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Singapore creates digital blueprint for generative AI and autonomous systems

Plans include green data centers and subsea cable investments.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor
Singapore financial district
Getty Images/Allan Baxter

Singapore has laid out a years-long roadmap it believes will ensure its digital infrastructure is ready to tap emerging technologies, such as generative artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous systems, and immersive multi-party interactions. 

The Digital Connectivity Blueprint maps out key priorities for the country's infrastructure over the next 10 years and serves as a foundation on which it can realize better opportunities, said Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo. 

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The blueprint encompasses physical infrastructures, including broadband, mobile networks and data centers, as well as "digital utilities" to facilitate secure and seamless cross-border transactions. These transactions include e-payments and invoicing, data exchanges, document authentication, and identity verification, said Teo. 

She added that the blueprint will place Singapore in a better position to embrace opportunities from emerging technology trends, such as generative AI and autonomous vehicles

The roadmap will require significant resources, she noted, pointing to submarine cables and data centers as two big-ticket items that will drive some SG$20 billion ($14.78 billion) in investments. Of this, SG$10 billion to SG$12 billion is expected to go toward building new green data centers, Teo said, adding that the private sector will fund most of the investments. 

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The Digital Connectivity Blueprint outlines plans to build 10Gbps nationwide connectivity in the next five years and provide capacity to double subsea cable landings within the next decade. 

"We will intensify the use of space and landing resources available, so operators can expand and further diversify the network of submarine cables," said the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), which developed the roadmap with the Ministry of Communications and Information. Efforts here will boost digital connectivity between Singapore, Southeast Asia, and other regions, IMDA said.  

The government agency added that spectrum will be allocated to enable faster Wi-Fi networks and standalone 5G networks to further improve their performance and support business adoption. "We envision a future where smooth 'handover' between different modes of connectivity also enables seamless movement between outdoor and indoor environments, paving the way for game-changing innovations, such as in logistics," the agency said. 

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Some 98% of households in Singapore currently have broadband access, typically at 1Gbps speeds. The goal is to bump this up to 10Gbps over the next five years, as Wi-Fi 6E and 5G standalone networks are rolled out. Infrastructure upgrades to achieve these speeds will begin in mid-2024, according to IMDA. 

There also will be initiatives in other nascent areas, such as quantum computing, where Singapore will aim to be quantum safe within the next 10 years. The country's dense urban environment and pervasive fiber network present an advantage in implementing quantum-safe communications, IMDA said. 

The government agency said plans are in place to pilot quantum-safe networks and quantum-as-a-service applications for commercial customers. "Known as the National Quantum Safe Network Plus (NQSN+), this will allow us to test, innovate and push the boundaries on both technical and commercial deployments," it said. 

Launch of innovation center with AWS

IMDA on Monday also announced its partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) through the launch of a joint innovation center. Pitched as a launchpad for businesses and startups in Southeast Asia, the new site houses various specialized labs, including 5G as well as augmented and virtual reality. It also has usability-testing facilities. 

Located at IMDA's own innovation hub Pixel, the innovation center will provide "exclusive access" to the latest technologies and methodologies for successful deployment, the Singapore agency said. More than 200 AWS technology offerings are available for experimentation, alongside project-based consultation with experts from IMDA and AWS. 

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The new innovation center will also provide connections to both IMDA's and AWS' network of startups and organizations across Southeast Asia, and the U.S. cloud vendor's partners. 

Companies can use the center to develop proof-of-concepts in a sandbox environment. The innovation center will showcase tech offerings built on AWS and from startups participating in IMDA's various programs, including accreditation schemes. 

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