Social investor network AVPN has announced the launch of the US$15 million ($20.24 million) AI Opportunity Fund: Asia-Pacific, with support from and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). 

The three-year programme aims to equip underserved communities in Asia with essential artificial intelligence (AI) knowledge and tools required for the evolving work landscape, says AVPN on May 27. 

Non-profit organisations, social enterprises and workforce associations in the region can register their interest on AVPN’s website, before an open call begins. Selected organisations will receive comprehensive support, including guidance, financial support and tailored AI training based on foundational AI courses designed by Google and its external partners.

Over the next five years, 93% of employers in the region expect to use generative AI tools, with some even offering salary bumps of up to 44% for workers with AI skills, according to a March report by Amazon.

While AI is perceived positively by employees, 16% of employees surveyed by PwC believe AI could replace their jobs. This uncertainty compounds for those already disadvantaged, where a third of the region's population does not use the internet and high job informality persists, says AVPN., founded in October 2005, is the charitable arm of Google. Scott Beaumont, president of Google Asia-Pacific, says AI presents “tremendous opportunities” for the Asia-Pacific region. “But it’s crucial to equip people with the skills needed to thrive. This new AI Opportunity Fund in Asia Pacific will help to empower underserved communities and ensure everyone benefits from the transformative power of AI.”

See also: How will tech and AI pave the way for a more inclusive world?

Naina Subberwal Batra, CEO of AVPN, says building an AI-ready workforce is an essential social mandate for businesses and governments. “This region will have 165 million working-age people by 2030. There is urgency for such an enablement initiative, as the new world work realities unfold, and we start to see the socioeconomic impact of AI work transition on workers who have limited support to adapt and catch up. AVPN is optimistic about leveraging the knowledge and reach of impact organisations that are already actively working on the ground to bridge the gaps… and to ensure that the benefits of AI work opportunities reach more of our workers.”

Jason Rush, principal regional cooperation specialist at ADB, says: “Asia’s evolving work landscape, shaped by the increasing influence of AI, highlights the pressing need to bridge critical skills and knowledge gaps in the underserved communities. The AI Opportunity Fund: Asia-Pacific will support organisations to upskill and reskill workers, ensuring they can access and benefit from the evolving opportunities in the age of AI.”

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