Singapore is six years into its Smart Nation initiative as Covid-19 hits hard. Its foundational work to digitise economy and society gave the city a “head start” in responding to the pandemic, said Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative.

Covid-19 has illustrated the need for digital readiness. To support Singapore, Huawei has announced new initiatives to build up digital skills, including a digital 5G-powered AI lab, a virtual AI academy with over 140 free courses, and training for AI developers.

“As a member of Singapore’s society, Huawei has a responsibility to deepen the long lasting collaboration with local ecosystem partners in these times of crisis,” Nicholas Ma, Huawei International CEO said at the Ecosystem Summit yesterday.

Meeting the demand for skilled talent

As Singapore’s informations and communications technology (ICT) sector continues to grow despite the pandemic, the demand for skilled talent is growing. Huawei hopes to respond to this call to train and upskill ICT talent with its AI academy. “Singapore, with talent as its critical asset and competitive advantage, will continue to be a core driver of digital transformation in the intelligent era,” said Ma.

From courses on cybersecurity to cloud computing and AI, the academy aims to equip Singaporeans with ICT skills and certify Singaporeans of all levels, from amateurs to professionals.

On top of courses, the academy will also offer hands-on experiences in AI development through Huawei’s simulation labs. A new series will be launched to equip businesses and partners with cybersecurity skills.

Trials for the academy started in April when the tech giant partnered with local companies and enrolled over 300 local ICT professionals. Through the academy, Huawei hopes to certify 1,000 ICT engineers in Singapore by the end of next year. “We believe that these efforts will help the ecosystem, as well as open up new business opportunities so that we can emerge stronger together,” Ma said.

Virtual AI lab

Originally launched in November last year, Huawei’s AI lab was created to allow local business owners to test out new technologies such as 5G and AI without having to go through separate licencing processes with the government.

Users can now enter a virtual simulation of the 5G-powered lab and learn how the company’s tech is used in different industries across the world. Users can also access the AI Lab’s applications and access resources like the “online developer zone” to build new AI models.

“With our 5G-powered AI Lab and the new Virtual AI Academy, we will continue to double our efforts to facilitate upskilling ICT talents as well as work with SME’s on digitalisation,” Ma said.

Collaboration is key

The Chinese tech giant will also collaborate with its partners to grow the pool of professional AI developers in Singapore.

Huawei’s Asia Pacific Ascend Partner Program consists of three sub-programs of Independent Software Vendors (ISV) AI Collaboration, Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) AI Talent Cultivation, and Government AI Industry Development. They are designed to target innovators, higher education institutes and governments. Entrepreneurs will be given funding to encourage AI development, and the program will support higher education institutes to develop talents and carry out research in AI more extensively.

“In the new AI era, a strategic partnership between National University of Singapore and Huawei in research and talent development will make great impact to society,” said Huang Zhiyong, Deputy Director, at National University of Singapore’s Business Analytics Centre.

As nations recover from the aftershocks of the pandemic, governments and industries need to work together to cultivate talents and come up with new innovations. As Ma said: “As the old saying goes, if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”

Images by Huawei