Beyond EXPO 2023 in Macau event report


Hello, this is Woojung

Thank you very much for the overwhelming feedback I received from many of you after my first post! Here goes a second one on Beyond EXPO 2023 in Macau. Hope you enjoy!

Beyond EXPO 2023 in Macau was held from May 10th to 12th, and numerous East and Southeast Asian companies developing cutting-edge technologies in the areas of healthcare and sustainability exhibited. At the event, Tiago Ramalho, CEO of Recursive, moderated the discussion of “How is AI Shaping Southeast Asia's Next Gen?"

While the innovative growth of Large Language Models (LLMs) is making headlines in the media on a daily basis, there are many challenges to their implementation to the level that it addresses the social issues. In order to make the vision of "AI for society" happen in the near future, each country and region needs to promote implementation suited to their own circumstances. Southeast Asia lags behind in DX compared to East Asia. However, that is why there is a great potential to innovatively accelerate DX in the region by introducing AI from the beginning, which is why Recursive is focusing on the Southeastern market. The following is a summary of the characteristics of Southeast Asia and the potential of AI in Southeast Asia based on the content of the speakers.

Linguistic characteristics of Southeast Asia and their impact on AI development

The most important characteristic of Southeast Asia in AI development, especially in LLM development, is that all the countries are multilingual. While the majority of the Southeast Asian population has the ability to speak English on a daily basis, each country and ethnic group uses its own language in addition to English.

Traditionally, existing tech companies such as Google develop their software and AI in English, which makes it difficult to localize their products for launch in other language countries. However, the bottom line is that this should not be a major problem.

In addition to Natural Language Processing and speech recognition technologies, the people in the Southeast Asian countries have a high level of understanding the nuances, intonation, and other linguistic elements that affect communication beyond the meaning of individual words which is an important foundation for the development of LLM.

Furthermore, from the perspective of corporate strategy, LLM can be used for customer engagement, etc., and the speed at which the technology can be deployed will be comparable to other regions.

Social Challenges in Introducing AI in Southeast Asia

While the development and implementation of AI in Southeast Asia has great potential for growth as described above, there are also several social challenges that could slow the spread of AI.

1. Lack of Governmental Policies

The market potential of Southeast Asia is maximized when the 10 Southeast Asian countries are combined. However, less than half of the ten Southeast Asian countries have not yet announced their national AI strategies, and the ten countries are hardly moving collectively. Only Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, the countries with the fastest growing economies, have announced theirs, and the rest of the region still have some work to catch up. In addition, with the exception of Singapore, some countries have low levels of trust among governments, businesses, and citizens, and many countries lack the infrastructure and data systems necessary to introduce AI, which could raise the hurdle for AI adoption.

2. Distrust Regarding Data Provision

Again, because of the lack of a legal system for data use, companies and the public tend to have a high level of distrust on providing their personal data. As a result, it is difficult to accumulate data necessary for AI development, which is a challenge for AI diffusion.

3. Lack of education on AI

In order for AI to spread, it is necessary for the public to understand what AI is, how to use it, and to some extent about its risks. Since awareness of AI is still lower in Southeast Asia than in other regions, finding engineers and product talent is a challenge. Startups from Southeast Asia often find talent from overseas (mainly China), and the low level of AI literacy in the country as a whole will be a major challenge for future growth.

The ability to learn and take an interest in not only technical knowledge but also how AI is being used around you and where your data is being used from an early stage will have a significant impact on the development of AI human resources in Southeast Asia. Institutional support for the reskilling required of workers as technology develops will be necessary.

What is inclusive and fair AI?

Although we have picked up issues in Southeast Asia, there are some things that Japan can learn from Southeast Asia. In Japan, even though there is a lot of noise about AI in the media, many people feel that it is still a distant topic for them, and even when I work as an AI consultant, I hear people say, "I never thought our company could use AI.” Singapore is an example of social implementation of AI.

From the example of social implementation of AI in Singapore, we can say that "good AI" has four major characteristics. (1) It is beneficial to society, (2) it is transparent, (3) it is provided equally to all, and (4) it is explainable.

Of course, the difficulty of implementing AI in a relatively small population of 5.5 million people is different from that of implementing it in a country with 100 million people. Japan still needs to make many efforts to introduce AI, including social changes, infrastructure development, institutional guarantees and support, etc. However, if we learn from advanced cases such as Singapore and have the right direction, we may be able to achieve a society in which everyone can live happily and AI can be implemented. .


As we have been accumulating AI use cases in Japan since last year, Recursive has been working toward overseas expansion this year, and we have been putting a lot of effort into events, such as speaking opportunities in and out of Japan, exhibiting booths, etc. If you have any good opportunities for us to join, feel free to reach out to us anytime.

Note: This article is based on the content of the event.



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Business Development Manager

Woojung Kim

Woojung has Bachelor’s degree in International Development Studies from UCLA. After graduation, she joined PwC, and worked as a Consultant for Financial Services Sector, focusing on DX projects. She then joined Plug and Play Japan, one of the global venture capitals, and contributed to the building of Osaka office. There, she supported the corporates’ open innovation and the startups’ strategizing and financing. After that, she joined Recursive as AI Consultant.