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Hot Seat: How to boost AI ecosystem for Singapore to become Smart Nation

AI Singapore's Laurence Liew out to overhaul AI's image, with creative programmes that pair apprentices and companies on solving problems with smart tech.

Laurence Liew often ends his AI For Everyone workshops – a non-technical course to introduce AI tech and applications – with a doomsday prophecy: “You will be replaced by AI.” But before you rage against the machine, he flashes the next slide: “You will be replaced by your peers who use AI.”

As the director of AI Industry Innovation at AI Singapore (AISG), his role is to grow local talent and build an AI ecosystem. To that end, he is bent on tearing down resistance to technology, and carving out new tracks for those who embrace it.

Chief among his efforts are the AI Apprenticeship and 100 Experiments (100E) programmes. The former takes in three batches yearly, grooming candidates from any specialisation via coursework and real-world industry projects – this is where 100E steps in. It works on a collaborative model: Organisations propose a problem facing them that lacks a commercial AI solution, and AISG provides researchers, engineers and apprentices to solve the problem and help the organisation build its own AI team.

Among its successes is Kronikare, which assesses chronic wounds quickly via an AI-driven scanner. Such wounds are prone to infection, and Kronikare uses machine learning, image processing and multimodal data analysis for better patient outcomes. It was recognised as an outstanding AI project at the World AI Conference in September 2019. To date, it has been deployed at St Andrew’s Community Hospital and Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital.

“It’s always about the people, never about technology – be it helping businesses with their ROI or benefiting people through new solutions,” concludes Liew. “People need to know that AI is not a terminator out to kill you.”

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