How This Leading Telecom Firm From Malaysia Is Embarking On AI Journey

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Maxis is a leading communications provider in Malaysia for mobile, home and business needs on 4G and fibre, and providing easy ways to own the latest smartphones. Headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the firm provides a variety of communication products, applications and value added services for consumers, large enterprises and small & medium business owners.

The firm is focussing aggressing on adopting AI. Infact, the firm decided to release a Mother’s Day ad that focuses on AI, by asking an interesting question – can A.I replace M.I. (a Mother’s Instinct)?

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We spoke with Ashley Fernandez, Head of Data Science and Engineering at Maxis to know more on the firm endeavours in AI & data science and the state of AI in Malaysia. Ashley is an AI enthusiast, Bridging Data Science & Cognitive Science in furthering the Applications of AGI (Artificial General Intelligence ). He is currently pursuing Phd Artificial Intelligence in Cognitive Science. With 3 years as a Lead Data Scientist and then Head of Data science and Analytics in HUAWEI Technologies, he supported the southern Pacific region in developing ML/DL/AI designs models/ solutions with 2 patents passing through.

Analytics India Magazine: How important is Data science & AI within Maxis?

Ashley Fernandez: Data science & AI have been a new area that Maxis have begun embarking on & over the last quarter, we have internally demonstrated/ structured together core principles of best practices and most importantly a “ diversified unstructured” framework where we have seen  the importance of having this domain incorporated throughout the organization.

AIM: Can you elaborate on a specific use case of data science or AI that you worked on?

AF: The one that comes to mind immediately would be developing a DeepLearning (LSTM) forecast model that transformed the way we do network forecasting which we actually patented. What made this interesting is it took a couple of Data Science models + a Deep Learning Model and having its solution hybrid together into a single design.

AIM: How do you see the analytics ecosystem flourishing especially in south east asia region?

AF: Over that last 5 years, we are already seeing an exponential rise in demand within the analytics space as more companies & organization are fuelling themselves up with core & competent resources (Data Science teams) to enable what I call “Advance Analytics or Non-Linear Modeling”.

AIM: What are some of the challenges that the industry in Malaysia faces in terms of AI adoption.

AF: I personally see 2 challenges, skilled local workforce , cloud adoption. However, there have been tremendous efforts to address both of these, especially in 2018.

AIM: How is the industry trying to solve the AI talent issue in Malaysia?

AF: There have been various channels working together to develop/nurture talents here. I feel it’s a great start, but I feel this area is still growing and hence having the academia working together with the known AI industry players would enable a huge lift in driving not only talent but interest among the newcomers which are our future.

AIM: How can governments and citizen associations come together for a healthy discussion as well as implementation of AI?

AF: In Malaysia, we are still relatively new in this area of AI (over the last 2 years). To get this well pushed forward, government agencies would require a AI blueprint strategy in place that includes public awareness as well as revamping of academic structures to fit this new area which we all know now will the our future moving forward.

AIM: What is the biggest trend in data science/ AI that you look forward to in 2019?

 AF: There have been a lot said about AI could hit another AI winter soon as the models have been seen to hit some form of saturation point in performance. But the new growing area of Cognitive Intelligence where we take AI forward by means of Reinforcement Learning enabling Artificial General Intelligence is where I am most excited about. I am working on it myself.

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Bhasker Gupta
Bhasker is a techie turned media entrepreneur. Bhasker started AIM in 2012, out of a desire to speak about emerging technologies and their commercial, social and cultural impact. Earlier, Bhasker worked as Vice President at Goldman Sachs. He is a B.Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology, Varanasi and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow.

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