5 Singapore AI initiatives everyone should know
This article first appeared on IMDA.gov.sg (20 September 2018).
There is no doubt that artificial intelligence (AI) is a major trend now, and there’s no stopping Singapore from developing deeper capabilities in this domain.
IMDA, for example, has been promoting the development of AI skills as part of its focus on the key frontier technologies of a digital economy.
Another example: AI Singapore (AISG), which has just celebrated its first anniversary in end August. The national programme to boost Singapore’s artificial intelligence capabilities is a key initiative under the Services and Digital Economy (SDE) domain of the Research Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan.
AISG has launched the first grant calls in AI Research and AI in Health Grand Challenge as well as industry-related programmes such as 100 Experiments and the AI Apprenticeship Programme (AIAP).
Minister for Communications and Information, Mr S. Iswaran, made several announcements at the AISG’s Anniversary event. One key theme was the need to develop a strong pipeline of AI talent for the Singapore ecosystem in view of the global shortage.
Mr Iswaran noted that with the increasing digitalisation of the global economy, AI will bring many more growth opportunities. Hence many countries, including the two largest economies the US and China, have invested heavily in AI on multiple fronts.
Singapore, he highlighted, cannot – and should not – seek to emulate the scale and scope of theses countries’ approach, but rather “identify and develop specific areas of focus that can yield the best returns on our investments, by building on our AI and other capabilities.”
Here then, are five key AI capabilities-related initiatives with a Singapore twist – including two programmes that will reach 12,000 people.
1. AI for Everyone
Good news: AI for Everyone (AI4E), as the name implies, is meant to bring the topic to the masses.
AISG and IMDA will roll out this free introductory programme – conducted in partnership with Microsoft and Intel – for a wide audience of 10,000 people ranging from secondary school students to working adults, over three years.
These workshops will provide overviews of machine learning and deep learning, introduce some of the common tools, and share some real-world case studies.
Participants will develop a basic understanding of what AI and data science are about, and gain enough awareness to identify how to use AI at work and in daily life.
AISG will work with partners such as IMDA, the People’s Association and NTUC U-Associates on the workshops. Schools, polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education (ITE) will also host similar workshops.
One objective of AI4E is to clear up public misconception about AI.
Mr Laurence Liew, Industry Innovation Director of AI Singapore said that “AI is here to replace tasks not jobs”.
“This programme is more of an appreciation course and a path finder of sorts – to introduce participants to AI concepts and technologies. They will learn to identify opportunities enabled through AI technologies, thus allowing them to be more savvy consumers of AI products and services. AI is a technology that works best when preforming narrowly-defined tasks. Therefore, we see AI as a technology that augments human effort to help us do our jobs better, rather than replacing human functions.”
He added: “We want as many people in Singapore to be ready for the AI revolution.”
For more details, check out the AI4E website.
2. AI for Industry
AISG and IMDA will also collaborate on AI for Industry (AI4I), a three-month foundational programme for working professionals and students who are technically inclined and eager to learn programming – specifically, developing basic AI and data applications using the Python programming language.
Successful applicants – who must be Singaporeans or Permanent Residents – will undergo a hybrid online and offline programming curriculum with the DataCamp online platform, as well as face-to-face workshops. The knowledge and skills learnt will enable them to apply AI technologies to improve productivity and enhance the competitiveness of the companies they work in.
AI4I aims to train 2,000 AI users over the next three years. Upon completion, participants will each receive a Foundations in AI certification.
Here’s more good news: The AI4I fees will be subsidised by IMDA’s TeSA CITREP programme.
Potential applicants can check out the AI4I website.
3. AI Ethics Council
AI’s ethical conundrums – introduced by having machines that make decisions on our behalf – are a growing question which needs to be tackled and answered. And while there are no clear answers, and the field is brand new, Singapore has stated unequivocally that it wants to take action.
This is why it had previously announced the formation of an Advisory Council on the Ethical Use of AI and Data, led by Senior Counsel V.K. Rajah. The Council will consult businesses, trade associations and chambers, and consumers for their views – and offer recommendations on how organisations can develop and deploy AI solutions in a responsible and trusted manner.
Mr Iswaran announced the rest of the first council’s line-up at the AISG event.
He said: “With the growing use of AI in our economy and workforce, it also important that we proactively address the ethical concerns that may arise, in order to develop a trusted AI ecosystem which can derive the benefits from the innovations that companies deploy whilst ensuring that we have the confidence of consumer acceptance.”
The Council members, a mix of international and local leaders, and advocates of consumer interests, include:
- Ms Jenni Aldrich, Asia Pacific Vice President of Google;
- Mr Amit Anand, Managing Partner of Jungle Ventures;
- Professor Chan Heng Chee, Chairman of Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology and Design;
- Dr Chen Wei, Chief Operating Officer of Social Credits;
- Mr Chia Song Hwee, President of Temasek International;
- Mr Andreas Ebert, Worldwide National Technology Officer of Microsoft Corporation;
- Mr Piyush Gupta, Chief Executive Officer of DBS Group;
- Ms Hamidah Aidillah Mustafa, Founder of Parrot Social
- Mr Peter Ho, Chairman of National Supercomputing Centre Steering Committee; and
- Ms Sara Yu Siying, Group Vice President, Deputy General Counsel and Partner of Alibaba.
4. AI Apprenticeship Programme (AIAP)
The inaugural AI Apprenticeship Programme was launched last November. It is a partnership between AI Singapore and the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA), which is a SkillsFuture initiative driven by IMDA and strategic partners.
The apprentices in this intensive 9-month programme – including people without a computing background – go through a combination of in-depth AI courses and on-the-job training on industry projects. They get to work on real-world AI problems and are mentored by professionals working not just in AI, but also in Big Data and High Performance Computing.
AIAP aims to train up to 200 AI professionals by 2020, and the pioneer batch was just inducted in May 2018.
One such apprentice mentioned by Mr Iswaran was Ms Eunice Soh, who is working with Surbana Jurong on a project to predict lift breakdowns using AI. The AIAP has helped Eunice – a life sciences major without a computer science background – and others like her to pursue their career aspirations in AI.
Mr Iswaran added: “Building on the lessons from the first run, we will scale-up the AI Apprenticeship Programme so that more Singaporeans can obtain the requisite training to become an AI engineer.”
AIAP will welcome its second batch of AI apprentices in November 2018.
The AIAP webpage has more details for those interested in the programme.
5. 100 Experiments (100E) Programme
AISG’s 100E programme continues to grow in strength.
The programme, which started in October 2017, aims to accelerate the adoption of AI by the industry. 100 Experiments consist of significant industry-surfaced problem statements, brought forward by the project sponsor, for which no existing commodity-off-the-shelf (COTS) solution exists – but for which existing AI technologies can be quickly built with limited research.
The industry will be matched to the top AI minds in Singapore to solve their AI problem statements.
AISG has engaged close to 120 companies on the 100 Experiments Programme, with some 10 projects already kick-started – and more to come from the growing pipeline.
Several of the pioneering projects were demonstrated at the event, such as Surbana Jurong’s predictive lift maintenance, and KroniKare’s automatic assessment of chronic wounds in diabetic and elderly patients.
Check out the 100 Experiments page for more information.
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