Microsoft has announced plans to invest AUD5bn ($3.2bn) in Australia to expand the country’s hyper-scale computing and artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure.

The plan will be implemented within the next two years. Microsoft’s promise to boost Australia’s AI capabilities marks the single largest investment promised by the American company in its forty-year history in the country.

As part of the programme, Microsoft will work alongside the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to launch the Microsoft-Australian Signals Directorate Cyber Shield (MACS) initiative, which aims to improve protection from cyber threats for Australian residents, businesses and government institutions.

In addition, Microsoft is partnering with education and training provider TAFE NSW to establish a Microsoft Datacentre Academy in Australia. Together with its global skills programme, the company hopes to help over 300,000 Australians gain skills for a cloud and AI-based economy.

“This is a major investment in the skills and workers of the future, which will help Australia to strengthen our position as a world-leading economy,” said Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. “A priority of my Government is to ensure all Australians benefit from economic growth. This means that we need to provide the skills to enable Australians to succeed in the jobs of the future.”

The tech sector in Australia remains a hotbed for many investors looking to set up business in the Asia-Pacific region. According to GlobalData’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Database, there are 613 FDI projects counted in the Tech, Media and Telecom sectors, making it the most popular investment sector for FDI projects.

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Microsoft has seen its profits grow significantly in the last few years since Covid. Between 2019 and 2020, the company recorded a $17bn increase in sales, on par with several other US tech giants such as Alphabet ($21bn) and Facebook ($15bn).

Steven Worrall, managing director of Microsoft Australia and New Zealand, also welcomed the new investment plans, saying: “The infrastructure, skilling and cybersecurity investments and initiatives we announced today build on our long-term commitment to Australia but are squarely focused on the future.

“They will not only enable a safer and more secure digital economy but also provide a platform to foster growth and innovation in the era of AI,” Worrall continued.

A recent GlobalData poll across the company’s network of B2B websites as part of its Thematic Intelligence: Tech Sentiment Polls Q3 2023 found AI to be viewed as a highly promising technology, with 53% of 368 respondents believing it will live up to all of its hype.