Singapore is focused on leading artificial intelligence ("AI") development. Singapore believes that in order for it to survive and thrive, it must build its deep digital technology capabilities.
Under an earlier Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 (RIE2020) plan, it has so far committed to invest over S$500 million to further AI research innovation and enterprise.
In November 2019, it launched its National Artificial Intelligence Strategy ("NAS"), which outlines the next frontier of its smart nation journey. Through NAS, Singapore envisions that it will be a leader in developing and deploying scalable, impactful artificial intelligence ("AI") solutions, in key sectors of high value and relevance to its citizens and businesses by 2030. NAS is intended to allow Singapore to remain competitive on a global scale.
There are an initial tranche of 5 National AI Projects identified in NAS that are:
Intelligent Freight Planning
Seamless and Efficient Municipal Services
Chronic Disease Prediction and Management
Personalised Education through Adaptive Learning and Assessment
Border Clearance Operations
These five projects identified will guide Singapore to build up its supporting digital infrastructure.
How NAS 2019 works?
A National AI Office is established under the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office. It sets the national agenda for AI and catalyse efforts across research, industry and Government stakeholders to work on national AI priorities.
Singapore has also announced in NAS that it desires to work closely with key international organisations and standard-setting organisation to develop AI-related policies and standards.
Earlier, the Government also worked with the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution (WEF C4IR) to help drive ethical and responsible deployment of artificially intelligent technologies.
Key Takeaway 1: There will be focus on key sectors that enhances social or economic value
The NAS projects touch on social or economic value. Singapore intends to use AI to raise Government's capability to deliver anticipatory and personalised services, and will be a strong driver of growth in key sectors of the economy. Key sectors include electronics, chemicals, biomedical sciences, logistics and transport engineering.
AI is used to enhance customer experience and to drive efficiencies. AI-powered tools can help enhance productivity with document mining, pattern recognition for fraud detection, information extraction and analysis, thus transforming and innovating ways to generate insights.
For example, in healthcare, AI is planned to be used to analyse clinical and genomic data, medical images, and health behaviours to better assess the risk profile of individual patients, allowing for better prevention and care management.
Singapore is also encouraging companies to build up technological capabilities and digital infrastructure to transform with AI. In 2017, the National Research Foundation established AI Singapore that brings together Singapore researchers and companies to jointly develop innovative AI solutions and grow a pipeline of AI talent for industry. It is anchored on 3 key pillars that are AI Research, AI Technology and AI Innovation.
There are a few programmes that support the AI transformation journey which includes SMEs Go Digital Programme, AI Singapore's 100 Experiments programme and AI Makerspace.
These programmes involve assisting companies by giving step-by-step guide on the digital solutions to adopt at each stage of the company's growth. It also supports companies in deploying AI in a co-investment model such as on the 100 Experiments programme.
Key Takeaway 2: There will be emphasis on human-centricity of AI
Singapore is focused on ensuring that AI is developed with a human purpose in mind i.e. getting AI to serve human needs, rather than developing the technology for its own sake. Human-centricity is key to AI's success.
It is also getting its citizens and businesses to adopt AI. At the societal level, it is preparing its citizens for digital literacy and raising AI awareness.
It also intends to train more Singaporeans and attract top-tier global AI talent for high quality AI jobs. It is currently aiming to train 25,000 professionals in basic AI coding and implementation by 2025. It has a SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace that aims to equip the Singaporean workforce with the relevant mindset and skills to prepare them for the future economy.
Key Takeaway 3: Singapore will become a global hub for developing, test-bedding, deploying and scaling AI solutions
Singapore will also tap into international partnerships in areas such as data sharing and digital identity cross recognition, in order to better facilitate cross border AI collaboration to solve common challenges.
It recently announced a second edition of the Model AI Governance Framework at the 2020 World Economic Forum (WEF), aimed at improving consumer trust on the use and governance of artificial intelligence (AI). Clarifications around algorithm audits were also added.
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) – Singapore's lead government agency that spearheads scientific research and innovative technology – has in recent years established several premises to promote advanced manufacturing technology adoption and testing.
A*Star also aids companies by seconding scientists and research engineers to aid in the SMEs R&D projects for up to two years.
AI is a term coined 70 years ago, but recent advances in processing power and sensor technologies have furthered AI's ability to process data, extract insights and deploy these to lives. AI is beneficial in many areas of lives.
Singapore is aiming to become a global leader in AI. It will play to its strengths – namely its efficient government, strong digital foundations and digital literacy, as well as first-world digital infrastructure.
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Smart Nation SG, National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, https://www.smartnation.sg/docs/default-source/default-document-library/national-ai-strategy.pdf
ZDNet, Singapore Releases Latest AI Framework Edition To Improve Governance and Trust, https://www.zdnet.com/article/singapore-releases-latest-ai-framework-edition-to-improve-governance-and-trust/, 22 January 2020