NTU to set up $50m centre to advance digital trust technologies in Singapore

The Digital Trust Centre at NTU will lead Singapore's research and innovation in trust technologies and grow local talent and businesses. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) will invest $50 million in a new national Digital Trust Centre (DTC) to lead Singapore's research and innovation in trust technologies, such as privacy protection solutions, and grow local talent and businesses in this domain.

Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo on Wednesday (June 1) announced that the IMDA has appointed Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to establish the centre.

"The DTC will work with local universities and research institutes to promote research, translation and talent development in trust technologies." said Mrs Teo, who is also Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative.

"It will focus on trusted data sharing and computation, digital identity and algorithms that evaluate the trustworthiness of systems.

"Besides local partners, the centre will also collaborate with international partners from both the public and private sectors."

She was speaking at the Ritz-Carlton, Millennia hotel on the second day of the Asia Tech x Singapore (ATxSG) event organised by the IMDA.

Mrs Teo had announced at last year's ATxSG event that Singapore would invest $50 million over five years to create a trusted digital environment for its people and businesses.

Digital trust refers to the level of confidence that users have in the security, reliability and trustworthiness of digital platforms and the people, organisations, technology and processes behind them.

The new centre will enable institutes of higher learning and research institutes to research technologies that help to build and uphold digital trust, drive local and international collaborations in this field, and encourage academia and enterprises to co-develop the ideas into market-ready solutions.

It will also provide a sandbox environment for businesses to experiment with trust technologies to alleviate challenges with data sharing.

NTU's associate vice-president of strategy and partnerships, Professor Lam Kwok Yan, will lead the new centre as its executive director.

The IMDA said the centre will also aim to deepen local capabilities in digital trust tech by nurturing talent in research and development. At least 100 individuals are expected to be trained for this purpose.

The centre will focus on four key areas.

Research in trusted analysis will support businesses in deriving insights while preserving data privacy.

In the field of trusted identity, the centre will explore how digital identities and assets can be verified and authenticated using distributed ledger technology, cryptography and biometrics.

The centre will also explore trusted accreditation to develop ways to test and audit the trustworthiness of digital products and services using artificial intelligence (AI) to provide assurance to consumers.

Finally, the centre will aim to develop solutions to current limitations on trusted computation.

The IMDA and the International Centre of Expertise in Montreal for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence on Wednesday also inked an agreement to collaborate on a project focusing on privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs).

The IMDA said this is one of the world's first cross-border collaborations on PET and marks a "significant upgrade in Singapore's participation in and support of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence".

As part of this project, practical PET demonstrations of AI systems will be conducted and insights will be drawn to develop practical guidance for developers and owners of AI systems.

The experience will guide future research and development, as well as business adoption of PETs, and contribute to developing international standards, IMDA said.

PETs refer to tools and processes which enable the sharing of useful insights extracted from data without disclosing the actual data.

NTU's Prof Lam said these tools could potentially unlock value of private or proprietary data while addressing data security concerns and building trust between companies and consumers.

This includes data that businesses would not normally be willing to disclose for privacy reasons.

"For example, fintech companies can exchange their data in a confidential manner to address financial risks while still protecting the privacy of their customer data," he added.

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