S’pore sets aside S $ 180 million for AI research; launches e-GIRO: DPM Heng
Singapore is setting aside an additional S $ 180 million to accelerate artificial intelligence (AI) research. He also announced the launch of two national AI and e-GIRO programs.
Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat made the announcements during the opening address 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 opening remarks, DPM Heng noted that the market is far from perfect and that there is much more Singapore can and must do as it recovers from Covid-19. The country can recover faster by leveraging innovation – building momentum around technology to bring about radical change, doubling innovation to improve lives, and maximizing the impact of innovation.
“We need to rebuild a better world following the devastation caused by Covid-19. We need to decisively tackle global challenges such as climate change, ”Heng said.
“The coming years will determine the trajectory of humanity for decades to come. We can collectively do much more to amplify the impact of innovation and the dynamics of change, to build a better world.
Launch of two national AI programs; S $ 180 million in AI research
Singapore today launched two national AI programs, one in finance and the other in government.
The National AI in Finance Program will be an industry-wide AI platform for generating financial risk information called NovAI. It will aim to help financial institutions better assess a company’s environmental impact and identify emerging environmental risks.
Heng noted that over the next three decades, around $ 100,000 billion in climate-aligned finance will be needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. With the program, Singapore-based banks and local FinTech companies will collaborate to better enable financial institutions to assess investments and associated risks and controls against greenwashing.
The second AI program would be on the government side and aims to improve public sector service delivery within weeks.
One of the areas of this program would be the use of AI text analysis, or to better understand the large number of feedback frontline agencies receive each year. “This will allow us to better understand weak points and better serve citizens,” Heng said.
Another area for the government’s AI program will be providing a better job match and developing more personalized job and skill recommendations.
“This is especially important during the pandemic, when many have been displaced and are looking to turn to other industries. We use AI to develop more personalized job and skill recommendations. Based on our pilot project, this new tool improved the total number of work placements by 20%. “
DPM Heng said Singapore is seeing the first returns from its national AI strategy efforts. To further increase the impact. Singapore is setting aside an additional S $ 180 million to accelerate basic and translational AI research.
This is in addition to the S $ 500 million pledged so far.
“One of the areas where we’ll be focusing more and investing more money is resource-efficient AI. As a small country, our data sets are also small. So we need to better train our machines to learn from small but high quality datasets. “
Carbon tax and energy solutions
Mr Heng said Covid-19 has been a stark reminder that global challenges such as climate change must be addressed through 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 exceeded in the next 10 to 20 years, ”he noted.
Countries around the world, including Singapore, are pushing the boundaries of research and experimentation on sustainability technologies. But there is much more to be done. For solutions to move from pilot to scale, there must be the right market conditions.
The externalities of carbon emissions, such as the carbon tax, must be properly priced to curb climate change. “If we properly assess the externalities, it will also shape future investment decisions and boost decarbonization efforts,” said DPM Heng.
There is room to increase the current rate, and earlier this year Singapore announced it was revising 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 consequences in the short term. Raising carbon taxes is necessary to stimulate and create a much more sustainable future for everyone in the long run, ”he said.
Another area in which to build on energy efficiency is building financial and physical infrastructure to enable markets to function across borders. For example, solar power is one of the ways it could work.
“Many parts of Southeast Asia and Australia enjoy abundant sunshine and fully exploit the potential of renewable energies. We need a strong regional energy network for markets to function fully ”,
“We hope that our pilots will import electricity, and regional agreements such as the Lao-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project will pioneer a larger ASEAN power grid.”
“The current global energy crisis reminds us that conditions are not always homogeneous. And we have to pace our transition well. If the fundamentals of the market are right, we will eventually hit our target. “
DPM Heng also announced the launch of e-GIRO today.
GIRO is a direct debit mechanism that allows an individual to set up a standing instruction for a billing agency to make withdrawals from their bank accounts.
On average, there are around one million GIRO applications per year, but the current application process is manual.
It takes an average of three weeks to process a request and up to six weeks if further clarification is needed. The digitized process aims to dramatically 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 made more than 350 deals with more than S $ 5 billion.
“We are building a culture of innovation across our economy, with close collaboration between businesses, researchers and government agencies,” he said.
The country has a “strong commitment” to research and development over decades and has committed S $ 25 billion to research, innovation and enterprise over the next five years.
As much as innovation has advantages and as it flourishes and develops new ideas in the Republic, DPM Heng also warned of the need for safeguards to protect against the disadvantages of innovation. .
As more and more people consume information through social media, he noted that there was growing concern about fake news, the rise of extreme behaviors and the effect of mental well-being.
Even so, social media is a great way for people to connect and stay in touch, especially during the pandemic.
“We are now seeing bigger debates on the regulation of social media, an introduction of powers to fight fake news,” said DPM Heng.
He also noted that AI has “huge potential” for change, but it must also be used ethically.
Singapore contributes 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 analytics is fair, ethical, accountable and transparent.
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Featured Image Credit: Singapore FinTech Festival x SWITCH