stake in OpenAI, with other investors taking another 49 per cent and OpenAI’s nonprofit parent getting 2 per cent, Semafor said.

Reuters reported last month a recent pitch by OpenAI to investors said the organization expects $200 million in revenue next year and $1 billion by 2024.

OpenAI charges developers licensing its technology about a penny or a little more to generate 20,000 words of text, and about 2 cents to create an image from a written prompt.

It spends about a few cents in computing power every time someone uses its chatbot, Altman recently said in tweet that has raised concerns about OpenAI’s cash burn.

A Wall Street Journal report said last week OpenAI was in talks to sell existing shares at a roughly $29 billion valuation in a tender offer that would attract investment of at least $300 million.

Laos’ Fintech Revolution is Still Bank-Led, For Now

In Lao PDR, digital financial services are at a very nascent stage of development, but recent partnerships are seeking to change that by introducing new and innovative fintech solutions.

Most of these initiatives are being spearheaded by banking incumbents and financial institutions as they prepare for the adoption of digital financial services.

In September 2022, Agriculture Promotion Bank (AP Bank), a development bank that primarily provides financing to the forestry and agriculture sectors, inked a partnership with Hi Sun Fintech Global Limited (HSG) to modernize its core banking system.

The project, which is set to take 9.5 months, will see HSG upgrade the bank’s anti-money laundering systems, reporting systems, and several of the bank’s other business systems. The upgrade will lay the necessary groundwork for AP Bank “to transition more seamlessly into a digital bank in future,” HSG said in a statement.

Prior to its collaboration with AP Bank, HSG had worked with other incumbents including Banque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao Public (BCEL) and BIC Bank on similar projects, focusing on modernizing their core banking infrastructure to enable new business models, support advanced technologies and enhance customer experiences.

BCEL went live with HSG’s new banking system in April 2022. The new infrastructure aims to allow for fast product deployment as well as greater flexibility, adaptability, and scalability.

Fintech initiatives by the public sector

In the public sector, Bank of Lao PDR has been working on laying the foundation for digital payments, tying up with financial regulators from across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region to upgrade its payment infrastructure, tap efficiency gains and access new capabilities.

In November 2022, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Lao PDR central bank and the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) to facilitate cross-border transactions between the two jurisdictions.

As part of project, Cambodian bank Acleda Bank was commissioned for the development of new systems connecting Cambodia’s digital currency infrastructure Bakong to Lao DPR’s national payment network Lapnet.

Bakong counts about 40 banking and financial institutions as members, while Lapnet has about 30 members.

Separately, Bank of Lao PDR is also exploring the feasibility of a central bank digital currency (CBDC), enlisting Japanese fintech firm Soramitsu to conduct the study. Soramitsu was previously involved in the development of the Cambodian Bakong infrastructure.

These developments follow the launch of the Lao Payment and Settlement System (LaPASS) in June 2020, and the introduction of Lao QR Code earlier that year. These two developments were amongst the biggest milestones in the Lao PDR digital payment landscape at the time. LaPASS is a real-time gross settlement system designed for institutional use, while the Lao QR Code aims to set industry standards in QR payments in the country.

But perhaps most notably, a collaboration between Lao DPR and Malaysia was unveiled in early 2021 to develop the so-called Lao Digital Park, a new special economic zone, as well as the Fintech Valley in Vientiane. Initiatives under the partnership include setting up a fintech regulatory sandbox, developing digital government applications, as well as creating new fintech solutions.

An underdeveloped fintech startup scene

In Lao PDR, the overall fintech startup ecosystem remain in the very early stages of development, with deposit services dominating and a few mobile add-on services facilitating card payments.

A 2019 report by Asian think tank, the Asian Development Bank Institute, named inadequate access to the Internet and low financial literacy as the main barriers to fintech development. Other challenges identified by industry observers include the lack of resources, skill gaps and a lagging regulatory framework.

Lao PDR’s fintech sector is falling behind those in neighboring countries including Vietnam and Cambodia, despite providing fertile ground for fintech adoption. Bank account ownership in Lao PDR is low at 26.8%. Additionally, cash remains the dominant means of payment with only 0.6% of those aged 15 and older having a credit card and 12.7%, a debit card.

