American technology firm Microsoft has announced it will invest $2.9 billion over the next two years to increase its hyperscale cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure in Japan.

The firm said in a statement on Tuesday that it will also expand its digital skilling programs with the goal of providing AI skilling to more than 3 million people over the next three years, open its first Microsoft Research Asia lab in Japan, and deepen its cybersecurity collaboration with the government of Japan.

According to the statement, these investments aim to support Japan’s key pillar to tackle deflation and stimulate the economy by expanding the infrastructure, skilled talent, and security required to accelerate Japan’s digital transformation and adoption of AI.

It is noted that the $2.9 billion commitment is Microsoft’s single largest investment in its 46-year history in Japan, also the site of its first international office.

It effectively doubles the company’s existing financial commitment to expand its AI and cloud infrastructure across Japan.

This significant enhancement in digital capacity will enable Microsoft to provide more advanced computing resources in Japan, including the latest graphics processing units (GPUs), which are crucial for speeding up AI workloads.

It builds on Microsoft’s support for the Generative AI Accelerator Challenge (GENIAC), a program led by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Japan which helps innovative startups and established enterprises develop foundation models as a core technology of generative AI in Japan.

Microsoft will also invest in training 3 million full-time and part-time workers across Japan over the next three years, giving them the skills they need to build and work with AI technologies.

This investment will be delivered through programs focused on assisting organizations and society at large, including women in general and also with a focus on developers and students.

Microsoft will expand its Code; Without Barriers program to Japan and provide dedicated training for women looking to participate in AI-enabled work.

It will also provide free and widely accessible content on AI, cybersecurity, and digital skills in partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

Nurturing advanced AI professionals who can drive further AI integration, Microsoft will offer courses and reference architectures for AI developers and technology companies in Japan.

These will be augmented by Microsoft’s AI coding assistant, GitHub Copilot.

The company will also support startups with resources through the Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub and help implement AI-centric programs in vocational high schools.

To advance the societal benefits offered by AI through companies of all sizes, governments, and public entities – including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government – Microsoft will continue with established programs that support the widespread adoption and application of AI tools.

Furthermore, Microsoft provides support in developing customers’ internal AI policies, including data management and security to ensure its responsible and safe use.

Microsoft Research Asia is also extending its research leadership in the Asia-Pacific region with the opening of a lab in Tokyo.

The new lab will have a unique focus on areas including embodied AI and robotics, societal AI and wellbeing, and scientific discovery that align with Japan’s socioeconomic priorities. Its establishment reflects Microsoft’s long-term commitment to Japan and its belief in the nation’s potential to lead the world in innovation.

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

Microsoft will also collaborate with Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat to strengthen cybersecurity resilience for the government, business, and society, as the nation enhances its cybersecurity approach under the government’s updated National Security Strategy.

The collaboration will build on the services Microsoft provides to protect thousands of Japanese organizations every day.

It will focus on areas such as information sharing, talent development, and technology solutions, with Microsoft to provide its expertise and advanced cloud and AI-driven security services as part of joint efforts to tackle cybersecurity threats.

“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,” said Fumio Kishida, Prime Minister of Japan

Meanwhile, Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith, said that these investments in digital infrastructure, AI skills, cybersecurity, and AI research are essential ingredients for Japan to build a robust AI economy.

Kevin Scott, Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of AI, Microsoft, said that 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,” he added.

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