Alibaba Cloud plans to launch its first data centre in the Philippines by the end of this year, as the Chinese vendor pledges US$1 billion in funding over three years to help boost tech and start-up talent across Asia Pacific (APAC).
The proposed Philippines data centre will offer local businesses a variety of products and services, including the company’s elastic compute service (ECS), database, global network solution, content delivery network (CDN) and storage services.
Alibaba Cloud said the investment was the latest in its growing commitment to the country, focusing on the banking, fintech, retail, logistics and education sectors, among others.
Meanwhile, in Malaysia, Alibaba Cloud plans to build its first international innovation centre. In collaboration with local partner Handsprofit, the company plans to offer a one-stop innovation enablement platform for Malaysian small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), startups and developers.
The company said that various cloud technology and business leadership training would be offered through the platform, as well as the nurturing of an ecosystem for venture capital networking.
At the same time, the company is in the midst of launching its third data centre in Indonesia, serving customers with offerings across database, security, network, machine learning and data analytics services. Alibaba Cloud opened its second data centre in the country in early 2019.
According to Alibaba Cloud, the additional facility will allow the company to better support local businesses interested in adopting cloud technology and advance Indonesia’s push for a digital society.
Alibaba Cloud now operates 75 availability zones in 24 regions around the world.
News of the new data centres and international innovation centre come as Alibaba Group launches its Project AsiaForward initiative, with an initial US$1 billion in funding and resources to cultivate what it hopes will be “a million person-strong digital talent pool”.
The company plans to “empower” 100,000 developers and help to grow 100,000 technology startups in Asia Pacific (APAC) over the next three years.
Unveiled during the Alibaba Cloud Summit 2021, the project forms part of the cloud provider’s strategy to invest in infrastructure, technological innovation and talent development to contribute to local economic growth through digital transformation in APAC.
“Innovative technology is critical to the recovery from COVID-19 while a strong pipeline of talent well versed in digital applications is needed to support the sustainable development of today’s digital economy,” said Jeff Zhang, president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.
“We are seeing a strong demand for cloud-native technologies in emerging verticals across the region, from e-commerce and logistics platforms to fintech and online entertainment.
“As the leading cloud service provider and trusted partner in APAC, we are committed to bettering the region’s cloud ecosystem and enhancing its digital infrastructure. Our focus on innovation and data centre investments, as well as talent development is in anticipation of a digital-first future,” he added.
Alibaba Cloud’s talent development ambitions are embedded in Project AsiaForward’s three core programs: DigiTalents Forward, focused on digital upskilling; AI Forward, targeting developers; and DigiEntrepreneurs Forward, aimed at connecting promising business ideas with venture capital and real-life opportunities.
The company has already kicked off its DigiTalents Forward program in Singapore with the School of Computer Science and Engineering (SCSE) and the NTU-Alibaba Singapore Joint Research Institute (JRI) at Nanyang Technological University. The parties are planning to launch a variety of artificial intelligence (AI) courses under NTU’s MiniMasters program.
“Our strategic roadmap for APAC includes targeted investments to facilitate the digital transformation of local businesses,” said Selina Yuan, general manager of Alibaba Group’s International Business Unit. “We see these investments as all the more timely given the impact of the pandemic and the sharp rise in demand for digital business tools.
“Equally important is our focus on talent development and nurturing a digitally-competent workforce, which we see as a key challenge for many businesses to overcome going forward,” she added.
On 3 June, Alibaba Cloud claimed that it had become the first cloud provider in Singapore to attain all three key data protection certifications by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) – the Data Protection Trustmark Certification (DPTM), the APEC Cross Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) System and Privacy Recognition for Processors (PRP) System.
In May, it was revealed that Alibaba Group’s cloud computing revenue grew by 50 per cent year-on-year in the company’s fiscal year ending 31 March 2021, despite losing a major customer in the March quarter, with the business unit pulling in over RMB60.1 billion (close to US$9.2 billion) in the 12-month period.
For context, Alibaba Group as a whole claimed revenue of RMB187.4 billion (US$28.6 billion), an increase of 64 per cent year-over-year, during the year.
The results came after the Chinese company's cloud business was ranked by analyst firm Gartner in its April 2021 report as the largest infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) market provider in the Asia Pacific region, and the third largest provider globally.