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Singapore ups ante in AI with sectoral programmes

Singapore launches two national AI programmes to bolster adoption of AI by financial institutions and the public sector

Singapore has launched a national artificial intelligence (AI) programme in finance to build deep AI capabilities in its financial sector and strengthen customer service, risk management and business competitiveness.

Announced by Singapore’s deputy prime minister, Heng Swee Keat, at the Singapore FinTech Festival, the programme is a joint initiative by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the National AI Office at the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO).

Through the programme, which is part of Singapore’s broader national AI strategy, financial institutions will be able to enhance their ability to research, develop and deploy AI solutions to increase productivity and create new jobs, among other goals.

MAS and SNDGO will provide funding, contribute government data and bring together experts to drive AI adoption in the financial sector.

One of the key initiatives to be developed under the programme is an AI technical platform called Nova! to generate insights on financial risk.

In the initial phase, Nova!, to be developed by Aicadium, a Temasek portfolio company, will help financial institutions harness AI to assess the environmental impact of organisations and identify emerging environmental risks.

“Over the next three decades, an estimated $100tn of climate-aligned funding will be needed to achieve the Paris Agreement targets,” said Heng. “Nova! will better enable financial institutions to assess these investments and associated risks, and check against greenwashing.”

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Another initiative is the Collaborative Sharing of Money Laundering/Terrorism Financing Information and Cases (Cosmic) platform, to be rolled out in 2023.

The secure data sharing platform will enable financial institutions to share and analyse information on customers or transactions that cross material risk thresholds, so that they can thwart illicit networks and safeguard Singapore as a financial centre.

Besides finance, a national AI programme for government was also announced to improve public sector service delivery through the use of AI. For example, with AI text analytics, government agencies will be able to make better sense of the large amount of feedback they receive each year.

Another area is the use of AI to develop more personalised jobs and skills recommendations on Singapore’s national jobs portal. Heng said that based on an initial pilot, the new tool has improved total job placements by 20%.

To increase the impact of its AI efforts, Singapore is setting aside an additional S$180m (US$134m) to accelerate fundamental and translational AI research. This is on top of the S$500m committed so far.

Resource-efficient AI

Heng said that one area where Singapore will invest more funds is resource-efficient AI. “As a small country, our datasets are also small, so we need to better train our machines to learn from small but high-quality datasets,” he said.

“Our investment in AI R&D is not large relative to global investments in this field, but by focusing on where we can make the greatest impact, we can make every effort count.”

Stella Cramer, global co-head of technology and partner at Norton Rose Fulbright, a global law firm, said the launch of national AI programmes targeted at financial services and government is consistent with Singapore’s strategy to be a global leader in AI.

She noted that the government has taken steps to support AI and innovation, including updating data protection laws to facilitate use of data for business improvement and research purposes, and entering into digital economy agreements with various countries to facilitate global collaboration.

“On a domestic level, we see the government take a sector-to-sector approach with its national AI programmes, encouraging industry players to collaborate for the sake of innovation,” said Cramer. “This is key for data innovation where large datasets are key to be effective.”

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