SMU leverages multi-disciplinary expertise, launches Centre for AI and Data Governance

24 Sep 2018
Made possible by $4.5 mil research grant from NRF and IMDA, new Centre will support the work of the Advisory Council on the Ethical Use of AI and Data

Singapore, 24 September 2018 (Monday) – As Singapore develops its digital economy, a trusted ecosystem is key, where industries can benefit from innovations in technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), while consumer confidence and understanding can be assured.  The Minister for Communications and Information Mr S Iswaran announced the establishment of an Advisory Council on the Ethical Use of AI and Data (Advisory Council) in June 2018, to encourage the industry adoption of AI and the roll out of products and services using AI in an accountable and responsible manner.

To support the work of the Advisory Council and promote thought leadership in the area, SMU today officially launched a new Centre for AI and Data Governance.  The setting up of the new Centre has been made possible by a major grant of $4.5 million from the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to the SMU School of Law in June 2018, following a competitive application process among several Institutes of Higher Learning in Singapore.

The launch event held at SMU was graced by Guest-of-Honour Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Transport & Ministry of Communications and Information.  Dr Puthucheary participated in a panel discussion on the ethical, governance and consumer protection implications for the commercial deployment of AI.  The other panellists were Dr Urs Gasser, Executive Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; and Ms Malavika Jayaram, Executive Director of Digital Asia Hub.  The panel was moderated by IMDA Assistant Chief Executive Mr Yeong Zee Kin.

[Photo: Dr Janil Puthucheary (2nd from left) speaking at a panel discussion at the launch event.  (L-R) Mr Yeong Zee Kin, Dr Janil Puthucheary, Ms Malavika Jayaram and Dr Urs Gasser.]

Helming the new Centre as its initial Director is Associate Professor Goh Yihan, Dean of the SMU School of Law.  With an aim to promote cutting-edge thinking and practices in AI, and data policies and regulations, the new Centre, which is housed within the School of Law, will enable Singapore to drive thought leadership on these issues and serve as a centre for knowledge exchange with experts worldwide. It will also adopt a global perspective and track international developments in its research areas.

An Expert Panel has also been established, comprising distinguished experts from academic as well as the technology industry and legal professions, who will provide international know-how and connections.  Prominent research centres and institutional partners around the world have also committed to working with the Centre.  (Please see Annex 1 for details.)

The Centre will undertake research projects under three integrated streams – AI and Society, AI and Industry, and AI and Commercialisation – that will help build bridges between academy, industry and government.  Leveraging multi-disciplinary faculty expertise across SMU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business, School of Information Systems and School of Social Sciences, it will embark on eight research projects, outlined as follows:

(Stream 1 – AI and Society)

  1. Trustworthy AI – which will examine the ethical and social dimensions of developing trust in AI;
  2. Privacy and data protection in a world of data-driven agency – which will study the legal, ethical and social dimensions of using big data to carry out tasks;
  3. Transforming labour force – which will study how AI and data-driven technologies will fundamentally change Singapore’s labour force;

(Stream 2 – AI and Industry)

  1. Automated and connected vehicles policy – which will study the legal, ethical, social and regulatory issues relating to data-driven transportation technologies;
  2. Dispute resolution: managing and preventing disputes, and the role of professional advisers – which will examine the opportunities and challenges AI and big data present to the dispute resolution industry;
  3. Fintech policy – which will examine the opportunities and challenges AI and big data present to the financial system;

(Stream 3 – AI and Commercialisation)

  1. Intellectual Property (IP) and AI – which will examine how developments in AI will challenge the existing norms of IP;
  2. Data-logistics, AI and transnational commerce and trading – which will study the challenges and opportunities brought about by AI and big data to transnational commerce and international trade.

In carrying out the above research projects, the Centre will work with various public agencies, private organisations and academic institutions.  The collaborations may include the co-organisation of research conferences and seminars, as well as the exchange of researchers.  For example, the Centre will work with the Centre for Commercial Law Studies at Queen Mary University of London to conduct a pilot study on Trustworthy AI.  The Centre also plans to organise topical seminars to update the legal and business community, and provide new thoughts to practitioners and decision-makers in the public and business sectors.

