Singapore is reserving an additional $ 180 million to accelerate artificial intelligence (AI) research. It also announced the launch of two national AI and e-GIRO programs.
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat made these announcements in 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 Covid-19 country can be reclaimed.
In his opening speech, DPM Heng noted that the market is far from perfect and that Singapore can and should do much more when it recovers from the Covid-19. The country can recover faster by leveraging innovation: generating momentum around technology to change course, duplicating innovation to improve lives, 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 resolutely address global challenges such as climate change,” Heng said.
“The coming years will determine the trajectory of humanity over the coming decades. We can do much more collectively to amplify the impact of innovation and drive change, to build a better world. “
Two national AI programs were launched; 180 million Australian dollars in AI research
Singapore today launched two national AI programs: one on finance and one on 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 over the next three decades, some $ 100 trillion in climate-aligned financing will be needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. With the program, Singapore-based banks and local FinTech companies will work together to enable financial institutions to better assess investments and the associated risks and controls against eco-laundering.
The second AI program would be at the forefront of government and aims to improve the delivery of public sector services in several weeks.
One area of this program would be the use of text analysis with artificial intelligence or to make better sense of the large amount of feedback that front-line agencies receive each year. “This will allow us to better understand the painful points and better serve the citizens,” Heng said.
Another area of the government’s AI program will be to offer better job matching and develop recommendations for more personalized skills and jobs.
“This is especially relevant during the pandemic, when many have been displaced and want to switch to other industries. We are using AI to develop more personalized job recommendations and skills. Based on our pilot, this new tool has improved total job placements. by 20 percent. “
DPM Heng said Singapore is seeing initial benefits from its national AI strategy efforts. To further increase the impact. Singapore is reserving an additional $ 180 million to accelerate fundamental and translational AI research.
This adds to the $ 500 million committed so far.
“One of the areas where we will focus more and invest more funds is in resource efficient AI. As a small country, our data sets are also small. So we need to better train our machines to learn. of small but high quality datasets “.
Carbon tax and energy solutions
Heng said the Covid-19 has been a compelling reminder that global challenges such as climate change must be tackled with collective action.
“Climate change is probably the most serious threat to humanity. Our current trajectory, the global warming threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius, could be breached in the next 10 or 20 years,” he noted.
Countries around the world, including Singapore, are pushing the boundaries of research and experimentation in sustainability technology. But there is so much more to do. For solutions to go from pilot to scale, there needs to be the right market conditions.
The externalities of carbon emissions, such as the carbon tax, must be properly assessed to curb climate change. “If we put a fair price on externalities, this will also shape future investment decisions and stimulate decarbonisation efforts,” DPM Heng said.
There is room to increase the current rate, and earlier this year Singapore had announced that it would review 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 rising cost pressures for households and businesses. This will affect the cost of living and our competitiveness. But we will mitigate the consequences in the short term. “Increasing carbon taxes is needed to stimulate and create a much more sustainable future for everyone in the long run,” he said.
Another area to boost energy efficiency is to establish financial and physical infrastructures that allow markets to function across borders. For example, solar energy is a way of working.
“Many parts of Southeast Asia and Australia have a lot of sunlight and to take full advantage of the potential of renewable energy. We need a strong regional energy grid for markets to function fully.”
“We expect our pilots to import electricity and regional agreements such as the Lao-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore electricity integration project will serve as an indicator towards ASEAN’s wider electricity grid.”
“The ongoing global energy crisis is a reminder that conditions are not always perfect. And we must access our transition well. If the fundamental market conditions are right, we will finally reach our goal.”
DPM Heng also announced today the launch of E-GIRO.
GIRO is a direct debit mechanism that allows a person to set up a standing instruction for a billing organization to make deductions from their bank accounts.
On average, there are around 1 million GIRO applications a year, but the current application process is manual.
It takes an average of three weeks to process an application and up to six weeks if more clarification is needed. The digitized process aims to significantly shorten processing times and improve the user experience.
Singapore’s thriving startup ecosystem
DPM Heng noted that Singapore is a thriving home ecosystem, which has put innovation at the forefront of everything it does.
In the first half of this year alone, it has reached more than 350 agreements with more than A $ 5 billion.
“We are building a culture of innovation throughout our economy, with close collaboration between companies, researchers and government agencies.”
The country has a “firm commitment” to research and development over the decades and has pledged A $ 25 billion to research, innovation and business over the next five years.
As much as there are benefits to innovation and although it flourishes and develops new ideas in the Republic, DPM Heng also warned about the need to have railings to protect oneself from the drawbacks of innovation.
As more people consume information through social media, he noted that there has been a growing concern about fake news, increased extreme behavior and the effect of mental well-being.
While social media is a great way for people to connect and stay in touch, especially during a pandemic.
“We are now seeing more debates about the regulation of social media, an introduction of powers to address 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 a number of ways. One example is Veritas, a framework for financial institutions to ensure that the use of AI and data analysis is fair, ethical, accountable and transparent.
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Featured Image Credit: Singapore FinTech Festival x SWITCH