SINGAPORE – Two new public artificial intelligence (AI) programmes have been launched as part of the Republic’s strategy to use the technology to effect social and economic good.

One will help check the climate risks of firms here while the other is meant to improve public services based on citizens’ feedback.

These come as Singapore allocates an additional $180 million to accelerate AI research, on top of the $500 million it has committed to it so far.

The first programme is the National AI Programme in Finance. It includes an industry-wide AI platform –  dubbed NovA! – which generates insights about financial risks.

The platform is a collaboration between Singapore-based banks and local fintech firms, and aims to help financial institutions better assess companies’ environmental impact and identify emerging environmental risks.

The initiative will also better enable financial institutions to assess sustainability-related investments and associated risks such as greenwashing, which is when companies exaggerate or falsify their environmental credentials.

Experts have said roughly US$100 trillion (S$135 trillion) of climate-aligned funding will be needed to achieve the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels.

NovA! was unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat at the sixth edition of the Singapore FinTech Festival on Monday (Nov 8). He launched Singapore’s national AI strategy at the 2019 version of the flagship fintech event.

Singapore has five national AI programmes, noted Mr Heng, among them Selena+, an AI system and healthcare programme that detects major eye conditions from retinal scans.

“SELENA+ managed to achieve a similar diagnostic accuracy as experienced human graders. We have since rolled this project out nationwide, to screen seniors and diabetic patients for eye diseases more efficiently. This has allowed us to provide early intervention more quickly and accurately,” said Mr Heng.

The second AI programme that was launched on Monday is the National AI Programme in Government, which aims to improve the delivery of public sector services.

“One area is in the use of AI text analytics for better sensemaking of the large number of feedback that our frontline agencies receive each year. This will allow us to better understand the pain points and serve citizens better,” said Mr Heng.

AI will also be used to improve job-matching on national jobs portal, he added. “This is particularly salient during the pandemic, where many have been displaced and are looking to switch to other industries. We are using AI to develop more personalised jobs and skills recommendations. Based on our pilot, this new tool has improved total job placements by 20 per cent.”

Mr Heng added that Singapore’s AI strategy also involves building a vibrant eco-system for sustained innovation, and a strong commitment to AI research and development (R&D).

He said the Republic will invest more funds in resource-efficient AI: “As a small country, our datasets are also small. So we need to better train our machines to learn from small but high-quality datasets.

Our investment in AI R&D is not large relative to global investments in this field. But by focusing on where we can make the greatest impact, we can make every effort count.”