Microsoft inks pact to train Singapore SMBs in AI

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Microsoft inks pact to train Singapore SMBs in AI

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Microsoft has inked several partnerships to drive artificial intelligence (AI) adoption and skillsets in Singapore, particularly among small and midsize businesses (SMBs).
The tech giant is working with SkillsFuture Singapore to arm 2,000 SMBs over three years with the knowledge to tap AI tools. Microsoft is also teaming up with the Institute for Adult Learning to integrate AI into the education curriculum, with plans to jointly develop and test AI tools and methodologies to enhance the learning experience, Microsoft said in a statement on Wednesday.
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The company will also work with NTUC LearningHub to train up to 100,000 National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) members with fundamental AI skills. The aim is to boost members' AI literacy and prepare them for the evolving workforce, according to Microsoft.
The collaboration has resulted in several online and in-person training programs focused on how AI can be applied in the workplace, said NTUC LearningHub CEO Jeremy Ong. He said this approach will ensure NTUC's members are "ready for the future of work" and part of a workforce that can harness AI.
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Microsoft is also working with EnterpriseSG and AI Singapore to drive the adoption of Microsoft Copilot among local SMBs and identify industry-specific use cases for generative AI. The partners will jointly develop resources to help SMB leaders with change management and redesigning business workflows, Microsoft said, adding that the company will look to add customized AI use cases for businesses in the longer term.
These efforts will allow SMBs to scale the benefits of AI and boost productivity and operations. In addition, the software vendor will collaborate with Infocomm Media Development Authority to support digitally mature SMBs in accessing expertise and resources to implement generative AI tools.
Soh Leng Wan, EnterpriseSG's assistant CEO for manufacturing and engineering, believes Copilot can be "an easy way" for SMBs to start tapping AI to drive employee productivity and improve business workflows.
Microsoft has also introduced an initiative to develop AI solutions for key industry sectors. Its Microsoft AI Pinnacle Program encompasses the development of roadmaps for strategic AI use cases that provide clear returns on investment and operationalized AI use cases that deliver business impact.
The new initiative will establish an AI Center of Capabilities, comprising AI accelerators and toolsets, responsible AI frameworks, and a governance program. The initiative will also provide training programs.
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Microsoft AI Pinnacle Program was launched with five participating organizations — Certis, HTX, Mediacorp, Seatrium, and Synapxe — from various sectors, including health care and maritime.
"The program will facilitate co-creation and co-innovation of AI use cases and foster an AI-first culture and ecosystem," Microsoft said. "Through this, the program aims to inspire new ways of work and support organizations in building capabilities to tap opportunities in the era of AI."
The program will include the rollout of Copilot for business functions such as HR, finance, and marketing. Participating organizations can also work with Microsoft Research and its partners to develop new AI capabilities.
Laurence Liew, AI Singapore's director of AI innovation, has urged generative AI software vendors to incorporate regional and local data models to ensure their products better reflect a diverse global population. For example, integrating the Southeast Asian Languages in One Network (SEA-LION) large language model (LLM) will help these generative AI tools to generate more accurate responses, Liew said.
Liew noted that most public generative AI tools today are non-Asian focused and might have inherent data bias. LLMs such as SEA-LION are more "culturally sensitive", which he said will ensure generative AI responses better reflect the region's societal mix.
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In January, Singapore released a handbook to help local businesses navigate their adoption of generative AI and acquire the skills to support such initiatives. Dubbed Generative AI for the Tech Workforce, the resource guide aims to assist Singaporean organizations, such as SMBs, that want to integrate the technology into their environments.
The Singapore government last month set aside at least SG$1 billion ($741.97 million) to accelerate AI development in the country, including securing access to the necessary compute power and skillsets. Plans are also underway to upgrade the country's national broadband network and build a new cybersecurity command hub.
The investments aim to support the Singapore government's efforts to tap technology across key sectors and are part of its fiscal 2024 budget, running through to March 2025.

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