Google says Singapore has ‘very high’ potential to be a global AI hub


American multinational technology company Google logo seen at Googleplex, the corporate headquarters complex of Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc.

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SINGAPORE — Singapore has “very high” potential as a global AI hub — thanks in part to an environment that fosters innovation, a Google Cloud executive told CNBC.

“In order for AI to really deliver on its potential, you need really good public and private partnerships,” Caroline Yap, managing director, global AI business and applied engineering at Google Cloud, told CNBC.

Yap was speaking on the sidelines of Explore AI summit in January, a meeting hosted by Google Cloud and the Singapore government to recognize the top generative AI solutions from organizations that took part in the “AI Trailblazers” initiative.

The initiative was first announced in July by Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information, Digital Industry Singapore, Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, and Google Cloud.

“… when you do have good public and private partnerships, you can really start to not just improve the public sector use cases like citizen services, but you can also foster an environment for innovation,” said Yap.

Singapore was one of the first countries with an AI game plan and in December, launched the National AI Strategy 2.0 — an updated version of its plans to expand the use of AI.

As part of the AI trailblazers initiative, two sandboxes were set up to provide as many as 100 organizations in the city-state with access to Google Cloud’s high-performance graphical processing units, Vertex AI platform, pre-trained generative AI models, and low-code developer tools. That enables to build and test their own generative AI solutions in a controlled and dedicated cloud-based environment.

Through the joint partnership, 43 organizations across government and industry sectors successfully built their own generative AI solutions utilizing Google’s AI stack.

At the same time, it also benefits Singaporeans as a whole, “either as consumers of these technologies or being in the economy as it grows for these types of innovation,” said Yap.

On whether other governments are as open and collaborative as Singapore, Yap told CNBC, “some are, some aren’t.” She did not elaborate on which countries they were.

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“In many ways, Singapore already possesses the right foundations needed to flourish as a global AI hub,” said Kenddrick Chan, senior policy analyst at Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

“The government has launched various AI initiatives, supported local research on AI and engages private sector tech companies in consultative dialogues in its policymaking process.”

The Center for Security and Emerging Technology said Singapore’s star “continues to rise as an AI hub” presenting significant opportunities for international collaboration. The center is a think tank within Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.

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“Initiatives such as fast-tracking patent approval, incentivizing private investment, and addressing talent shortfalls are making the country a rapidly growing global AI hub,” CSET said in a March report.

“There is also thinking at the national level about the ethics and governance issues of AI. All of this helps position Singapore as a key player in the global AI landscape,” said Chan.

He added there are “some challenges ahead” for Singapore such as fierce competition for top AI talent from other hubs.

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Interest in AI exploded when OpenAI’s chatbot ChatGPT — which has the ability to generate humanlike responses to users’ prompts — took the world by storm in November 2022.

During the Explore AI summit on Jan. 29, Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information said partnerships are “yet another important aspect of good governance.”

“We partner for inclusion. Inclusion means making sure that people not only have access to the tools, but they are provided with opportunities to grow the skills that will enable them to use these tools well,” said Josephine Teo.

Singapore has been making efforts to promote the responsible use of AI.

The country rolled out AI Verify in May 2022 – the world’s first AI governance testing framework and software toolkit for companies – that enables users to conduct technical tests on their AI models and record process checks.

Companies such as Google, Meta, Microsoft and Singapore Airlines have already tested the AI Verify tool or provided feedback.

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