Singapore looks to drive AI research, capabilities with Google Cloud pact


Singapore has announced plans to work with Google Cloud to drive the country’s research and competencies in artificial intelligence (AI). Both sides also will work on issues pertaining to AI governance and ethics.

The pact between Smart Nation and Digital Government Group’s (SNDGG) National AI Office and Google Cloud is pitched as the Singapore government’s first private-sector AI partnership with a global technology vendor.

The agreement comprises three areas in which the two partners will collaborate, spanning research and development (R&D), competency development, and AI ethics. In research, the National AI Office will work with Google Cloud and other subsidiaries under Alphabet to jointly develop and testbed AI applications for key sectors such as finance and healthcare.

Google Cloud also will offer “dedicated” training resources and certification schemes to build proficiencies in AI and machine learning amongst local public-sector officers.

The US tech vendor said these would expand on its current offerings under the Skills Ignition SG training programme, which was launched in 2020 with SkillsFuture Singapore and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

Google Cloud added that it would further support the government’s initiatives in driving AI governance and ethics in sectors such as finance. The US vendor had contributed to Singapore’s Model AI Governance Framework and self-assessment guide for businesses, and sat on the country’s Advisory Council of the Ethical Use of AI.

Google’s collaboration here aimed to manage “new forms of risks” that would surface as AI became more pervasive.

SNDGG’s National AI Office director Chng Zhenzhi said the country would benefit from the US vendor’s technical expertise and investments, while the latter could leverage Singapore’s ecosystem as a testbed to trial new applications “safely”, before expanding them across the region and globally.

“With the [partnership agreement], we can look forward to novel AI solutions that will make an impact on the way Singaporeans, and people around the world, live and work,” Chng said.

Google Cloud’s Singapore and Malaysia country director Sherie Ng added that the vendor hoped the collaboration would drive the ability for AI to offer greater societal benefits in areas such as financial inclusion, carbon footprint reduction, and tailored healthcare services.

These should be delivered alongside equity, privacy, transparency, and accountability, Ng said.

“AI is becoming an everyday reality, with the potential to empower inclusive finance, accelerate genomic analysis to better understand and treat diseases, and optimise supply chains to reduce their environmental impact,” she said. “At the same time, there’s an urgent need for skilled talent with competencies in AI to further develop and implement the technology at scale.”

She said the collaboration with National AI Office to build up proficiencies in the public sector as well as initiatives such as Skills Ignition SG signalled Google’s commitment to bolster “Singapore’s social compact” and ensure everyone here could participate in the digital economy.

The partnership announcement on Tuesday comes as the US tech vendor marks its 15th year in the Asian nation, where it has pumped $850 million in data centre investments. It operates three data centres in Singapore and has a local workforce of 3,000, up from 24 in 2007. 

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