Singapore’s National AI Strategy 2.0 designed to unlock huge economic potential over 5 years

The National AI Strategy 2.0 launched this week by Singapore Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong is set to unlock the country’s huge social and economic potential over the next five years.

Singapore DPM Lawrence Wong speaks on AI for global good at the inaugural Singapore Conference on AI (SCAI). Photo courtesy: X/@ArtWorldAI

Singapore has been a leader in the Artificial Intelligence field for several years now, having topped a global index on AI-readiness published in October 2019 and having allocated an additional SGD 180 million for AI research in November 2021, on top of its existing SGD 500 million commitment. The newly launched National AI Strategy 2.0 (NAIS 2.0) is designed to increase Singapore’s AI-ready talent pool by 15,000 individuals, 3x the number available at present.

As he launched the new strategy on Monday, DPM Wong said, “Knowledge-based work like research, coding and writing was considered safe from disruption in the past. But with AI, that is no longer the case.”

AI-powered tools like ChatGPT are capable of generating their own content, albeit content that is often based on writings and images already published by humans — this is why ChatGPT has been disparagingly called a “plagiarism tool”. Nonetheless, the impact of AI is beyond dispute, and economies can either sink or swim in this technology tide. Singapore obviously intends to swim.

‘AI for the Public Good, for Singapore and the World’

According to a government press release, NAIS 2.0 was meant “to address the challenges of our time, and uplift Singapore’s collective economic and social potential over the next three to five years”. The release said: “The strategy was unveiled at the opening dinner of the inaugural Singapore Conference on AI (SCAI; Dec 4-6), which was attended by over 100 local and overseas AI experts from academia, industry, and government.”

Singapore government will invest in training and help workers adapt to the changes brought about by AI technology. Representative photo courtesy: Pixabay/geralt

The first NAIS was launched in 2019. Following Monday’s 2.0 strategy launch, Smart Nation Singapore, a government agency website, said in a press release: “Guided by the vision ‘AI for the Public Good, for Singapore and the World’, NAIS 2.0 focuses on two key goals:

i) Excellence: Singapore will selectively develop peaks of excellence in AI, to advance the field and maximise value creation. We intend to direct AI towards addressing the needs and challenges of our time, such as in areas of global importance like population health and climate change.

ii) Empowerment: Singapore will raise up individuals, businesses, and communities to use AI with confidence, discernment, and trust. We intend for AI to be the great equaliser, which equips our people and businesses with the capabilities and resources to thrive in an AI-enabled future.”

Speaking at the 2.0 launch, DPM Wong outlined how the AI talent pool in Singapore would be augmented: “The government plans to invest significantly in adult education and training to reskill and upskill our workers.”

Data and Machine Learning scientists and engineers

DPM Wong said in his address, “Recent breakthroughs in AI have sparked renewed interest about the potential of AI, its risks and implications to humanity… Discussions about AI’s potential benefits and threats are not new, but we are venturing into uncharted territory.”

The increased pool of 15,000 AI-ready individuals in Singapore would consist of both local and foreign workers, with an emphasis on data and Machine Learning scientists and engineers as “the backbone” of using AI for apps, according to what the deputy prime minister outlined.

Referring to the prevalent fear — globally and locally — that AI would eat into human jobs, DPM Wong said that the Singapore government would invest in training and help workers adapt to the changes.

He urged AI-related firms in Singapore to explore going beyond their specific projects and creating a bigger AI ecosystem. “These centres can go beyond the needs of the specific company and benefit the wider industry. There is potential for such industry-wide platforms in key areas like advanced manufacturing, financial services, and biomedical studies, where Singapore is already operating at the leading edge,” said DPM Wong.