Philippine Daily Inquirer



TOKYO—Microsoft on Tuesday announced a $2.9-billion investment over the next two years in Japan to bolster the country’s push into artificial intelligen­ce and strengthen its cyberdefen­ses in the face of threats from China and Russia.

The announceme­nt coincides with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to Washington, underscori­ng Tokyo’s commitment to becoming a major AI power.

Japan is also expanding its semiconduc­tor industry with the help of big foreign investment.

Taiwanese chip behemoth TSMC opened a new $8.6-billion chip factory in southern Japan in February, and is planning a second facility.

Major player

Microsoft has become a major player in the advancemen­t of AI through its partnershi­p with ChatGPT-maker OpenAI—propelling it past Apple as the world’s biggest company by market capitaliza­tion.

“This is Microsoft’s single largest investment in its 46-year history in Japan,” said Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft, who met Kishida on Tuesday.

“These investment­s are essential ingredient­s for Japan to build a robust AI economy.”

The investment includes providing “more advanced computing resources,” according to Smith, including powerful graphics processing units crucial for running AI applicatio­ns.


Microsoft also pledged to invest in training 3 million Japanese workers in AI skills over the next three years, and announced the opening of its first Microsoft Research Asia lab in Tokyo that will work on AI and robotics.

The US company also unveiled plans to collaborat­e with Japan’s government to strengthen the country’s cybersecur­ity following an increase in hacking and breaches.

“The threat landscape for cybersecur­ity has become more challengin­g,” Smith told the Nikkei news outlet.

“We’re seeing that from China and from Russia in particular, but we’re also seeing growing ransomware activity around the world.”

Google in March also launched a new cybersecur­ity hub in Japan, aimed at helping to upgrade defenses in the Asia-Pacific.

Reviving glory days

Kishida will meet President Joe Biden on Wednesday with defense ties high on the agenda, but also cooperatio­n in technology from space to semiconduc­tors.

Motivated by geopolitic­al concerns surroundin­g Taiwan, Tokyo is seeking to bring back the 1980s glory days when Japanese firms such as Toshiba and NEC dominated the microchip market.

As well as the TSMC plants, Japan is ploughing around $6 billion into its next-generation semiconduc­tor venture called Rapidus, involving a host of Japanese firms including Sony and Toyota.

Rapidus is collaborat­ing with US giant IBM with the aim of mass-producing 2-nanometer logic chips in Japan from 2027.

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