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Singapore unveils new strategy aimed at developing AI ecosystem

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Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat speaking at SFF x Switch 2019

SINGAPORE will embark on its plan to develop and use artificial intelligence (AI) by implementing projects in key high-value sectors and building a holistic AI ecosystem, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Wednesday.

During a speech at the inaugural SFF X SWITCH conference, he emphasised the importance of AI in Singapore's Smart Nation vision; in creating social and economic value for the country through raising productivity and the quality of public goods such as transport, education and healthcare.

Singapore's National AI Strategy (NAIS) will see over S$500 million committed to funding activities related to AI under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 Plan, in hopes of furthering AI capabilities in these fields. 

Highlighted in the NAIS, Singapore will start by focusing on five key sectors to concentrate its efforts on - transport and logistics, smart cities and estates, safety and security, healthcare, and education. 

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These National AI projects aim to channel investment for research and development, anchor talent and guide the development of supporting digital infrastructure in Singapore.

For example, in healthcare, AI can be used to predict, detect and manage chronic diseases. Risk profiles can be set up such that patients at higher risk of developing complications will be identified earlier, and preventive measures can be taken. 

For example, AI system SELENA+ is able to detect major eye conditions such as diabetic eye disease and glaucoma just from analysing retinal photographs. The system's capabilities will also be extended to develop a predictive risk assesment model for cardiovascular disease.

As the backbone of these projects, a vibrant and sustainable AI ecosystem is imperative to "anchor AI innovation and adoption across the economy", said Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) in a press statement.

Therefore, the government will help to build Singapore's AI ecosystem through five different "ecosystem enablers". These include having partnerships with research communities and the industry, education and talent acquisition in AI and also enabling the sharing of data in a quick and secure way.

One approach is by deepening investments in AI-related R&D (research and development) across research environments. For example, over the next five years, Singapore will be investing S$200 million to upgrade its supercomputing capabilities, as well as network speeds and quality to support computing performance. This will also help to support the development and training of new AI algorithms and models.

A National AI Office was set up under SNDGO on Oct 1 to work on Singapore's AI priorities.

For all our coverage on this year’s Singapore FinTech Festival x Singapore Week of Innovation and TeCHnology (SWITCH), go to bt.sg/sffxswitch2019