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Singapore Government Invested in AI to Advance the Smart Nation Journey

Singapore National AI Strategy
Photo Credit: Smart Nation SIngapore

In November 2019 the Government launched the National AI strategy under the remit of the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office to set the national agenda for AI, and to partner with the research community and industry to implement the National AI Strategy.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the capability to simulate intelligent, human-like behaviour in computers. As a general-purpose technology, AI has applicability in any field, ranging from cancer diagnosis to urban planning and fraud detection. It has the potential to offer breakthrough solutions that are incomparably better than existing approaches.

The Smart Nation Office stated that “the rise of applicable, deployable AI represents a golden opportunity for Singapore to open new frontiers of growth and transcend our geographical limits. For the nation, AI should transform national level planning and significantly raise the quality of public goods like transport, education and healthcare.”

Government Recognises Need for AI Governance Framework and National Strategy to Harness Benefits of AI

The Singapore government has recognised the need for a national strategy and is completely invested to fully harness the benefits of AI. The strategy identifies areas to focus attention and resources at a national level, lays out plans on how Government, companies, and researchers can work together to realise positive impact from AI and addresses areas where attention is needed to manage change and manage new forms of risks that arise when AI becomes more pervasive.

The Singapore government has just recently updated its AI governance framework to improve its relevance and usability for organisations that are implementing AI which was announced at the World Economic Forum as reported by OpenGov last week.

Since its introduction, the framework has been adopted by more than 15 international and local organisations and institutions such as DBS, HSBC, Mastercard, Visa and Singapore’s Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information, Mr S Iswaran, said the fact that international organisations have adopted the framework demonstrates its value in providing practical guidelines on how AI can be implemented while maintaining the trust of clients and customers.

This just highlights how the Singapore Government is making pioneering efforts to implement AI as solutions to everyday challenges for the nation as well as leading AI governance internationally.

Here is a summary of the 5 National AI Projects which address key national challenges for Singapore in transport and logistics, smart cities and estates, healthcare, education, and safety and security.

The Initial 5 National AI Projects Are:

  • Intelligent Freight Planning – to optimise the movement of freight to improve productivity for businesses and traffic efficiency.
  • Seamless and Efficient Municipal Services – to make municipal services more responsive, reliable and timely
  • Chronic Disease Prediction and Management – to help prevent and better manage chronic diseases.
  • Personalised Education through Adaptive Learning and Assessment – to help teachers to better customise and improve the learning experience for every student.
  • Border Clearance Operations – to strengthen border security while improving traveller-experience.

Intelligent Freight Planning

AI could also be deployed to help companies better plan the routing and scheduling of their trucks to our ports and container depots, which will help to reduce waiting times and localised traffic congestion. This will enable companies to improve business margins and strengthen their business competitiveness. It will also create better and higher value-added jobs for workers in the industry.

AI-enabled planning and modelling for better urban planning. Data collected will also enable the Government to conduct data-driven policy reviews and do better urban planning to improve the overall efficiency of Singapore’s logistics ecosystem.

“We aim to create a freight movement ecosystem where key parties leverage AI to share information and collaborate in an integrated manner, to enable more efficient freight and truck movement across Singapore.”

Seamless and Efficient Municipal Services

Residents can report issues without the need to worry about which agency to report their feedback to, or how to describe the issue. An AI-powered chatbot can guide them along and get to the heart of the issue.

The National AI office has said “AI can help us better understand how our residents, their families and the community are using various neighbourhood facilities. With this knowledge, we can then work towards the planning and building of facilities that best serve residents’ needs”

The government will introduce an AI-powered chatbot to guide residents when they report an issue. The chatbot will identify the correct agency to direct the issue to. It will also prompt residents for mandatory case details in real-time, thereby minimising the need for agencies to call them back for additional case information.

Chronic Disease Prediction and Management

AI can be used to analyse clinical data, medical images, health behaviours and genomic data to create a personalised risk score for individuals. This score can help individuals to take appropriate preventive measures as well as receive earlier and more targeted interventions from their care teams.

The first step the government will take is to will deploy the Singapore Eye LEsioN Analyser (SELENA+), which analyses retinal photographs using a Deep Learning System to detect 3 major eye conditions: diabetic eye disease, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. SELENA+ can analyse retinal photographs as accurately and faster than human graders. SELENA+’s capabilities in analysing retinal images will also be extended to develop a predictive risk assessment model for cardiovascular disease.

Personalised Education Through Adaptive Learning And Assessment

The governments aim is to leverage AI through the Singapore Student Learning Space (SLS), an online learning platform for all students and teachers in the national school system, launched in May 2018.

Students’ learning experiences with the SLS will be enhanced by an AI-enabled Adaptive Learning System. The adaptive learning system will use machine learning to enable it to tell how each student responds to learning materials and activities, and to recommend a step-by-step pathway customised for each learner.

Teachers will be able to assess students’ work more efficiently and effectively with an AI-enabled Automated Marking System. The automated marking system will be able to assess open-ended student responses such as short-answer response questions and essays and provide quick feedback to students’ work.

This year the government will pilot an AI-enabled automated marking system for English Language with selected primary and secondary schools.

Strengthen Border Operations

The Government is looking to strengthen border security as well as improving the traveller experience, so they have come up with the following objective: to have 100% automated immigration clearance for all travellers.

Singapore will explore using AI to assist immigration officers in evaluating the risk profile of travellers before they arrive at our checkpoints, and to tier the level of security screening accordingly.

To enable this, they will collect and analyse data from various sources, including the Singapore Arrival Cards submitted by travellers and advance passenger information from airlines. The government will also study how to redesign the immigration clearance process to enable all travellers to enjoy secure and seamless immigration clearance experience via automated clearance facilities.

The Governments AI Journey is a Whole-of-Nation Effort and a Long-Term Evolving Journey

The National AI office has said that “We will continue to embark on more National AI Projects and adjust the enablers as we learn through implementation. This is a whole-of-nation effort, and we welcome ideas and action from individuals and companies to help deliver our AI vision for Singapore.”

The Singapore government aims to develop and implement the National AI Strategy continually, in order to respond to the rapidly changing technology landscape and to seize new opportunities that AI presents. The 5 National AI Projects are just the initial steps in a multi-year AI government plan.


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