Singapore: Government to invest additional $180 mil. to accelerate AI research

Two new public artificial intelligence (AI) programs have been launched as part of the republic’s strategy to use the technology to effect social and economic good.

These come as Singapore allocates an additional $180 million to accelerate AI research, on top of the $500 million it has committed to it so far.

The first program is the National AI Program in Finance. It includes an industry-wide AI platform — dubbed NovA! — which generates insights about financial risks.

NovA! is a collaboration between Singapore-based banks and local fintech firms, and aims to help financial institutions better assess companies’ environmental impact and identify emerging environmental risks.

The initiative will also better enable financial institutions to assess sustainability-related investments and associated risks such as greenwashing, which is when companies exaggerate or falsify their environmental credentials.

Experts have said roughly $100 trillion (135 trillion Singapore dollars) of climate-aligned funding will be needed to achieve the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 C above preindustrial levels.

More than 450 firms in the global financial industry at Glasgow’s COP26 climate change conference last week committed to align over $130 trillion worth of assets under their control with a net-zero emissions target by 2050.

NovA! was unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat at the sixth edition of the Singapore FinTech Festival x Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology on Nov. 8. He launched Singapore’s national AI strategy at the 2019 version of the flagship fintech and innovation event.

Singapore has five national AI programs, noted Mr. Heng, among them Selena+, an AI system under the health care program that detects major eye conditions from retinal scans.

“Selena+ managed to achieve a similar diagnostic accuracy as experienced human graders. We have since rolled this project out nationwide, to screen seniors and diabetic patients for eye diseases more efficiently. This has allowed us to provide early intervention more quickly and accurately,” said Mr. Heng.

The second AI program that was launched on Nov. 8 is the National AI Program in Government, which aims to improve the delivery of public sector services.

“One area is in the use of AI text analytics for better sense-making of the large amount of feedback that our frontline agencies receive each year. This will allow us to better understand the pain points and serve citizens better,” said Mr. Heng.

AI will also be used to improve job-matching on the national jobs portal, MyCareersFuture, he added. “This is particularly salient during the pandemic, where many have been displaced and are looking to switch to other industries. We are using AI to develop more personalized jobs and skills recommendations. Based on our pilot, this new tool has improved total job placements by 20%.”

Mr. Heng added that Singapore’s AI strategy also involves building a vibrant ecosystem for sustained innovation and a strong commitment to AI research and development.