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Turbo-charging productivity in Asia: the economic benefits of generative AI

This year, Microsoft commissioned global tech advisory firm Access Partnership, working alongside local partners including the Analytics Association of the Philippines, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), and the Center for Global Communications (GLOCOM) in Japan, to conduct country-level research on the potential economic impact of generative AI across Asia. The research estimates a potential boost to productive capacity of US$621 billion in India, US$1.1 trillion in Japan, and US$79.3 billion in the Philippines alone, with studies ongoing in Malaysia, Indonesia and South Korea. These country findings are consistent with other global studies—for instance, a recent report by McKinsey estimates generative AI could add up to US$4.4 trillion a year to the global economy.

The potential economic growth is so large because generative AI has implications for most types of work: its impact can be thought of as comparable to that of digitalization in general, rather than that of a specific product. In particular, this huge injection of productivity will arise from three channels—generative AI’s potential to unleash creativity, accelerate discovery, and enhance efficiency.

While we cannot predict the future, it is likely that generative AI will serve as a “copilot” that augments people’s ability to perform their roles, thereby leading an evolution of tasks within roles rather than eliminating jobs altogether. For example, the Access Partnership research projects that 45% of workers in India will potentially use generative AI for up to 20% of regular work activities.

So, what exactly are the potential implications for industries, jobs, and skills?

Unleashing creativity

Think of it as a digital update on the Renaissance. Given generative AI’s ability to provide outputs in a variety of formats—text, images, video, audio, computer code, and synthetic data—Asia is likely to see an explosion of new content. “While innovation will continue to need a human spark, generative AI can play a role in supporting the creative process,” says Ahmed Mazhari, president of Microsoft Asia.

By learning from large amounts of input data, generative AI can help create new content or simply reduce the time and cost involved in conceptualization. The technology has the potential to open up new possibilities and use cases in fields such as journalism, academia, creative arts, marketing, and product design—from the reporter seeking to quickly drum up story ideas to the brand strategist brainstorming concepts and the researcher looking for a rough draft to then sharpen and customize. Industry uses already abound: Coca-Cola, for example, has announced the use of generative AI to create personalized ad copy at scale, while Deloitte has found a 20% increase in code development speed.

Generative AI also stands to turbocharge the gig economy and solo entrepreneurship. For example, in India, where the number of individual creators is already on the rise, a survey of more than 1,600 freelancers found that 47% were using generative AI tools regularly and more than 50% reported a positive impact on their productivity. Meanwhile, as the Philippines strives to become Asia’s leading creative economy by 2030, generative AI can play a key role in professionalizing the work of the country’s freelancers.

Accelerating discovery

The second way generative AI can deliver major economic impact is by accelerating the process of scientific and educational discovery. That might include reducing the cost of research—the technology’s capabilities to interrogate vast data sets, for example, can help develop and test hypotheses quickly and more cost-efficiently. That, in turn, can reduce the time required to design new medicines from years to weeks.

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