Focus on education and training to plug skills gap

29 Jul 2019

Straits Times, 29 Jul 2019, Focus on education and training to plug skills gap
Singapore is one of the forerunners among Asean member states in artificial intelligence (AI) adoption, alongside countries such as Indonesia and Thailand.
To drive the development of AI, $150 million was set aside for a national programme called AI Singapore. Announced in May 2017, it is to be used over five years to boost Singapore's AI capabilities.
In March, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is now also Deputy Prime Minister, said more than $500 million would be set aside for digital technology, which would see additional funding for AI systems and cyber security.
This sum comes from the Research, Innovation and Enterprise or RIE 2020 plan for Singapore's science and technology research.
Public sector projects that have seen AI use include an ongoing trial to use AI to control traffic lights for smoother traffic, and separately, to detect fraud in SkillsFuture claims.
The latter, for instance, uses machine learning, where examples of fraudulent claims are fed back into the system, to teach it how to detect future cases more swiftly and accurately.
By April next year, 11 swimming complexes here will use a network of overhead infrared cameras to detect possible drowning cases.
Software will analyse the trajectory of swimmers and identify in real-time people who are sinking to the bottom of the pool.
Singapore has also set out a framework on how AI should be ethically and responsibly used, to help companies manage issues that come up as they begin embracing the use of AI.
The Infocomm Media Development Authority has also established an advisory council on the ethical use of AI and data, to examine legal and ethical issues.
Moving forward, education and training will be key as many economies face a skills gap.
Said a spokesman from the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office: "This means teaching computational thinking and data literacy in schools, and training adults in data science and AI skills.
"As AI is a general-purpose technology, we want our workforce to be able to use AI tools to participate meaningfully in a future AI-driven economy.
"For citizens, this would open up new possibilities to enjoy new and better services, whether from the Government or private sector."
Among other moves, robotic process automation (RPA) company UiPath announced partnerships with schools here, such as Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic and the Institute of Technical Education, in May to equip students with automation skills.
UiPath instructors will train lecturers at these schools, who will then train students.
"In a country like Singapore, which has a lot of knowledge workers, having RPA (skills) is critical," said Mr Tom Clancy, UiPath's senior vice-president for learning.
The Singapore University of Technology and Design will also offer a bachelor's degree in design and artificial intelligence from next year.