How Singapore is future-proofing itself for information warfare, cybersecurity and digital conflict

S. Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information, speaking at WEF in Davos in January. Photo: WEF.

Connectivity infrastructure is a key building block for Singapore’s economy and the changing needs of the digital economy require trusted, secure and resilient next-generation connectivity infrastructure, including 5G and narrowband Internet-of-Things (NB-IoT) sensor networks.

At the 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in January, Singapore released its Model Artificial Intelligence (AI) Governance Framework for public consultation, pilot adoption and feedback.

The Framework is the first of its kind to provide detailed and readily implementable guidance to private sector organizations to address key ethical and governance issues when deploying AI solutions.

In addition, the Framework is an agile document, which will help Singapore cope with the fast-paced changes in a digital economy and is expected to continue to develop alongside adoptees use.

The two guiding principles underpinning this Model Framework are to help organizations ensure that decisions made by, or with the assistance of AI are explainable, transparent and fair to consumers and their AI solutions are human-centric.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), a statutory board of the Singapore government, under the Ministry of Communications and Information, has also formed the Telecomm Cybersecurity Committee (TCSC) to help identify next generation cyber-threats and develop the solutions and capabilities needed to secure Singapore’s connectivity infrastructure.

The TCSC is expected to issue a roadmap in 2019, which will help IMDA strategically and systematically invest in developing robust cybersecurity capabilities for the telecom sector. It will contain considerations and recommendations that will address cyber security across four broad categories: People, Process, Technology, and Partnerships.

Aileen Chia, deputy chief executive of policy, regulations and competition development at IMDA tells The Drum other efforts to strengthen Singapore’s cybersecurity capabilities to include the electronic Know Your Customer (eKYC) implementation guide.

She says this guide will specify IMDA’s regulatory requirements to help ensure a secured online verification and performance of eKYC solutions used by mobile operators.

“IMDA launched the public consultation on the IoT Cyber Security Guide that will list baseline recommendations to help instill greater confidence in the usage of IoT systems,” explains Chia.

“IMDA is also exploring possible trials using quantum key distribution technology with industry partners to develop a greater understanding of a more advanced form of encryption.

She continues: “As the amount of data generated continues to grow exponentially, the emerging adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) underscores its key role in data analytics, and also highlights the importance of good governance and ethical use of AI.”

According to Chia, the aim of the eKYC implementation guide is to drive digitalisation, facilitating the transition from face-to-face verification to the use of eKYC technologies via kiosks, mobile applications, online web portals and trusted databases.

“The guide also specifies the need for the eKYC solutions to perform document verification and biometric authentication, and the possible usage of trusted databases,” she adds.

At the WEF meeting, Singapore also announced a collaboration with the WEF Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) to further drive AI and data innovation.

The partnership will see IMDA and the WEF engaging businesses to discuss the Framework in greater detail and facilitate its adoption. Work has already commenced, with closed-door discussions led by the C4IR and IMDA to seek feedback on the Framework, as well as to generate and understand use cases and practical examples.

The C4IR and IMDA will also develop a measurement matrix for the Framework which regulators and certification bodies globally can adopt and adapt for their use in assessing whether organisations are responsibly deploying AI.

They will also develop a discussion paper outlining policy options on the facilitation of cross-border data flows under the collaboration.

“Singapore is focused on innovation and technology. As the country develops forward-looking technology policies, we welcome them as a partner of the Centre Network,” said Murat Sonmez, the managing director and head of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network.

“We are looking forward to their contribution to our network for global technology governance.”

The Drum spoke to IMDA as part of the lead up to its magazine released in March, which explores information warfare, cybersecurity and digital conflict featuring a host of media and information experts. Make sure you get your copy here.

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