How Gen-Zs Are Redefining Payments

Southeast Asia’s payment ecosystem is undergoing a profound transformation, fueled by rapid adoption of digital payments, modernization initiatives by governments and a burgeoning consumer base of mobile-first young adults with new habits and expectations, a new blog post by payment company Currencycloud and Australian super-app Bano says.

The region’s millennials and Generation Z demographics, which refer to those born between 1980 and 2012, are reshaping the payment landscape, forcing industry players to adjust to this audience’s expectations of speed, personalization, contextuality and transparency, the post says.

These generations are digital-first; at ease with new technologies; and are avid users of super-apps, the report notes.

They are also keen to trying out new digital solutions, having shown strong interest in alternative payment methods including buy now, pay later (BNPL), cryptocurrencies and QR code payments, it says. But perhaps more importantly, millennials and Gen Z consumers want payments to be more instant, frictionless and embedded within their customer journeys.

Industry stakeholders must pay attention to these changing needs, the report says, especially considering that millennials and Gen Zs are fast-growing demographics which are expected to make up half of Asia-Pacific (APAC)’s population by 2025.

The rise of BNPL

Demand for embedded payments among Southeast Asian millennials and Gen Zs is reflected by the traction buy now, pay later (BNPL) arrangements have received among these demographics in the region.

According to market researcher PayNXT360, APAC’s BNPL payment industry has recorded strong growth over the past year, owing to increased e-commerce penetration caused by the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. In 2022, it estimates BNPL payments reached US$201.9 billion in APAC, growing by 45.3% that year.

This growth is showing no signs of slowing down with BNPL payment adoption set to increase by 25.3% annually between 2022 and 2028. By 2028, the firm expects BNPL gross merchandise value in APAC to reach US$782.9 billion, compared to just  US$139 billion in 2021.

BNPL arrangements have increased in popularity over the past years. These microloans, which are offered right at the point of sale, allow users to split a purchase into multiple equal payments to be paid back over time, typically with little to no interest.

According to PYMNTS’ Buy Now, Pay Later Tracker, Gen Z and millennial consumers are the top users of these services.

QR code payments

QR code payments are another payment method that has risen in popularity across Southeast Asia, a trend that’s emerging on the back of soaring mobile payment usage.

In the Philippines, leading mobile wallet GCash claimed 55 million registered users at the end of 2021, a figure that represented 70% of the adult population. And Grab, a leading super-app across Southeast Asia, says its ecosystem counts over 25 million monthly transacting users.

According to the Currencycloud/Bano post, QR code payments are especially popular among Singapore millennials and Gen Z consumers who enjoy the speed and convenience of this payment method.

This is evidenced by data compiled by Swiss technology provider Scantrust which show that APAC was the biggest adopter of QR code payments in 2019, with a penetration rate of 15%.

A closer look at Asian nations reveals that China topped the ranking with 70% of the population utilizing QR code payments on a regular basis. China is followed by India at 40%, Vietnam at 27%, Thailand at 23% and Singapore at 22%.

In Southeast Asia, usage of QR code payments is only expected to grow as governments across ASEAN are working on linking their payment systems. Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand already have their QR code payment systems connected, while Singapore is linked to Thailand and is seeking to add more countries, including Indonesia.

Southeast Asian millennials and Gen Z consumers are also fond of reward programs, the Currencycloud/Bano post says. This observation is supported by findings of a 2022 study conducted by Adyen, an omnichannel payment processing company, which found that of the 1,000+ Singapore consumers polled, 65% said they would download a retailer’s app to receive better loyalty rewards.

Cryptocurrency is another alternative payment method that’s gaining ground, the Currencycloud/Bano post notes, a trend that’s risen on the back of booming adoption of digital asset. According to Chainalysis’ 2022 Global Crypto Adoption Index, Vietnamese and Filipino consumers were the biggest adopters of crypto last year, recording the highest usage of crypto-related tools, products and services, compared to other nations.

Datasonic Enters Metaverse Education Platform Business With Meta Doers World 

(L to R) Datasonic Technologies Sdn Bhd director Md Diah Ramli, Datasonic Group executive chairman Abu Hanifah Noordin, Meta Doers group chairman Professor Willson Lin Wei-Hsien, and Meta Doers chief operating officer Michelle Yong Ling Foung.

