Singapore is an AI nation – FBC Chairman Janne Lautanala’s blog post

By 2021, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will allow the rate of innovation and employee productivity improvements in Singapore to nearly double (X1.9 times and X1.7, respectively), according to business leaders in Singapore. The study from Microsoft and IDC Asia/Pacific, Future Ready Business: Assessing Asia Pacific’s Growth Potential Through AI surveyed over 104 business leaders and over 102 workers in Singapore.

While more than 80% of business leaders polled agreed that AI is instrumental for their organisation’s competitiveness, only 59% of organisations in Singapore have embarked on their AI journeys. Those organisations that have adopted AI expect it to increase their competitiveness 1.7 times by 2021.

Heavy support by the government

Singapore’s forward-thinking government is one of the early adopters of AI, which is a key factor in driving AI development and adoption in the country.

For instance, the Singapore government has joined hands with Microsoft to develop intelligent chatbots that can deliver a set of tech-based human-like customer services. The bots will eventually respond to personalised queries in a conversational manner, taking away the need for customers to scroll through numerous pages on government websites.

Just like Finland, Singapore as a nation is putting heavy focus on development of AI. AI Singapore (AISG) is a national AI programme launched by the National Research Foundation (NRF) to anchor deep national capabilities in Artificial Intelligence (AI) thereby creating social and economic impacts, grow the local talent, build an AI ecosystem, and put Singapore on the world map.

The programme office is hosted by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and brings together all Singapore-based research institutions and the vibrant ecosystem of AI start-ups and companies developing AI products to perform use-inspired research, grow the knowledge, create the tools, and develop the talent to power Singapore’s AI efforts.

AISG is driven by a government-wide partnership comprising NRF, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO), the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), SGInnovate, and the Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS).

According the recent news, Singapore will “double down” on its efforts to build up its artificial intelligence (AI) sector, and equip its workforce to use these tools to “participate meaningfully” in a future where the economy is driven by the technology. One of the key performance indicators stated in the Digital Government Blueprint released last year was for all ministries and their related agencies to have at least one AI project by 2023

In recent FBC Singapore event (AI Monday on March 4, 2019), Ashley Khor ( Applied Intelligence Lead Accenture Health & Public Service, Singapore) told interesting practical case examples on how Singapore already utilizes AI in public sector.

AI in the Singapore Health and Public Sector from Ashley Khor

Healthy humbleness

According to IDC/Microsoft study, there are six dimensions critical to ensuring the success of a nation’s AI journey. It uncovered that Singapore needs to build upon its infrastructure in order to accelerate its AI journey.

“Singapore is not ready yet for AI. To succeed in AI race, markets in the region need to substantially improve their readiness.  Organisations’ leadership should make AI a core part of their strategy and develop a learning agility culture. They have to continuously invest in this transformative technology for the long-term success, sometimes without immediate returns,” Victor Lim, Vice President, Consulting Operations, IDC Asia/Pacific said. “There is an urgent need for talents and tools to develop, deploy and monitor AI models, along with the availability of a robust data estate with the adequate governance.”

Finnish AI capabilities are appreciated in Finland

There are a number of Finnish companies in Singapore that are utilizing AI heavily. For example Smartly.IO utilizes bespoke AI solutions to optimize Ad campaigns and Wärtsilä is using AI to make experts more curious and proactive.  

Elements of AI, a online course to better understand how machine learning and AI are going to change our world, is frequently used as an example how Finland sees the importance of AI. This course is designed by the Finnish company REAKTOR together with the University of Helsinki and is offered free to all citizens. By now, in Finland, more than 25,000 people have graduated from the course and the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, who himself has also done the course, made a graduation speech to the students.

AI Collaboration is needed

A government commissioned survey on Finnish capabilities in artificial intelligence (AI) concluded that Finland is a strong country/region in AI capabilities “with a view to its size”.

The research positioned Finland between South Korea and Austria, ranking Finland as 17th in the world. The survey reminded though that the share of Finnish scientific publications about AI is only 0.5 percent.

In its list of international rankings based on academic publications, the survey ranked Hong Kong SAR as the world leader followed by Singapore and Australia.

Further collaboration between Finland and Singapore in the field of AI would be beneficial for both countries.

Janne Lautanala, Wartsila

Janne Lautanala


Finnish Business Council Ltd.