Country of the Month #9 Singapore

The Era of A. I – Smart Nation

Singapore, one of the most digitally competitive countries, first realized the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) back in 2016 when the government partnered with Microsoft for the public services’ chatbot integration and also invested SGD 2.82 billion in digital infrastructure as part of its smart nation programme. [1]

AI Singapore, the national programme was established by the Singaporean Government in May 2017 after identifying AI as a key economic growth component. [2] The aim of this programme was to map out Singapore’s AI ecosystem by cooperating together with all Singapore-based research institutions, AI start-ups and enterprises. The programme is encouraged by a government-wide partnership consisting of the National Research Foundation (NRF), the smart nation and digital government office, the Economic Development Board, the Infocomm Media Development Authority, SGInnovate, and the Integrated Health Information Systems. NRF will invest up to SGD 150 million over the 5 years time period. [3]

Following the programme, two additional projects such as AI for Everyone (AI4E) and AI for Industry (AI4I) were launched in 2018. These two programmes aimed to educate Singaporeans the use AI in their daily lives and prepare industry professionals for AI readiness. Those two programmes were part of the Tech Skills Accelerator and A Skillsfuture Initiative.

In the same year, Singapore Government founded the AI Ethics Advisory Council which was led by former attorney- General V.K Rajah SC and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). The task of the council was to assist the government in developing ethical standards, reference governance framework and publish advisory guidelines, practical guides, codes of practice for voluntary adoption by the industry. [4]

Recently in 2019, at the SFF X SWITCH conference, Singapore rolled out National AI Strategy (NAIS) which planned to use AI for economic transformation and improving Singaporean’s lives. The strategy focused on five national projects:

  1. Transport and logistics
  2. Smart cities and estates
  3. Healthcare
  4. Education
  5. Safety and security

These projects are designed according to their high social and/or economic impact and the country can use it as a guide to digital infrastructure investment. [5] It calls for the support of both public and private sectors in Singapore as well as international players. [6]

The National AI Strategy Plan has three objectives. The first objective is to make Singapore the global hub of AI; the second one is to improve the lives of the citizens and to increase economic values. The last objective is to understand the benefit, the limitations and the risks of using AI. As a part of the NAIS, the very first Model AI Governance Framework has been established.

With the help of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution (9WEF C4IR), the Singapore government drew up a framework which is the very first kind in Asia and the framework is designed to navigate the complex ethical issues which came together with AI technologies to govern the development and to use of AI technologies ethically and responsibly.

Along with the framework, a companion assessment guide has been designed to help organizations evaluate whether they apply relevant practices and measures in the model framework and to enhance the organization’s implementation experiences and use cases and publish them in the second edition of the model framework. [7]

It seems that Singapore plans to be a global leader in artificial intelligence, although its AI adoption comes in third place in the region after Indonesia and Thailand. [8] However, Singapore’s National AI Strategy aims to shape Singapore into a digital economy and become a leading smart nation in ASEAN in no time.

Written by: Ms. Zin Zar Yee Mon (R&D Officer)


[1] IndSights Research, 2019, Is Singapore Ready for Artificial Intelligence?,
[2] Future of Life Institute, AI Policy Singapore,,over%20the%20next%205%20years.
[3] National Research Foundation(NRF), AI Singapore,
[4] Staff Writer of Marketing Interactive, 2018, SG Advisory Council formed to create ethical AI and data guidelines,
[5] SMU Artificial Intelligence Club, 2020, Everything You Need to Know about Singapore’s AI Strategy,
[6] Future of Life Institute, AI Policy Singapore,,over%20the%20next%205%20years
[7] World Economic Forum, Model Artificial Intelligence Governance Framework and Assessment Guide,
[8] C.Lago and C. Trueman, 2019, How Singapore is using artificial intelligence,