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Singapore ropes in local polytechnics in AI talent boost


A Singapore government-led artificial intelligence (AI) group has teamed up with local polytechnics to groom AI talent and promote the use of AI among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the city-state.

Lecturers and students from Singapore Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic have started attending workshops conducted by AI Singapore to learn about the use of AI tools such as robotics program automation (RPA). These workshops would also extend to Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Nanyang Polytechnic at a later date.

At a recent media briefing, Laurence Liew, director of AI Singapore, said SMEs can engage the polytechnic students through academic programmes at minimum cost to take advantage of RPA tools. They can also sign up for courses offered by universities and polytechnics to learn how to develop AI applications.

Urging SMEs to embrace AI, Liew said AI-related technologies such as RPA can improve productivity by up to 15 times. Some of these tools, particularly open source ones, have become increasingly accessible and affordable to SMEs, he added.

An example is TagUI, an open-source RPA tool developed by AI Singapore to automate user interactions with web browsers or other application.

Besides improving SME productivity, AI Singapore, which was set up in May 2017 to bolster AI adoption in Singapore, plans to strengthen its apprenticeship programme through a new partnership with IBM.

Under the partnership announced at IBM Think ASEAN, AI Singapore apprentices will gain access to IBM’s Power AI software as well as big data, machine learning and other training materials.

Separately, IBM is also opening a new facility at Temasek Polytechnic that will guide staff and students in developing AI applications.

Commoditising AI applications

Speaking at the same IBM event, Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s minister for foreign affairs and minister-in-charge of the smart nation initiative, stressed the importance of getting ahead of technological changes.

He also urged technology suppliers to commoditise AI applications, so that the technology can benefit more people – beyond a small group of people who understand the inner workings of AI.

One such company is DataRobot, which provides tools to help businesses without AI expertise automate the data science workflow – from data preparation and processing to data modelling using open-source algorithms.

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