My dear Watson


15 October 2014
IBM Watson signing ceremony in Singapore

Singapore is looking to tap on self-learning technology to improve accessibility to government information and deliver better and more personalised services. Under the first phase of a public sector-wide initiative, it will team up with IBM to train a Watson-enabled natural language system in the areas of personal income tax, employment and work pass, and workplace health and safety.

Watson is the name of IBM’s cognitive technology platform. According to the company, it represents a new era of computing based on its ability to interact in natural language, process vast amounts of disparate forms of big data and learn from each interaction.

Watson is able to learn like a human being from the vast quantity of information provided by an organisation, and from its interactions with trainers and users. After the new system is trained, it will be able to recognise the intent of users’ requests, enabling government representatives (or the users themselves in self-serve use cases) to better navigate government services and provide personalised advice to address specific needs. As Watson learns, it also allows the government agencies to better understand the needs and priorities of their constituents, said IBM.

The Singapore initiative is the world’s first Watson adoption in the government sector. When the pilot project goes live next year, users will be able to access the Government websites using the self-service applications and gain more specific answers to their queries more quickly from the Watson cloud-based solution.

“We hope the collaboration with IBM to tap on their leading Watson technology will bring about a transformative change in how the government can better interact with citizens and address their needs,” said Lim Soo Hoon, a Permanent Secretary with the Ministry of Finance.

In a separate initiative to build up the skillsets required to make effective use of the technology, IBM and the National University of Singapore have signed an agreement to offer the first Watson-based cognitive computing education programme in Southeast Asia.

 “Our School of Computing and Business School are already immersed in a close collaboration with IBM in Business Analytics. This new initiative takes our strategic alliance with IBM to a new level,” said NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan.

Through the programme, students will learn about Watson and the underlying technologies that are required to develop cognitive systems applications. They will also have the opportunity to collaborate with experts to develop prototype applications for industries such as banking, retail or telecommunications.

Selected undergraduate and post-graduate students from NUS School of Computing, NUS Business School and NUS Business Analytics Center will be enrolled in early 2015 for the Watson-based cognitive systems programme. The IBM Watson Group will provide a range of resources and support including IBM developers and researchers to advise on new content and implementation; senior IBM executives and thought leaders to conduct guest lectures; IBM Watson technical mentors to provide guidance to students as they build prototypes of cognitive business applications; and access to IBM Watson through the Watson Developer Cloud.