Govt needs to widen training for students and professionals, set up research centres, enhance public awareness to harness technology benefits: Expert

KUALA LUMPUR: Challenges such as high costs, specialised maintenance requirements, limited local infrastructure, and a shortage of skilled professionals in quantum computing are holding Malaysia back.

Nanotechnologist and Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation Assoc Prof Dr Lai Nai Shyan said quantum computing, which promises faster solutions to complex problems in finance, healthcare, logistics, and technology, is still in its early stages and needs to be accelerated for the country’s progress.

“Quantum computing uses qubits, which can be 0, 1, or both at once, making it much faster than traditional computers and supercomputers in solving complex problems.

“It can potentially revolutionise industries by breaking codes, optimising routes and investments, simulating molecules for new pharmaceutical drugs, enhancing artificial intelligence, and performing complex calculations swiftly.”

He said Malaysia is not alone in its quest for quantum advancement as IoT World Today, which is a source offering insights, news, and analysis on the internet of things, reported that many wealthy countries are investing in quantum computing research on their own or in partnerships with others.

Lai said some middle-income countries have also started pilot programmes, but despite challenges like resources and expertise, more than 20 governments worldwide have launched national quantum initiatives since 2009, collectively investing over RM141 billion in it.

“Developments by the world’s largest IT companies also highlight a pathway for Malaysia to follow, potentially enhancing the country’s computational capabilities.”

Lai said a group of local scientists who graduated from top universities have established the Malaysia Quantum Information Initiative (MyQI) to nurture the quantum ecosystem.

“Through partnerships with universities in Singapore, Finland and Australia, MyQI members have received training to enhance Malaysia’s capabilities in this innovative field.”

Despite these initiatives, Lai is worried that Malaysia currently lacks the fundamentals for quantum computing.

“While IT companies like IBM and Google are heavily investing in countries with quantum computing, awareness within Malaysian industries is growing but still very limited.

“This could be due to poor awareness and the absence of IT-related courses which have led to a shortage of professionals skilled in quantum computing and related technologies within the country.”

Lai also said no significant pilot projects or early adopters exist in the country as advanced infrastructure is needed for scalable quantum computing, such as cryogenic systems that operate at extremely low temperatures.

“Cryogenic systems are essential for maintaining the delicate states necessary for quantum computing. High-performance computing centres typically do not have the necessary facilities to support quantum systems.”

To bridge this talent gap, Lai suggested that the government widen quantum computing learning at the school level and promote specialised degree programmes.

“Increasing public awareness and training students and professionals in quantum computing is crucial for preparing Malaysian industries to harness the benefits of this transformative technology.

“Several public universities, including Universiti Malaya, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and others, offer courses related to quantum computing.

“However, the country currently lacks dedicated degree programmes in this field.”

Lai highlighted Malaysia’s potential to quickly develop specialised quantum computing programmes with support from overseas-trained PhD holders.

“It is also crucial for government investment and collaborative efforts to establish research centres, fund projects, engage industry leaders, attract global experts, and enhance public awareness.

“Moreover, a national quantum strategy is essential for more significant progress.”