Datasonic Group Bhd a security-related integrated ICT solutions provider in Malaysia, has entered into a MOU with Meta Doers World Holding Bhd, to jointly facilitate the venture into the Metaverse education platform business.
 
Datasonic executive chairman, Abu Hanifah Noordin said, “This collaboration marks Datasonic’s foray into the Metaverse focusing on education. As part of the MOU, we will be setting up a joint venture company to facilitate this development. For the first stage, our plan is to tap into the education platform industry in Malaysia across the governmental, primary, secondary and tertiary education sector, and training agencies.”
 
He added that Datasonic could be one of the first publicly listed companies to tap into the Metaverse with a focus on education. The development is also part of the Group’s aspiration to expand to other countries where it is said that demand for online education through the Metaverse is on the uptrend.

According to a report by McKinsey & Company, investment in Metaverse globally more than doubled to US$120 billion (RM527.712 billion) as of June 2022 from US$51 billion (RM224.277 billion) in 2021. 

Meta Doers World is part of Doers Education Group (DEG), a specialist in online and offline education. It also specialises in metaverse’s project consultancy as well as advisory services through the metaverse platform focusing on six 6 business sectors: education, health, food, entertainment, energy and shelter industry. 

With more than 24 years of experience in the education and training industry, Meta Doers World is said to be one of the top 10 companies in the industry, in China. The company has a presence in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Canada.

UKM Partners Industry to Develop Learning Platform

The National University of Malaysia (UKM) via its Faculty of Global Business & Digital Economics Faculty of Economics and Management signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Malaysian company, specialising in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to provide a platform for learning about robotic technologies, in particular, Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academic and International Affairs at UKM stated that the collaboration provides training and professional development sessions to SME students and academics through Cognitive Consulting in the RPA technology, especially to accounting students in SMEs.

The partnership also intends to develop modules or micro-credential courses for students who have completed the RPA software course. In addition to training, students will also gain experience working while studying or practical training within the company.

It was noted that the timely and appropriate to help the University’s goal of expanding and strengthening partnerships between academic and industry researchers, especially in building talent and enhancing the marketability of graduates nationally and internationally.

The same council also saw the launch Journal of Strategic Digital Transformation in Society and the BuDi platform, a dedicated website provided by the Faculty of Technology and Information Science (FTSM) to help entrepreneurs in Small and Medium Enterprises market their products.

The University was represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academic and International Affairs as well as the Dean of the FEP. Meanwhile, the company was represented by its Chief Executive Officer as well as the Head of Corporate Communications at the firm’s parent company.

Recent research has found that, in 2021, the global robotics technology market size was valued at US$79.5 billion in and is expected to reach roughly US$225.6 billion by 2030 with a registered CAGR of 12.29% during the forecast period 2022 to 2030.

A driving factor in the growth of the global robotics technology market is the increasing number of investments and funding in the field of technology. The growing use of service robots across the globe is also leading to growth in the market.

While the market for robotic technology is incredibly fragmented, the robotic technology industry has significant potential because of regional Industry 4.0 and digitalisation initiatives. Given the number of robotic trade exhibitions that occur across different areas on a regular basis, the level of transparency is considerable. Overall, there is fierce competition between existing players. It is expected that large organisations will collaborate and expand their businesses with fresh players focused on modernisation.

Another report the intersection of technology, engineering, and science has resulted in the production of robots. The main aim of robotic technologies is to enhance the performance of an organisation as well as produce better outcomes. Robotic technologies have a wide variety of applications across many industry verticals including healthcare, domestic, agriculture, and manufacturing.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw the demand for robotic technologies increase among several industries including the supply chain, manufacturing, and healthcare, as a result of robots being rolled out in place of humans. This was aimed at reducing the impact of the virus and led to their market share increasing.

The growth in the need for automation and safety as well as the availability of affordable, energy-efficient robots is driving growth in the market.

While the high initial cost of robots and lack of awareness among SMEs is likely to hinder market growth, the surge in the adoption of robotics technology in emerging economies and the increase in use in diverse applications will likely provide lucrative opportunities for the growth of the market.