The Centre will also enrich the knowledge of SMU’s undergraduate and postgraduate students (not limiting to those studying law) by involving them in joint research programmes with their counterparts in overseas institutions.  An initial example of this collaboration is led by Professor Dov Greenbaum, Director of the Zvi Meitar Institute for Legal Implications of Emerging Technologies.  Professor Greenbaum will lead SMU students on a year-long project where students work with stakeholders associated with an emerging technology to develop a publishable research paper/white paper that provides actionable analysis of that technology and its varied implications.

[Photo: Associate Professor Goh Yihan speaking at the launch of the Centre for AI and Data Governance.]

On the launch of the new Centre, Associate Professor Goh Yihan, said, “As our country advances its digital economy, we are honoured to be able to play our part in supporting Singapore’s national needs through relevant research that has actual and meaningful impact on society and businesses.  At the same time, in this period that is fast influenced by technological disruptions, it is our intent that the research insights generated will inform our teaching, as we aim to future-proof our graduates with a forward-looking curriculum that integrates theory and practice.”

Mr VK Rajah SC, Chair of the Advisory Council, said, “The establishment of the new Centre for AI and Data Governance at SMU, among the first of its kind in Asia, is a significant event.  Through the Centre, SMU can provide critical thought leadership to policy makers both within and outside Singapore.”

The launch of the Centre for AI and Data Governance was held at the Singapore AI Workshop, part of the Global AI Dialogue Series convened by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, co-organised with and hosted by SMU School of Law and Digital Asia Hub.  The Workshop serves as a seminar to convene multiple stakeholder perspectives on the ethics and governance of AI, with an emphasis on Singapore-specific AI developments as a vertical lens, followed by a horizontal analysis of hard global governance challenges. The hands-on seminar provides a platform for practitioners which has policy, business, or technology responsibilities, both regionally and globally, to develop and share insights on AI from an ethics and governance perspective, with the objective of fostering sustainable dialogue and outlining tangible approaches to tackling the governance challenges faced.

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Annex 1

Expert Panel member list:

  1. Chang Zi Qian    , Co Founder, Intelllex
  2. Antony Cook, Associate General Counsel and Regional Director for Corporate, External and Legal Affairs for Asia Pacific, Microsoft
  3. Bart Custers, Associate Professor, Leiden, eLaw Centre for Law and Digital Technologies
  4. Urs Gasser, Professor of Practice, Executive Director, Harvard Law School Berkman Klein Centre for Internet and Society
  5. Joan Janssen, Director-General, Ministry of Law
  6. Daniel Martin Katz, Associate Professor of Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law
  7. Ian KerrCanada Chair Professor, University of Ottawa
  8. Koh Chia-Ling, Director of Singapore Law Practice, OC Queen Street LLC
  9. Richard Koh, Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft Singapore
  10. Sophie Mathur, Partner, Global Co-Head of Innovation, Linklaters
  11. Steven Miller, Vice Provost (Research), Singapore Management University
  12. Andrew Murray, Professor of Law, London School of Economics
  13. Joey Pang, Technology Lawyer, DBS Bank
  14. Jacqueline Poh, Deputy Secretary Prime Minister’s Office Strategy Group
  15. Rajesh Sreenivasan, Partner and Head, Technology, Media & Telecommunications, Rajah & Tann Singapore
  16. Denis Therien, VP Research Partnership in R&D, Element AI

List of partners to-date:

  1. Berkman Klein Centre for Internet & Society, Harvard University
  2. Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London
  3. Centre for Law, Technology and Society, University of Ottawa
  4. Digital Asia Hub
  5. Zvi Meitar Institute for Legal Implication of Emerging Technologies, IDA Herzliya


[Featured photo: Official launch of the Centre for AI and Data Governance. (L-R) Assoc Prof Goh Yihan, SMU Provost Professor Lily Kong, Dr Janil Puthucheary, Mr Yeong Zee Kin.]


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Last updated on 26 Sep 2018.

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