How AWS's latest $8B investment is funding alignment with Singapore's AI goals

The cloud vendor also is working with Asean schools to train 5,000 individuals a year on AI skills over the next three years.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor
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Amazon Web Services (AWS) has pledged to invest another SG$12 billion (USD$8.88 billion) in Singapore, where it aims to align with the country's artificial intelligence (AI) development goals. AWS joins other cloud players -- including Google and Microsoft -- that have unveiled initiatives to sync up with the local government's AI ambitions. 

Since AWS launched its first Asia-Pacific region in Singapore in 2010, the company has invested more than SG$11.5 billion ($8.51 billion). The additional SG$12 billion will further support "planned investment" into the US cloud vendor's existing cloud infrastructure from 2024 to 2028, the company said Tuesday at the annual AWS Asean Summit in Singapore. 

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Currently, AWS operates 105 availability zones across 33 regions worldwide, including Tokyo, Seoul, Jakarta, and Hong Kong. It plans to launch another 18 availability zones and six regions that include Asian markets Malaysia and Thailand.

AWS would not confirm if the new funds injection could see the construction of new data centers in Singapore, saying only that capacity buildout would depend on customer demand. Currently, AWS has more than 2,000 workers across its business units in Singapore, including cloud services, operations, logistics, and data engineering.

The latest investment figure does include capital needed to operate and maintain its existing local infrastructure, Priscilla Chong, AWS' Singapore country manager, said during a media briefing held at the summit. AWS also will support 12,300 jobs through 2028 and its investment in AI here, Chong said. 

Specifically, it has unveiled a new scheme to support Singapore's National AI Strategy 2.0 that will see AWS partner with the government and organizations in both public and private sectors to drive the adoption of AI, including generative AI, in Singapore. 

Coined AWS AI Spring, the initiative also encompasses AI skilling and professional certification programs, startup support, and research and development.

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These efforts will tap AWS' AI and machine learning services as well as cloud infrastructure, and arm local students and businesses with the relevant skillsets, Chong said.

As part of the launch of AI Spring, AWS announced an agreement to partner with national health tech agency Synapxe on an application that will enable healthcare providers to tap data analytics and AI across healthcare systems. 

The cloud vendor also will work with industry regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to develop an AI adoption program for local organizations to identify and scale AI use cases, running on Amazon AI platforms that include Amazon Q, Bedrock, and SageMaker. 

Also, AWS will work with Institutes of Higher Learnings (IHLs) and schools such as the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to train 5,000 individuals a year on AI skills over three years. Its GenAI services will be used to support teachers and students. 

Aligning curriculum with GenAI

AWS on Tuesday inked an agreement with ITE to integrate AI teachings into the latter's curriculum. This will help ITE's students to develop the required competencies -- including GenAI -- to enter the workforce, said ITE CEO Low Khah Gek during the media briefing. 

Noting that AI already has disrupted all industries, she said students must be ready with the necessary knowledge, including how prompt engineering and LLMs will impact their work. 

Asked how ITE ensures its curriculum will cultivate skillsets that remain relevant even as GenAI technologies continue to evolve, Low said the institute regularly interacts with organizations from sectors such as hospitality to identify business use cases and the corresponding skills needed to support such deployment. 

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She underscored the need to continue to adapt while recognizing that the AI market continues evolving. 

Enterprises, too, should take the opportunity to move forward, especially as GenAI has made digital tools more accessible than before, said Leong Der Yao, IMDA's assistant chief executive for the Sectoral Transformation Group,

They can tap AI to transform and stay ahead, he said, but noted that businesses will need new skillsets to interpret the output and apply it in a fair and secure way

Leong added that its collaboration with AWS will further help Singapore enterprises, including small and mid-size businesses (SMBs), adopt GenAI and gain the skills to manage their deployment. 

These initiatives are part of AWS' pledge to support Singapore's AI development objectives, including efforts to build localized large language models (LLMs) and triple the number of AI professionals in the country to 15,000 over the next three to five years. AI Singapore's SEA-LION (Southeast Asian Languages in One Network), for instance, was trained on AWS' compute infrastructure. 

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Pre-trained and instruct-tuned for Southeast Asian languages and cultures, SEA-LION runs on two base models: a three-billion parameter model and a seven-billion parameter model. Its training data comprises 981 billion language tokens, including 623 billion English tokens, 128 billion Southeast Asia tokens, and 91 billion Chinese tokens. 

Google in March said its research arm would work with AI Singapore to enhance datasets used to train, finetune, and assess AI models in languages specific to the region. Called Project Southeast Asian Languages in One Network Data (SEALD), the initiative aims to "improve cultural context awareness" in LLMs built for the region and will further support training efforts for models under SEA-LION.

Datasets and output from Project SEALD will be integrated with GenAI applications developed by Google Cloud and the Singapore government to support community outreach. 

Microsoft, too, has inked several partnerships to drive AI in the Asian country, where the US cloud vendor is working with SkillsFuture Singapore to arm 2,000 local SMBs over three years with the knowledge to tap AI tools. Microsoft is also teaming up with the Institute for Adult Learning to integrate AI into the education curriculum, with plans to jointly develop and test AI tools and methodologies to enhance the learning experience.

In addition, it is working with EnterpriseSG and AI Singapore to drive the adoption of Microsoft Copilot among local SMBs and identify industry-specific use cases for GenAI. The partners will jointly develop resources to help SMB leaders with change management and redesigning business workflows.

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Cloud vendors play an important role in growing Singapore's digital economy ecosystem, said Tan Kiat How, Singapore's senior minister of state for the Ministry of Communications and Information, at the AWS summit. 

"Besides being a foundational digital infrastructure for organizations, cloud service providers enable enterprises to easily access digital resources like compute and storage, as well as advanced capabilities like AI," Tan said, lauding AWS' new investment plans for Singapore.

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