Singapore is setting aside an additional S $ 180 million to accelerate research into artificial intelligence (AI). It also announced the launch of two national artificial intelligence and e-GIRO programs.
This was announced by Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Heng Swee Keat during the opening speech of the Singapore FinTech Festival x Singapore Week of Innovation & Technology (SWITCH) on Monday (November 8).
These announcements were made as part of three broad strategies listed by DPM Heng on how the country can recover from Covid-19.
In his keynote address, DPM Heng noted that the market is far from perfect and that Singapore can and should do much more to recover from Covid-19. The country can recover faster by harnessing innovation, boosting technology to bring about a change of pace, doubling innovation to improve life, and maximizing the impact of innovation.
“We need to rebuild a better world in the wake of the devastation caused by Covid-19. We need to address global challenges such as climate change decisively, ”Heng said.
“The next few years will determine the trajectory of humanity for the decades to come. Together we can do much more to amplify the impact of innovation and the momentum of change, to build a better world. “
Two national AI programs launched; S $ 180 million in artificial intelligence research
Singapore today launched two national artificial intelligence programs: one in the financial sector and one in the government.
The National AI Program in Finance will be an industry-wide AI platform for generating financial risk information, called NovAI. It will focus on helping financial institutions better assess a company’s environmental impact and identify emerging environmental risks.
Heng noted that about $ 100 trillion in climate-aligned finance will be needed over the next three decades to meet the Paris Agreement goals. With the program, Singapore-based banks and local FinTech companies will work together to enable financial institutions to better assess investments and associated risks and controls against greenwashing.
The second artificial intelligence program would be on the government front and aims to improve the delivery of public sector services over several weeks.
One area of this program would be in using AI text analytics, or to make better sense of the large number of feedback frontline agencies receive each year. “This will allow us to better understand the weaknesses and better serve the citizens,” said Heng.
Another area for government AI programs will be to provide a better match between jobs and to develop more personalized jobs and skills recommendations.
“This is particularly important during the pandemic, when many have been displaced and are trying to move to other sectors. We use artificial intelligence to develop more personalized advice on jobs and skills. Based on our pilot project, this new tool has improved total job placements by 20%. “
DPM Heng said Singapore is seeing early returns from its national AI strategy efforts. To further increase the impact. Singapore is setting aside an additional $ 180 million to accelerate fundamental and translational research on artificial intelligence.
This is on top of the $ 500 million allocated so far.
“One of the areas where we will focus the most and invest the most funds is resource-efficient artificial intelligence. Being a small country, our datasets are also small. So we need to train our machines better to learn from small but high quality data sets. “
Carbon tax and energy solutions
Heng said Covid-19 was a stark reminder that global challenges such as climate change need to be addressed with collective action.
“Climate change is probably the greatest threat to humanity. Our current trajectory, the global warming threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius, could be crossed in the next 10-20 years,” he noted.
Countries around the world, including Singapore, are pushing the boundaries of sustainability technology research and experimentation. But there is much more to do. For solutions to go from pilot to scalable, the right market conditions must be in place.
Carbon externalities, such as the carbon tax, need to be properly assessed to curb climate change. “If we evaluate externalities correctly, this will also shape future investment decisions and stimulate decarbonization efforts,” said DPM Heng.
There is room for increasing the current rate, and earlier this year Singapore announced that it is reviewing carbon tax rates for 2024 and beyond. The review is ongoing and the decision will be announced early next year.
“Raising carbon taxes is not easy. In the short term, there will be upward pressure on costs for households and businesses. This will affect the cost of living and our competitiveness. But we will mitigate the short-term consequences. The increase in carbon taxes is necessary to stimulate and create a much more sustainable future for all in the long term, “he said.
Another area to rely on energy efficiency is building financial and physical infrastructure to allow markets to function across borders. For example, solar power is one way it could work.
“Many parts of Southeast Asia and Australia have an abundance of sunlight and take full advantage of the potential of renewable energy. We need a solid regional energy network for the markets to function fully “
“We hope that our pilot projects will import electricity and that regional agreements such as the Lao-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore energy integration project will lead the way towards a wider ASEAN power grid.”
“The current global energy crisis reminds us that conditions are not always perfect. And we need to manage our transition well. If the fundamental market conditions are right, we will eventually reach our goal. “
DPM Heng also announced the launch of e-GIRO today.
GIRO is a direct debit mechanism that allows an individual to set up a permanent statement for a billing organization to make deductions from their bank accounts.
On average, there are around one million LAP applications per year, but the current application process is manual.
It takes on average three weeks to process an application and up to six weeks if further clarification is needed. The digitized process aims to significantly reduce processing times and improve the user experience.
Singapore’s thriving startup ecosystem
DPM Heng noted that Singapore is a thriving startup ecosystem, having put innovation at the forefront of everything it does.
In the first half of this year alone, it achieved more than 350 deals with more than S $ 5 billion.
“We are building a culture of innovation across our economy, with close collaboration between companies, researchers and government agencies.”
The country has a “steadfast commitment” to research and development over the decades and has committed $ 25 billion to research, innovation and enterprise over the next five years.
As much as there are benefits from innovation and as new ideas flourish and develop in the Republic, DPM Heng also warned about the need to have guardrails to protect against the disadvantages of innovation.
As more and more people consume information through social media, he noted that there has been a growing concern over fake news, the rise of extreme behaviors, and the effect of mental well-being.
That’s even though social media is a great way for people to connect and stay connected, especially during the pandemic.
“We are now seeing more debates on social media regulation, an introduction of powers to deal with fake news.”
He also noted that AI has “enormous potential” for change, but it must also be used ethically.
Singapore is contributing to the ethical use of AI in various ways. One example is Veritas, a framework for financial institutions to ensure that the use of artificial intelligence and data analytics is fair, ethical, accountable and transparent.
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Featured image credit: Singapore FinTech Festival x SWITCH