Singapore bolsters national AI effort with $180M funding injection

Singapore bolsters national AI effort with $180M funding injection

Comes as two new initiatives, the National AI Program in Government and the National AI Program in Finance, are launched.

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Singapore is set to pump an additional S$180 million into funding for artificial intelligence (AI) research, the move coming as the country launches two new national AI programs.

The two new initiatives, the National AI Program in Government and the National AI Program in Finance, were launched on 8 November in conjunction with the Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) x Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH) 2021.

The programs are part of the Singapore Government’s National AI Strategy, which comprise projects in key sectors aimed at catalysing AI adoption.  

According to Singapore’s Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO), the new programs were selected based on their potential for wide-ranging impact to improve the lives of Singapore's citizens and help businesses seize new opportunities.

The National AI Program in Government initiative aims to further advance the Singapore government’s digital transformation efforts.  

Through greater use of AI in government agencies, the government hopes to strengthen policymaking and planning, provide more personalised and responsive services, and optimise government processes for the benefit of Singaporean citizens and businesses.

As part of the program, central AI products will be developed for common AI applications that can be used across the government.

The National AI Program in Finance, meanwhile, aims to develop Singapore into a global hub for financial institutions to research, develop and deploy AI solutions.

One of the key focus areas of the program is on sustainable finance, the SNDGO noted in an online post, dated 8 November.  

To help Singapore’s financial institutions capture the burgeoning green investment opportunity, the program will develop NovA!, an AI platform for financial risk insights generation to help financial institutions assess companies’ environmental impact and identify emerging environmental risks.

At the same time, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has already completed the first phase of Veritas, an AI governance framework and toolkit, to help financial institutions to utilise AI responsibly.

Under MAS’ Anti-Money Laundering/Countering Financing of Terrorism Surveillance and Analytics Program, MAS is also developing a data and information sharing platform, dubbed COSMIC, for financial institutions to share information on customers or transactions that cross material risk thresholds, and leverage AI to identify and disrupt illicit networks.

“The National AI Program in Finance will help enhance our financial sector’s AI capabilities,” Ravi Menon, MAS’ managing director, said in a statement. “Key to this program is active collaboration – across financial institutions and relevant government agencies – to build platforms, solutions, and capabilities that serve the financial sector as a whole.”

Underpinning Singapore’s broader AI ambitions is the government’s additional investment of S$180 million, funded under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2025 Plan for AI research and development (R&D). This funding comes on top of the current S$500 million committed for AI-related activities under RIE 2020.  

Together, these investments are aimed at supporting fundamental research, especially to address the challenges of AI adoption; translational research, especially in key sectors of societal and economic importance; and industry-research collaborations to accelerate AI adoption.

“AI is a transformative technology that will enable Singapore to push the boundaries,” the SNDGO said. “The National AI Strategy has made good progress and we will continue to develop and implement initiatives iteratively, to help businesses seize new opportunities and improve the lives of our citizens.”

The latest additions to Singapore's AI push come just weeks after the country moved to take a more proactive stance to address cyber threats, thanks to a new Cybersecurity Strategy 2021, released on 5 October.

The new strategy came five years after the launch of the first Singapore Cybersecurity Strategy in 2016 and works to simplify cyber security for end-users while developing deeper partnerships with industry to adapt to the changes in the cyber operating environment.

In the words of the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), the new strategy outlines Singapore’s plans to take "a more proactive stance" against threats, raise the overall level of cyber security across the nation and advance international norms and standards on cyber security.

The Singapore Cybersecurity Strategy 2021 is also designed to emphasise greater workforce and ecosystem development for businesses and citizens to capitalise on economic opportunities in the cyber security sector, the CSA said.

“As Singapore harnesses digital technology to improve lives and livelihoods for all, cyber security has become a necessity and key enabler for Singapore’s digital economy and Singaporeans’ digital way of life,” the agency said in a statement.

“Developed in consultation with ministries, government agencies, industry and local and overseas academia, the updated strategy...seeks to address new and emerging cyber threats in the wake of strategic and technological shifts.

“These shifts include the opportunities and cyber risks brought about by emerging technologies, such as edge computing and quantum computing, that are potentially disruptive; growing cyber-physical risks as cyber disruptions can spill over to the physical domain; ubiquitous digital connectivity that expanded the attack surface; and increasing geopolitical tensions in cyberspace,” it added.

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