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Singapore broadens access to AI skills

A national artificial intelligence initiative in Singapore is being extended to the general population to dispel fears that machines will take over people’s jobs

Singapore’s national artificial intelligence (AI) initiative has been extended to the country’s wider population, including school students and working adults, in an effort to broaden access to AI skills.

Through the AI for Everyone programme, which will be administered by AI Singapore, participants are expected to become more aware of AI and how AI can be used in their daily lives and companies through three-hour workshops.

The free workshops, open to students as young as 13 years old, will help to dispel fears that AI will displace jobs by enabling people to work more productively, AI Singapore executives said at its first anniversary event held at the National University of Singapore on 30 August 2018.

AI Singapore will publicise the workshops, which will be supported by curated content developed by Intel and Microsoft together with AI Singapore’s community and partners such as the Infocomm Media Development Authority, People’s Association and NTUC U-Associates.

In addition, participants will be given access to Kelaberetiv, AI Singapore’s online collaboration platform to connect to the wider AI community, as well as take part in discussions that could lead to research, business and employment opportunities.

Similar workshops are also being planned in conjunction with schools, polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education.

At the same time, engineers, software developers, managers and executives who are technically inclined and are keen to learn or improve Python programming skills needed to build AI applications can look forward to the AI for Industry programme.

Also administered by AI Singapore, the programme – starting with a 20-module course – will help participants better understand the use of AI and acquire basic programming skills to prepare them for future job opportunities.

The course curriculum – developed by DataCamp, an online data science education service provider – will be delivered over three months through one-hour tutorials by AI Singapore mentors and at least two face-to-face workshops at AI Singapore’s premises.

Course participants will continue to have access to the DataCamp platform for nine more months after completing the course to allow them to learn new techniques and expand their skills.

The course will cost S$500, though qualified individuals can apply for financial support under the government’s TechSkills Accelerator skills training initiative.

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Not to be left out are young AI professionals who can look forward to job attachments and AI courses conducted by AI Singapore and affiliated education organisations under the new AI apprenticeship programme (AIAP).

At the end of the training, AI professionals would have gained hands-on experience in industry AI projects, be equipped with relevant AI skills such as machine and deep learning programming and development, and be able to deploy AI as a data product or service.

Up to 200 AI professionals in batches of 20 to 30 trainees are expected to be enrolled over three years. AI Singapore said the AIAP may be opened to more trainees if there is strong demand from the industry.

AI Singapore was formed in May 2017 with an initial investment of up to S$150m over five years from the National Research Foundation, in a bid to enhance AI adoption in Singapore and address major challenges in the country using AI.

“Many countries including the US and China have significantly ramped up their investments in AI on multiple fronts,” said S. Iswaran, Singapore’s minister for communications and information

“Singapore cannot and should not seek to emulate their scale and scope; rather it’s more important that we identify and develop specific areas of focus and build on our AI capabilities,” he added.  

Earlier this year, AI Singapore set up a speech lab to develop a speech recognition system that can interpret and process the unique vocabulary used by Singaporeans – including Singlish and dialects – in daily conversations. 

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is expected to use the system to automatically transcribe information from distress calls.

“In an emergency, every minute counts. The new speech recognition system, if successful, will help reduce the time needed to log in the information. This will improve how the SCDF’s emergency medical resources are dispatched and enhance the overall health outcomes of those in need,” said Daniel Seet, director of operations and assistant commissioner at the SCDF.

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