Speech by Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How at the Inaugural Ai Student Developer Conference on 13 May 2023

Speech by Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How at the Inaugural AI Student Developer Conference on 13 May 2023

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,



Good morning! I am delighted to join you at this inaugural AI Student Developer Conference. This Conference is part of the larger AI Student Outreach Programme that aims to inspire students into AI-related fields.

You will gain insights into the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence, hear directly from the industry through expert panel discussions and experience AI hands-on through interactive booths and workshops. I understand that there are even exciting careers seeking good candidates at this event.

I hope your interest in and awareness of the opportunities and developments in the AI industry will be piqued, and will be further strengthened through your participation here.

AI is growing rapidly

Obviously, there is no need for anyone to be convinced of the rapid development in AI technologies and proliferation of AI applications. AI is now capable of making high quality medical diagnoses, creating cogent legal briefs, debugging software, writing essays, musical scores and entire screenplays. And what it can do - the list grows by the day. Together with and indeed as a result of this, the need to govern AI's development and use from an ethical, safety, and the security standpoint, has also come to the forefront.

AISG and AI student outreach

The AI ecosystem in Singapore has also been growing. AI Singapore, or AISG, has been expanding the local AI capabilities and AI ecosystem for the past 5 years. It does so by bringing together stakeholder entities ranging from research institutions to AI start-ups and more established AI-development companies; that leverages a larger Government-sponsored partnership spearheaded by key bodies such as the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO), the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA).

One priority focus of the AISG is that of spurring the adoption of AI and driving talent development in the domain. It does so through its LearnAI programmes to increase AI literacy, and through its AI Student Outreach Programme to help students hone their AI proficiency and data fluency through structured learning. These learning programmes are complemented by Student User Groups to connect students to AI practitioners, engineers, companies and organisations deploying AI to tackle real-world challenges. The AI Student Outreach Programme has already enrolled more than 3,600 student participants and has formed many Student User Groups spanning all levels of education from Secondary Schools upwards. It has also constructed a pathway for paid internships with partner organisations to design and deploy AI in order to address real industry requirements and needs. And an example is the partner of Centre for Strategic Infocomm Technologies (CSIT).

MINDEF/SAF, DIS and the digital domain

The relevance of the cyberspace, digital domain and AI in defence has also grown substantially. If you read news or you are in the area of warfare, you will notice that the ways that war is fought today is not the way war was fought during the second world war. There is a lot more "grayness" to how you can overcome or seek to overcome your opponent, or that your opponent will seek to overcome you. One key area will be the use of information and technology. So this area will become more and more important. This is why MINDEF/SAF is keenly interested in this as well. For this reason, MINDEF/SAF created the Singapore Armed Forces' fourth Service. So prior to this, we had three services – the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and we have since created the fourth – the Digital and Intelligence Service also known as DIS. The job of DIS is to tackle digital threats that will only grow in scale, scope and sophistication. Locally, the DIS works closely with technology partners such as the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), DSO National Laboratories and ST Engineering in order to develop cutting-edge solutions to meet its mission.

Outside of the defence-specific sector partners, DIS is also enlarging its engagement with the wider technology ecosystem, including engagement with the commercial sector and academia. One example of this is the partnership with the iTrust Centre for Research in Cyber Security at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), and that seeks to develop realistic cyber testbeds to train cyber defenders.

Today, as part of this conference, we will also be witnessing an MOU signing between DIS and AISG. This MOU is another example of DIS's pursuit in this direction of engagement, augmenting our ongoing efforts to build and sustain a strong and capable workforce and talent pipeline to strengthen and sharpen the SAF's digital cutting edge.


Specifically, this MOU between AISG and the DIS will see enhanced collaboration in talent identification, professional upskilling, data strategy and AI development.

I wish this partnership every success. On this note, I also wish all participants at this Conference a fruitful experience.

Thank you very much.

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