Microsoft has entered an agreement with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and AI Singapore to enhance regional AI capability and research through the application of AI.
The agreement, signed during the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit 2018 at NUS acknowledges the regional skills shortage in AI and looks to address it head-on.
The deal is established under a three-year initiative known as the Microsoft-AISG joint innovation program with the purpose of up-skilling professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) with expertise in AI.
“This collaboration with Microsoft will accelerate our AI capabilities, empower our researchers and encourage innovation,” said Professor Tan Eng Chye, president of the National University of Singapore.
“We are thrilled to see how this cooperation can further improve our research productivity as well as boost our ability to develop and deliver better solutions to address the critical and complex issues that are relevant to Singapore, Asia and beyond."
The agreement encompass three significant components, namely, an ‘AI immersion program’, ‘AI for real’, and ‘AI for research’.
“We believe that we have a responsibility to work together to up-skill today’s professionals," said Professor Ho Teck Hua, executive chairman, AI Singapore. "Our collaboration with Microsoft will strengthen our efforts in AI education, up-skilling and retraining in Singapore."
The AI immersion program sets out to equip PMETs with the necessary skills needed in the industry using the curriculum from the Microsoft professional program with support for placing them into new jobs through the AI for real program.
The AI for real program will provide real-life, first-hand AI deployment experience and training to PMETs who will help 100 AI pilot projects that run on the Azure platform across multiple organisations.
For the AI for research program, both organisations will conduct a series of workshops on Microsoft’s AI for good initiatives, which comprise AI for Earth and AI for Accessibility. This program will also identify socially beneficial projects powered by AI.
“Because the skills required for jobs in the AI economy are changing so rapidly, we need to ensure that our systems prepare, educate, train and retrain current and future workforce,” said Kevin Wo, managing director of Microsoft Singapore.
“The Microsoft AI Singapore joint innovation program is designed to not only equip workers with AI skills but also realise the potential of AI on the economy and society by having participants exercise their newly acquired AI skills on real-life projects.
"As digital technologies such as AI are changing the nature of work and Singapore’s economy, Microsoft is making it our priority to help people and organisations ready ourselves for an AI-shaped future."
Furthermore, to provide increased regional research capability in AI, NUS will collaborate with Microsoft, leveraging the Azure-hosted Microsoft Academic Graph (MAG) combined with AI technology to extract and analyse knowledge embedded in the publications’ data.
The MAG is an initiative by Microsoft for the benefit of researchers and is designed to be an open and heterogeneous graph containing scientific publication records, citation relationships between those publications, as well as authors, institutions, journals, conferences, and fields of study.
It can be accessed either through the Microsoft cognitive services academic knowledge API or for the more advanced user through the Azure data lake store that facilitates access to the entire knowledge graph in an efficient and highly private manner.
Furthermore, through this agreement with NUS, researchers from the NUS school of computing will use the MAG to conduct healthcare-related research it was revealed.
Through the application of AI and machine learning to academic research, researchers will be better able to tackle information overload, streamlining research processes and glean better insights.
In fact, according to an IDC Microsoft commissioned study developing a culture of innovation and learning was a top priority for regional educators, which required developing an agile research capability.
In the same study, ‘unlocking the digital transformation impact in Asia Pacific,’ 93 per cent of Singapore respondents felt that 93 per cent of jobs will be transformed in the next three years due to digital transformation, and 62 per cent of the jobs in the market today will be redeployed to higher value roles or re-skilled to meet the needs of the digital age.
“Microsoft is significantly invested in the democratisation of AI technologies,” said Dr Hon Hsiao Wuen, corporate vice president of Microsoft, chairman of Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific R&D group and managing director of Microsoft Research Asia.
“AI has great potential to augment the workforce, particularly in areas where there is a skills deficit,” added Hon. “The higher learning institutions will be called upon to prepare the workforce with skills to be successful in new AI-related roles that are still yet to be invented.
"The collaboration is a step in equipping more individuals with the right skill sets so that they are able to participate meaningfully in the digital economy."
Furthermore, the study also found that higher education business leaders in the Asia Pacific are committed to investing in AI as the number one emerging technology for this year.