Singapore's private sector launches document for ethical use of AI; certification course to follow next year

Currently, there is demand for AI in safe distancing management, said Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A telco's artificial intelligence (AI) system recommends loyalty vouchers of different value to different customers based on how profitable these customers are for the company and their flight risk.

When customers query the discrepancy, how will the telco's frontline staff explain the difference?

Similarly, should the AI system of a hospital's accident and emergency department allow elderly patients to jump queue solely because of their age?

It is this type of ethical dilemmas that a new reference document helps organisations and tech professionals address to roll out AI ethically.

Launched on Friday (Oct 16) by the Singapore Computer Society (SCS), "AI Ethics & Governance Body of Knowledge" builds on the Singapore government's voluntary framework for the responsible use of AI.

It is authored by 29 industry veterans including Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, a professor of engineering at the Singapore Institute of Technology; Dr Chong Yoke Sin, managing partner at consultancy firm iGlobe Partners; and Mr Yeong Zee Kin, deputy commissioner of Singapore's Personal Data Protection Commission.

The private sector-led document forms the curriculum basis for Singapore's first AI ethics certification course for tech professionals.

The course will be launched by SCS and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) next year (2021).

Speaking at the document launch on Friday (Oct 16), Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran said the document and the certification course are important in preparing tech practitioners to take on new opportunities in AI as Singapore and other countries gradually reopen their economies and borders.

"Novel technologies such as AI are critical to support businesses in adapting to this new normal," said Mr Iswaran, referring to a post-lockdown world ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.

AI refers to a set of technologies that seek to simulate human traits such as reasoning, problem solving, learning, planning and predicting.

It is used by banks, insurance firms, healthcare providers, retailers and social media platforms for, among other things, reducing fraud, predicting behaviour and recommending actions.

Currently, there is demand for AI in safe distancing management, Mr Iswaran added.

He also said that laying an ethical foundation is important to build trust, which will in turn spur adoption and acceptance, and drive economic transformation.

Details of the certification course are not available. But it will be incorporated into an upcoming mini Masters programme on AI ethics to be offered by NTU.

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