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Singapore sets national AI strategy with focus on skills and ethics

Singapore is kicking off its national AI strategy with five key projects spanning logistics, healthcare, smart estates, education and border security

Singapore is ramping up efforts to harness artificial intelligence (AI) across its economy through a national strategy that encompasses skills training and industry partnerships while promoting the responsible use of AI.

Unveiling the national AI strategy at the Singapore Fintech Festival, Singapore’s deputy prime minister, Heng Swee Keat, said AI is the country’s next step in its smart nation initiative, noting that AI is already being used in several aspects of daily life.

To bring the strategy to fruition, the government has identified five national AI projects to address key national challenges, and to deliver social and economic benefits to Singaporeans. These projects include intelligent freight planning in logistics, smart estates, chronic disease management in healthcare, personalised education and border security.

Heng said the national AI strategy will be rolled out iteratively, to respond to the rapidly changing technology landscape and to tap new opportunities brought about by AI. The government will continue to apply AI in areas that will deliver impact to Singaporeans, beyond the five national projects.

Key to Singapore’s national AI strategy are partnerships between the research community, industry, and government to speed up and commercialise AI offerings. This will build on Singapore’s existing research and development capabilities, and an existing S$500m investment to further AI developments under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan.

The government will also prepare Singaporeans to take on high-quality AI jobs, strengthen the ability of both public and private sectors to manage and exchange data securely, and address AI ethics through initiatives like the AI governance framework developed by Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Commission and Infocomm Media Development Authority.

Separately, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the country’s central bank, is working with the financial industry to develop a framework for financial institutions to promote responsible adoption of AI and data analytics.

David Hardoon, special advisor for AI at MAS, said: “AI has the potential to transform financial services, but it must be used in a safe and responsible manner. Good governance is essential to AI adoption in the financial industry.”

Singapore’s national AI strategy was welcomed by industry players such as SAP. “AI is an exciting field in technology that has the potential to transform the way we conduct business and how societies are run,” said Khor Chern Chuen, managing director of SAP Singapore.

“The key to unleashing the promise of AI lies in collaboration – this means researchers, regulators and businesses must align objectives and establish a common approach in harnessing AI. The national AI strategy is a great starting initiative that involves all stakeholders within the ecosystem, rallying all parties to shape the way AI is deployed on a national level.”

Jean Francois Gagné, co-founder and CEO of Element AI, the Canadian AI unicorn that the Singapore government had consulted on national AI initiatives, said: “Singapore is becoming a leader in AI, with its increased focus and investments across its burgeoning AI ecosystem which is supported by its sound governance and regulatory frameworks.”

Earlier in the year, Apache Singa, the Singapore-developed distributed computing platform for training deep learning models over large datasets, was conferred top-level project status under the Apache Software Foundation.

With its focus on healthcare applications and scalable architecture that can run on a range of hardware including graphics processing units, Apache Singa is already being used by National University Hospital and Singapore General Hospital to analyse MRI and X-ray images to better identify health problems.

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