TikTok parent ByteDance to spend $2.1bn to develop AI hub in Malaysia

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Malaysia has become a focal point of AI-related investment from global tech giants.

Last month, Google revealed a $2 billion plan to build a data center and cloud hub in the Southeast Asian country.

Also, last month, Microsoft announced a $2.2 billion investment in the market “to fuel Malaysia’s cloud and AI transformation”.

Now, ByteDance, the China-headquartered parent company of social video app TikTok, is betting on Malaysia with a large-scale investment of its own – and it’s also centered on the booming AI business.

As reported by Reuters, a social media post last week from the country’s Investment, Trade, and Industry Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz, indicated that ByteDance “plans to invest in AI and make Malaysia an AI hub for the region with a proposed investment of about RM10 billion”, which converts to approximately USD $2.1 billion.

Aziz wrote last week that he met with TikTok Vice President Helena Lersch to discuss the development of TikTok in Malaysia. He added in the post that ByteDance plans to invest an additional RM1.5 billion to expand its data center in Johor.

As noted here by CNBC, training and deploying AI models uses large amounts of data and computational power, and the boom in AI services globally has led to an increased demand for large centers that can house all of this data.

Citing DC Byte’s 2024 Global Data Centre Index, CNBC reports that the Malaysian city of Johor Bahru has become the fastest-growing market for data centers in the whole of Southeast Asia.

Artificial Intelligence is a major priority for ByteDance. The company was hiring for 252 machine learning-related roles globally as of Wednesday (June 19).

The company runs the popular Doubao AI chatbot in China and operates a range of other AI-driven products, from its AI video-making app Capcut to its flagship social video app TikTok.

TikTok’s powerful recommendation algorithm powers its “For You feed” – which, according to TikTok, “is one of the defining features” of the platform.

The algorithm is so valuable to ByteDance that it would reportedly prefer to shut TikTok in the US than sell the app if its legal challenge against the country’s ‘divest or ban’ law fails.

In music specifically, ByteDance has conducted extensive research into AI-generated music via its Speech, Audio & Music Intelligence (SAMI) team.

As reported by MBW in a pair of widely read articles in March, ByteDance has locked down several AI music-related patent and trademark filings in the US, some of which cover topics including “data mining” and “music generation”.

ByteDance also launched a machine-learning-driven music-making app called Mawf in the past couple of years, as well as Ripple – an AI-powered music-making app that can turn a hummed melody into a song.

More recently, TikTok has been testing an AI Song feature that uses a large language model to power lyric generation.

Meanwhile, back in Malaysia, where TikTok’s parent company is about to pump more than $2 billion into an AI hub in the market, the government’s Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) wants to make Malaysia a key player in the global AI market.

In April it launched the AI Sandbox 2024 Pilot Programme that aims to create 900 AI startups by 2026.

The program is supported by the world’s most valuable company, Nvidia, which, via the AI chips it manufactures, has become a key player in AI model training. In December, Nvidia also struck a $4.3 billion AI infrastructure development deal in the Malaysian market.

The Malaysian government is reportedly planning to publish an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Code of Ethics at the end of this month.Music Business Worldwide

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