Singapore wants to become a green computing hub. Here’s how it’s getting started.
By Yogesh Hirdaramani
At Singapore Computer Society's recent Sustainable Tech Forum, the Singapore Government announced upcoming initiatives to drive Singapore's status as a green computing hub.
Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information, Dr Janil Puthucheary delivering the opening address at the SCS Sustainable Tech Forum. Image: Singapore Computer Society
“Merely improving hardware efficiency is not sufficient to move carbon emissions to a more sustainable level,” said Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information, during his opening address at the Singapore Computer Society Sustainable Tech Forum last week.
“You need to not just deal with what the infrastructure is, but what happens on the infrastructure. The software also needs to be addressed.”
The tech sector is expected to contribute around 15 to 30 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, up from about 1.4 per cent today, he said, noting the increasing adoption of energy-intensive technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain.
This is why the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), which oversees the nation’s digital economy, is going beyond greening its data centres and is rolling out new initiatives to support green computing goals.
1. Funding for green computing research, solutions
First, the agency is launching a SGD30 million (USD 22.4 million) fund to support researchers in collaborating with the industry to develop new innovative green computing solutions. Such green computing solutions would optimise software design and function for energy efficiency.
IMDA will announce a call for proposals this year to invite researchers and industry to work together on such solutions, Dr Puthucheary said.
In a media interview, Dr Ong Chen Hui, Assistant Chief Executive of BizTech at IMDA shared that the proposals may have to do with energy-efficient techniques to train AI or to stream media, as well as new technologies that can better measure the carbon footprint of the ICT sector.
She noted that there are currently no industry standards in place to measure tech’s carbon footprint. IMDA is collaborating with the Green Software Foundation, which aims to develop a carbon efficiency rating for software.
The Foundation is a nonprofit that aims to build a trusted ecosystem for creating and building green software and Singapore was the first country to join the foundation in 2023.
“It’s really about how we balance our need for sustainability with our need for innovation,” said Dr Ong to the media.
2. Trials to test carbon reduction techniques
Next, IMDA will be launching green software trials that will test the effectiveness of carbon reduction techniques for software development. In turn, this will help IMDA set industry guidelines on developing green software.
Participants of these trials will include Amazon Web Services, NCS, Ant Group, and the Singapore Institute of Technology.
“The trials will look at the effectiveness of carbon reduction in real-world applications and the ability to deliver cost and energy efficiency without affecting performance,” said Dr Puthucheary.
3. Nine new digital solutions for sustainability
While technology can go green, organisations can also leverage other technologies to enable larger green efforts.
At the event, Dr Puthucheary also announced that IMDA has curated nine digital solutions targeted at resource optimisation and carbon management for companies.
Companies can apply for up to 70 per cent funding under IMDA’s Advanced Digital Solutions programme to adopt these digital solutions, which can help them achieve productivity gains and cost savings while reducing emissions.
Such solutions include an automated ESG data management, reporting, and analytics solution, real-time carbon emissions tracking and analysis for fleet vehicles, and an AI-powered decarbonisation platform, according to IMDA’s website.
Government leading the way
Finally, speakers at the forum noted that Singapore’s GovTech is taking proactive steps to green the Government’s digital efforts.
Henry Chang, Deputy Chief Executive of GovTech, shared in a presentation that the Singapore Government’s efforts to migrate 70 per cent of its workloads to the Government Commercial Cloud was one step towards reducing carbon emissions.
The Government optimises its application portfolio by encouraging the use of common products through the SG Tech Stack, leading to more efficient resource use.
He also shared that the agency is working closely with the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment to automate data collection and pilot carbon data analytics to measure the carbon performance of the Government.
He pointed to GovTech’s work with JTC on the Open Digital Platform, which will optimise energy and water consumption in the Punggol Digital District by up to 30 per cent.
Lim Tuang Liang, the Government Chief Sustainability Officer, also shared progress updates on Singapore’s Green Plan at the event. These include having planted over 500,000 trees out of a projected 1 million by 2030, achieving a 50 to 80 per cent reduction in the use of plastic bags across supermarkets, and deploying over 1 gigawatt-peak of solar energy.
Singapore first announced plans to become a digital sustainability hub in 2022, when IMDA first announced a collaboration with Microsoft to develop a joint framework for the development of sustainable software.