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Signing up for the future

By now, it’s no brainer that technological disruption is changing the job market. Instead of bemoaning about it, Singapore is proactively gearing up its current and future workforce. The MoU signed between the National University of Singapore (NUS), AI Singapore (AISG) and Microsoft aims to foster a greater aptitude in AI among the workforce and to enhance research capabilities. The MoU was signed on 26 September 2018, at the National University of Singapore.

Present at the signing ceremony were the President of NUS, Professor Tan Eng Chye, Executive Chairman of AISG, Professor Ho Teck Hua, and two Microsoft executives.

Prof Tan said that the collaboration was a fitting and timely one between the two leaders in their respective fields. Both organisations have a strong focus on innovation which is transformative, productive and aims to improve lives.

Additionally, Prof. Ho said, “We believe that we have a responsibility to work together to upskill today’s professionals. Our collaboration with Microsoft will strengthen our efforts in AI education, upskilling and retraining in Singapore.”

Have a Heart for Technology

Under the Microsoft-AISG Joint Innovation Program, the three-year initiative focuses on upskilling Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs) with AI expertise. An important output of the program is developing AI-powered projects which bring about a positive societal impact.

Three key programs will underpin the Microsoft-AISG Joint Innovation Program.

First, the AI Immersion Program will equip PMETs with requisite AI skills using the Microsoft Professional Program curriculum. Furthermore, participants will be supported in seeking new jobs through the AI for Real program.

AI for Real is the second program outlined in the MoU. It seeks to provide real-life, first-hand AI deployment experience and training to PMETs. They will be assisted to rollout a hundred AI pilot projects which utilise the Azure platform. It will be run across multiple organisations.

Finally, the AI for Research brings together AISG and Microsoft to conduct a series of workshops on Microsoft’s AI for Good initiatives which identify socially beneficial projects powered by AI. These initiatives might Microsoft’s include AI for Earth and AI for Accessibility. AI for Good brings together private and public sector individuals to work on projects which harness the fullness of the technology’s potential.

The three-part program not only equips workers with the right skills for the future, but also helps realise the potential for AI in boosting the economy and developing an equitable society.

Brainstorming Technology

Dr Hsiao-Wuen Hon, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Asia-Pacific R&D Group, Microsoft Research Asia, in his opening remarks said that it was important that knowledge continuously be upgraded. The NUS and Microsoft collaboration is testament to the necessity of lifelong learning.

Dr Hon cited his own experience of learning AI in the 1980s as an example. He recognised that much of the knowledge he learnt in the field has rapidly changed since then. This is only because of the hard work researchers put into developing the technology despite the ups and downs of economic sentiments.

Thus, enabling researchers will be key in driving the future economy. The Microsoft Academic Graph (MAG) will be implemented in NUS, the first in Singapore according to the company’s reps. Other top universities in the region such as China’s Tsing Hua University have also benefitted from the product.

Hosted on Azure, MAG is an open and heterogenous graph containing scientific publications records, citation relationships between those publications, as well as authors, institutions, journals, conferences, and fields of study.

Used in conjunction with AI, MAG can extract and analyse knowledge embedded in the publication’s data. MAG can infer query intent and retrieve the most knowledge while recommending new materials might have not been in the researcher’s purview. Problems of information overload, inefficient research processes and thus affected insights, can be overcome with MAG.

Researchers from the NUS School of Computing will be one of the beneficiaries of MAG. They will use it to embark on a healthcare-related research project.

The timely MoU unlocks new frontiers in 21st Century education in terms of pedagogy and transferring technical abilities for the workforce. How technology is deployed will be important in equalising the future.

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