Since its independence in 1965, the Singaporean government has consistently strived to elevate its economy up the industrial value chain. Considering the very limited natural resources available to the tiny city-state, this was a perfectly logical strategy, and the approach has seen the country propelled itself from a third world country to developed nation status within a single generation.
A great recent example of this approach involves the biomedical sciences sector. In 2000, the government named biomedical research – encompassing healthcare, biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medicine – as the nation’s fourth economic pillar and allocated $16.1 billion in R&D funding for the sector. Fifteen years on, Singapore is home to almost 50% of global biomedical research centers. It has also emerged as a regional biotechnology hub, and boasts of seven research institutes and five research consortia, and the participation of 30 of the world’s top biomedical sciences firms.
In line with its Smart Nation initiative, the Singaporean government has adopted a similarly innovative approach concerning the use of technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning in the delivery of services to its citizens. A new government agency, GovTech, was created in October 2016 to take a lead role in the government’s delivery of “digital services and applied technology” to citizens.
There are currently five major government-funded initiatives in the machine learning sector, and all of them are focused on real-world applications in fintech, healthcare, and commerce.
DELTA-NTU CORPORATE LAB
The publicly-funded Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Delta Electronics established a $45 million joint laboratory in June this year to develop smart technologies and cyber-physical systems aimed towards enabling more sophisticated manufacturing processes. During the launch, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, noted that machine learning will be used to develop Smart Living and Smart Commercialization technologies which, in turn, will be utilized to develop transformative innovations on healthcare and technological commercialization respectively.
The newly-launched agency is currently using machine learning to further develop and enhance MyInfo, a platform originally designed to simplify financial transactions between government agencies and citizens. However, GovTech is now tasked with expanding MyInfo to include commercial transactions with banks. During a speech at Govtech’s launch on October 7, the Minister for Communications and Information, Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, explained that GovTech’s broad portfolio includes providing security and resiliency and developing networked engineering capabilities for the republic’s ICT systems.
INFOCOMM MEDIA 2025
The Infocomm Media 2025 Plan is a comprehensive 10-year strategic roadmap for the infocomm media landscape in Singapore authored by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA). In Chapter 3 (3.17.1), the plan details the utilization of machine learning, data analytics and artificial intelligence to create cognitive software systems to power autonomous systems, or robots, which will overcome manpower constraints and improve productivity. Private enterprises can seek subsidies of up to 70% from the government for proven ICT-based solutions.
The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore’s HIVE is home to the Government Digital Services unit. The HIVE is a multi-disciplinary unit which consists of nearly 100 coders, data scientists, engineers and other experts from various fields. It provides the government with the flexibility and speed to develop solutions. The HIVE is divided into two teams, the Product Design & Development (PDD) and Data Science Group (DSG). The DSG teams utilize data analytics and machine learning as part of its data-driven researchers and processes.
INSTITUTE FOR INFOCOMM RESEARCH
The Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R), a research arm of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR), claims to be the country’s largest R&D analytics group. The institute uses machine learning, among other core competencies, to create advance data analytics solutions. On February 5, 2014, I2R established a joint lab with DBS Bank, the largest bank in Singapore, to develop smart financial solutions for the banking – both B2B and B2C – industry.
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