Top talent and ideas needed to make smart nation aim a reality: Janil Puthucheary

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education Janil Puthucheary said Singapore needs to be open to "all the best ideas in the world".
Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education Janil Puthucheary said Singapore needs to be open to "all the best ideas in the world".PHOTO: NATIONAL SUPERCOMPUTING CENTRE SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - The Republic needs top ideas and talent in high performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) to turn its vision of a smart nation into a reality, said Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education Janil Puthucheary.

Speaking at Supercomputing Asia 2018 (SCA18) on March 27 (Tuesday), Dr Janil said: "It's not enough to be open to investments. It's not enough to be open to people. We have to be open to all the best ideas in the world and allow all those ideas to capitalise on each other."

He said Singapore’s current digital economy has benefited from its investment in supercomputers since 1998, as well as facilities and initiatives like the National Supercomputing Centre (NSCC) and Artificial Intelligence Singapore.

"None of these things in the past would have been possible, and none of the opportunities in the future would become possible with the absence of the type of people that we've been able to attract to conferences like these, to institutions like the NSCC... looking to see what the supercomputing industry can do for our society," he added.

Supercomputers perform at or near the highest operational rate for computers. They enable problem solving and data analysis that would be impossible, too time-consuming or costly with regular computers.

High performance computers have the same inherent function as supercomputers, but may have lower levels of performance.

In lauding experts and professionals in the field at the global technology conference, Dr Janil said: "Your hard work and dedication to the efforts, and research, made new technologies, new possibilities, arrive faster and proliferate deeper into society and have inspired people to imagine what would be possible."

In an interview with The Straits Times, Dr Goh Eng Lim said a convergence of the two technology fields can help with the haze and its impact.

The vice-president and chief technology officer for HPC and AI at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, predicted that in the near future, "HPC and AI can run simulations to check if changes in the structures of buildings, streets and trees throughout Singapore can bring about a significant reduction in haze".

Dr Goh was among five award recipients at the conference which runs until March 29.

The Singaporean, who received the Singapore Visionary Award, put the country on the supercomputing map when he sent one into space with Nasa to study high performance computing hardware for long duration space travel. He is one of several experts who will speak at the event.

Professor Lam Khin Yong, vice-president of research in Nanyang Technological University, received the Singapore Distinguished Service Award. He has been involved with the HPC landscape in Singapore since the 1980s.

Prof Lam, who is an active advocate of aligning research with industry applications, last month clinched a multi-million-dollar research collaboration in AI with e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Organised by NSCC, SCA18 focuses on the relationship between HPC and AI, as well as their practical applications.

The conference includes an Asia-Pacific HPC-AI Competition, jointly organised by the HPC-AI Advisory Council and NSCC.

The competition is open to teams from tertiary institutions in the region adept in programming in fields such as HPC and AI.