Singapore— At the Singapore FinTech Festival at the Singapore Expo, Heng Swee Keat, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, said that all technology should be applied with the user in mind, no matter how sophisticated that technology is.
Along with this, ensuring that workers are trained in the use of new technologies is needful, he added, “Otherwise, we will end up with exclusive products that only the highly educated can access, or (only) the wealthy can afford,” The Straits Times (ST) quotes him as saying.
Mr Heng made these remarks in the context of announcing a national strategy for artificial intelligence. He wrote in a Facebook post, “Launched our first-ever National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy at SG FinTech Festival x SWITCH Singapore. AI is one of the new frontiers of technology. At a national scale, we are planning to commit over S$500 million to fund AI activities and set up a new National Artificial Intelligence Office. Five national projects covering areas in healthcare, security, and smart cities will be put in place to sustain a vibrant AI ecosystem.”
The core principles needed as a foundation for the country’s search for innovation must be putting people at the center of how technology is used, staying open to developments in other parts of the world, and making sure that good governance is applied in the employment of new technologies, he stated.
Mr Heng added, “In my speech on the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, I make the point that people are at the heart of how we use technology.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore Talent Programme is a great example of how we are growing our talent pool. They have done up an interactive Augmented Reality wall to showcase the various national initiatives which promote reskilling and professional development.”
The country, he added, has made significant investments in developing people. One example he gave is the plan to train 25,000 individuals in basic coding in Artificial Intelligence and by 2025, the implementation of growing a pool of talents who will be able to support the national AI strategy.
Furthermore, he added that it is necessary for Singaporeans to bet past learning AI in by ourselves and begin to collaborate both locally and internationally.
One important part of this is the triple helix model of innovation—which is a collaboration between the research community, industry and the Government. ST reports that to achieve this, an initiative for catalyzing AI adoption by smaller businesses has been launched as well, called AI Makerspace and offered by AI Singapore. It gives companies AI tools that have been pre-built, along with consultations and clinics with experts in the field.
Furthermore, Mr Heng reiterated the country’s commitment to collaborate with innovators and researchers from all over the globe via a spectrum of open innovation initiatives.
This, however, requires good governance to provide confidence and trust for it to succeed.
The Deputy Prime Minister said,”Engineers tend to ask ‘Can it be done?’, while entrepreneurs and venture capitalists ask ‘Can it make money?’ We now have to ask two more questions: ‘Should it be done?’ and ‘How should it be done?’”
He underlined how AI and cybersecurity are two fields that need good governance.
“There is a particular urgency to do this for cyberspace, as cyber attacks on our critical infrastructure… have become both highly likely and highly damaging.”
In October, a group of ASEAN nations forged an agreement to establish a working-level committee that would ensure responsible state behaviour in cyberspace.
And early in 2019, Singapore issued a framework on how AI can be used responsibly and ethically, reportedly the first Asian nation to do so.
Mr Heng added at the end of his post, “Technology is an unstoppable force of change and we must harness this for positive and sustainable results. While we help to ensure that technology remains accessible for all, people must always be at the heart of how we use it. We must stay open and connected, leverage on technology and continue to break new ground as we strive to improve the lives of our people and our children.”