A cyclist rides before the city skyline at Marina Bay in Singapore.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Singapore plans to invest $50 million in a program to support research on AI and cybersecurity for future communications structures, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced on Tuesday.

As part of the Future Communications Research & Development Programme, Singapore plans to set up new communications testbeds in 5G and beyond-5G, support technology development, and build up a local talent pool.

5G refers to the fifth generation of high-speed mobile internet that aims to provide faster data speeds and more bandwidth to carry growing levels of web traffic. Many new technologies, such as self-driving cars, are underpinned by rapid developments and global deployment of 5G networks. For its part, Singapore plans to have full island-wide standalone 5G coverage by 2025.

The program will “support AI and cybersecurity research for next-generation communications infrastructures,” Heng said at the Asia Tech x Singapore conference.

It will “support testbeds for innovative pilots, and provide scholarships for those seeking to pursue research in communications.”

Just as globalization drove decades of economic growth around the world, I believe the fast-growing digital economy can propel us to a better future.

Heng Swee Keat

Singapore’s deputy prime minister

The program will also aim to build international partnerships and strengthen cross-border collaborations, according to Heng, who is also Singapore’s coordinating minister for economic policies.

Digitalizing the supply chain

Singapore will also be launching a digital exchange known as the Singapore Trade Data Exchange, or SGTraDex. It will allow multiple stakeholders — such as logistics players, shippers and buyers — to share valuable information like real-time cargo locations. The information is said to be encrypted and transmitted, without being stored.

The initiative is expected to stamp out significant inefficiencies around the movement of goods along the supply chain. For example, logistics and shipping companies would be able to optimize cargo handling and operations.

“From the pilots so far, SGTraDex has the potential to unlock more than $150 million of value annually for the supply chain ecosystem,” Heng said. It would also speed up the processing of customs clearance, trade financing, insurance and other related activities, he added.

SGTraDex is similar to another initiative launched last year called the Singapore Financial Data Exchange, or SGFinDex. It allows users to sign in with their national digital identity to access their consolidated financial data — such as deposits, credit cards, loans and investments — from participating banks and relevant government agencies on a single platform.

Unlocking the full potential

Heng pointed out that having the ability to allow data to flow securely and seamlessly can help countries unlock the full potential of digitalization.

Southeast Asia’s digital economy is fast-growing and its internet sectors are expected to cross $300 billion by 2025, according to an industry report from Google, Temasek Holdings and Bain & Company.

The coronavirus pandemic accelerated the push toward digitalization as many businesses, big and small, had to shift their presence online in the face of social restrictions and lockdowns.

“Just as globalization drove decades of economic growth around the world, I believe the fast-growing digital economy can propel us to a better future,” Heng said.