Singapore to be living lab for AI

Self-driving taxis, robots in preschool that function as teaching assistants, AI tools that analyse chest x-rays and diagnose skin cancer, a personal shopping assistant that helps you navigate both your digital and in-store shopping experience with ease – artificial Intelligence is no longer the stuff of science fiction books.

AI applications in network analytics, video analytics, speech and facial recognition will be Singapore’s next big phase in its Smart Nation journey.

Speaking last month at the Smart City Expo World Congress opening ceremony in Spain, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan announced that Singapore has invested more than $500 million to advance the field of AI research and enterprise.

The island-state aims to be a trailblazer in driving AI as a technology for transformation.

In fact, the Smart Nation Digital Government Office (SNDGO) has been established with the ambitious goal of deploying scalable, impactful AI solutions that will transform Singapore’s economy and societies.

“Domestically, our private and public sectors will use AI decisively to generate economic gains and improve lives. Internationally, Singapore will be recognised as a global hub in innovating, piloting, test-bedding, deploying and scaling AI solutions for impact,” said the SNDGO, which is part of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The government is already leading the way with AI that can detect cases of drowning, send alerts about potential fraud on SkillsFuture, and speech recognition tools that transcribe parliamentary debates.

Interestingly, across the ASEAN region, AI adoption has been highest in Indonesia and Thailand, followed by Singapore.

Despite being a digitally literate population, Singaporeans might be wary about trusting humanoid robots to perform highly sophisticated tasks traditionally done by human experts.

Steve Leonard, CEO of SGInnovate, a government-owned firm that funds deep tech startups, observes that it is often social adoption that is a bigger barrier than the technology itself.

After all, AI is about giving tools to humans to do their work better. Similar to the stethoscope, it is merely a tool for a doctor. It does not replace the doctor.

But in the face of slowing economic growth, declining capital investment, falling productivity, and a greying population, Singapore’s only solution might well be its very best.

AI offers massive opportunities for generating social and industrial value for the Lion City.

The government is placing its bets particularly in the areas of manufacturing, finance, healthcare, supply chain, cybersecurity, national safety, and government services.

As part of the National AI strategy, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat highlighted the importance of  Veritas – a framework to drive responsible and ethical adoption of AI by financial institutions.

Veritas allows financial companies to assess their AI technologies against standards of fairness, ethics, accountability, and transparency. These principles are part of the guidelines established by the Monetary Authority of Singapore to drive better accountability and governance in AI application and data management.

Picture credit: Jason Goh on Pixabay