Singapore launches national AI schemes, adds $133M investment to research

Two programmes will look to drive the adoption of artificial intelligence in the government and financial services sectors, with another SG$180 million to be invested in the national research plan to tap the technology in key areas, such as healthcare and education.

Singapore has unveiled two new programmes to drive the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) in the government and financial services sectors. It also plans to invest another SG$180 million ($133.31 million) in the national research and innovation strategy to tap the technology in key areas, such as healthcare and education.

The fund is on top of SG$500 million ($370.3 million) the government already has set aside in its Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2025 Plan for AI-related activities, said the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) in a statement Monday. These investments have been earmarked to support various research in areas that address challenges of AI adoption, such as privacy preserving AI, and of societal and economic importance including healthcare, finance, and education. The funds also will facilitate research collaborations with the industry to drive the adoption of AI. 

The two new AI schemes are part of Singapore's national AI strategy, with the government programme aimed at advancing the sector's digital transformation. "Through greater use of AI in government agencies, the government hopes to strengthen policymaking and planning, provide more personalised and responsive services, and optimise government processes for the benefit of citizens and businesses," said SNDGO. 

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The goal here is for AI to be integrated in applications that can be deployed across the public sector. 

For example, the government's CIO office GovTech developed a video analytics system that can be tapped as video analytics models, hence, speeding up deployment. NParks and GovTech used the video analytics system to develop the Safe Distance @ Parks portal in 3.5 days, providing live crowd density data in parks, gardens, and nature reserves across the island. The data would allow the public to make informed decisions on where to go. 

The government also highlighted AI text analytics as another focus area, where it hoped to tap technologies such as natural language processing to better decipher information, including feedback it received annually from its frontline agencies. The data would help the public sector better understand pain points and improve its services, said SNDGO.

In addition, it would looking to establish use cases to demonstrate how AI could be tapped. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), for example, is developing an AI-powered application for urban planning and design, which will enable urban planners to use AI tools to create plans that achieve greater sustainability and adaptability. 

GovTech also is developing an AI platform with recommendation engines to facilitate career coaches and provide jobseekers with personalised jobs and skills recommendations. Called JumpStart, the AI project already has processed more than 2,000 job placements and has the potential, based on data from a previous trial, to improve job placements by 20%. The software currently is used to power the government's jobs portal, MyCareersFuture. 

Priming of Singapore as AI financial hub

The second national AI programme will look to build AI capabilities in Singapore's financial services sector, with the goal to bolster risk management, business competitiveness, and customer service delivery. 

Led by the the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and SNDGO's National AI Office, the programme would aim to strengthen the ability of financial institutions to research, develop, and roll out AI tools that could increase productivity, create new roles, and boost AI-related skills, These AI applications also should establish sound AI governance, so societal acceptance of the technology could be improved, said MAS and SNDGO in a joint statement Monday. 

Both government agencies would offer funding and contribute government data as well as gather the necessary experts to drive the adoption of AI in the sector. 

One key focus is sustainable finance, especially as an estimated SG$250 million a year will be poured into green investments in the Asean region over the next decade, according to SNDGO

To better enable Singapore's financial institutions to tap such opportunities, the national AI programme will develop an AI platform to generate financial risk insights and help these organisations assess companies' environmental impact and identify emerging environmental risks. 

Called NovA!, the system will be developed by Aicadium, which is a subsidiary of Temasek Holdings, alongside local fintech companies and Singapore-based banks. More use cases also will be added to the platform in subsequent phases. 

The AI programme also would build on current initiatives to ensure AI systems in the financial sector were deployed responsibly and to facilitate data-sharing between public and private organisations, so more sophisticated applications of AI could be developed. 

MAS has completed the first phase of an AI governance framework and toolkit, Veritas, which is designed to help financial institutions utilise AI and data analytics responsibly. The framework is based the regulator's fairness, ethics, accountability, and transparency (FEAT) principles. 

TMAS also is developing a data-sharing platform, called COSMIC, to enable financial institutions to share information on customers or transactions that cross material-risk thresholds and tap AI to identify and prevent illicit networks. The initiative is parked under MAS' Anti-Money Laundering/Countering Financing of Terrorism Surveillance and Analytics Programme.

MAS' managing director Ravi Menon said: "Key to this programme is active collaboration--across financial institutions and relevant government agencies--to build platforms, solutions, and capabilities that serve the financial sector as a whole."

According to SNDGO, more than 5,000 working professionals over the past three years had upskilled under AI Singapore's AI for Industry programme. Another 180 AI engineers also were trained under the AI Apprenticeship programmes.

The Ministry of Education, from this year, enhanced baseline digital competencies at the Higher Education level, including deepening digital and AI competencies under its National Digital Literacy Programme.

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