SINGAPORE: By 2022, people living in Singapore will be able to report municipal issues via a chatbot that asks for details in real time and automatically identifies the correct government agency in charge.
This will be made possible by artificial intelligence (AI), which is also set to power a tool that helps in the detection of diabetic eye disease and an automated marking system for English in primary and secondary education by the same year.
More initiatives tapping on AI technologies, such as machine learning and computer vision, are in the pipeline over the next decade, according to five projects unveiled on Wednesday (Nov 13) as part of Singapore’s new “National AI Strategy”.
The new strategy, which maps out how Singapore will develop and use AI to transform the economy and improve peoples’ lives, was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat at the final day of the “Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) x the Singapore Week of Innovation and TeCHnology (SWITCH) Conference”.
Describing it as the next step in Singapore’s Smart Nation Journey, Mr Heng said: “Countries will need to keep pace with technology, and harness it to tackle common challenges and national priorities.”
AI is one of the new frontiers in technology, with its applications already present in peoples’ daily lives such as AI chatbots and robo-advisors.
“Singapore is ready to deploy AI at a national scale,” he said, adding how the Government has committed more than S$500 million to fund AI activities under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 (RIE2020) plan.
As a start, Singapore will embark on five national projects covering the areas of transport and logistics, smart cities and estates, healthcare, education, as well as safety and security.
These projects aim to use AI to address key national challenges and deliver “impactful social and economic benefits to Singaporeans”, said a press release from the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO).
More areas where AI can be applied to deliver impact will be identified, it added, as Singapore develops the national strategy “iteratively” in response to a rapidly-changing technology landscape and seize new opportunities brought about by AI.
Beyond that, five “key enablers” will also be developed to drive AI innovation and adoption across the economy.
One of which is to strengthen partnerships and capabilities between the research community, industry and Government to speed up the deployment and commercialisation of AI solutions.
All these efforts will be brought together under a new National AI office as Singapore aims to be a leader in developing and deploying AI solutions by 2030, announced Mr Heng. This office was set up on Oct 1 under the SNDGO.
THREE PRINCIPLES FOR BETTER INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY
The National AI Strategy has three objectives.
This includes Singapore becoming a global hub for developing, test-bedding, deploying and scaling AI solutions, as well as learning how to govern and manage the impact of AI.
The Government and businesses will use AI to generate economic value and improve lives.
Society must also understand the benefits, limitations and risks of AI, while the workforce is equipped with the necessary competencies to thrive in an AI-driven economy.
“By 2030, Singapore will be a leader in developing and deploying scalable impactful AI solutions in key sectors of high value and relevance to our citizens and businesses,” said the document detailing the new national strategy.
In his keynote speech, Mr Heng stressed the importance of harnessing technology to improve peoples’ lives and the environment.
“Many of us are also keenly aware that while technology and innovation can help us tackle common challenges, they also create new downsides,” he said.
Three key principles therefore underpin Singapore’s quest for better innovation and technology.
This includes putting people at the heart of all endeavours. “This means taking a human-centric approach to the application of technology, and ensuring workers are skilled in the use of new technology,” he explained.
Singapore, for instance, aims to train 25,000 professionals in basic AI coding and implementation by 2025.
Other principles include staying open and connected, as well as ensuring good governance of new technologies, he said.
FIVE NATIONAL AI PROJECTS
The five national projects will guide investment in AI research, generate “lead demand” to anchor talent and capabilities, and guide how Singapore builds up its supporting digital infrastructure, according to the document detailing the National AI Strategy.
In the area of smart cities and estates, AI will help to ensure more seamless and efficient municipal services.
Apart from the chatbot, there are also plans to deploy sensors and AI algorithms to predict maintenance needs in public housing estates by 2025.
In education, the AI-enabled automated marking system for English will be piloted next year with selected primary and secondary schools, before the launch in 2022.
It will be able to assess open-ended student responses, such as essays, and provide quick feedback – which can be helpful for teachers.
There will also be more personalised education through an AI-enabled adaptive learning system, which uses machine learning to tell how each students responds to learning materials and activities. It then recommends a step-by-step pathway customised for each student.
This will be trialed through online learning portal Student Learning Space (SLS) for specific topics in Math, starting with upper primary and lower secondary levels. The pilot with selected schools will be held by 2022, with the launch in 2025.
The two AI-powered systems will be expanded to more subjects by 2030.
AI will also be tapped in the protection and management of chronic diseases. The Singapore Eye LEsioN Analyser (SELENA+), which analyses retinal photographs to detect major eye diseases, will be rolled out for diabetes retinopathy screening here in three years’ time.
Its capabilities will be extended to develop a predictive risk assessment model for cardiovascular diseases by 2025.
Raising this as an example, Mr Heng said: “Many seniors suffer from chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. Many might be unaware of their conditions, which, if left untreated, can lead to serious medical complications.”
AI can hence be used to analyse clinical and genomic data, medical images, and health behaviours to better assess the risk profile of individual patients, allowing for better prevention and care management, he added.
A totally automated immigration clearance for all travelers, including first-time social visitors, could also be ready by 2025, under the fourth national project covering border clearance operations.
Singaporeans and departing visitors may be able to experience a “breeze-through” immigration clearance, without the need to present their passports, said the National AI Strategy document.
The fifth project covering transport and logistics will look at ensuring intelligent freight planning with the building of a common and trusted data exchange platform by 2022, among others.
Other initiatives also announced on Wednesday include the launch of an AI makerspace – a new national platform to help start-ups, and small- and medium-sized enterprises to get started on their AI journey with pre-built AI solutions and others.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore also announced an implementation framework for AI governance in the finance sector.