Filtered by: News Media

Greening The Net

20 January 2021 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Systems & Networking

 

Life has gotten more digital than ever before. And the plusses of that for the environment has been clear…as in clear skies and clean air. What is not so clear however is this: when it comes to greenhouse gases, the Internet is responsible for 2% of global emissions. If the Internet were a country, it would be ranked as the sixth largest polluter in the world.

But the Internet is here to stay, so what can be done to make it greener? From individuals not hitting Reply All on emails or turning off Auto Play for videos, to data centres running on green energy and search engines giving back to the environment, host Prerna Pant looks at all the various ways we are Greening The ‘Net.

Pant also interviews Assistant Professor Trevor E. Carlson on how Internet usage is contributing to our carbon footprint.

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Three Singapore smart home hub, Wi-Fi router brands carry new cyber-security label

30 December 2020 Department of Information Systems & Analytics , Faculty , News Media , Security

 

Smart home hubs and Wi-Fi routers from local brands Aztech, HomeAuto Solutions and Prolink are the first technology products to carry cyber-security labels similar to the energy-efficiency labels on home appliances.

Sold on e-commerce platforms such as Lazada and Shopee, four products from these three brands have been given the Level 1 rating under the Cybersecurity Labelling Scheme (CLS), which is aimed at helping buyers gauge how exposed they are to risks.

The Level 1 rating means the device maker has ensured that there is a unique default password and that software updates are automatically pushed to the products. The CLS - a voluntary tiered rating system administered by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) - was launched in October.

Checks by The Straits Times found that the prices of the four CLS-labelled products are comparable to those of non-labelled counterparts. For instance, a single unit of the labelled Wi-Fi router from Prolink costs $150, while one unlabelled Wi-Fi router from TP-Link's Deco X20 line is priced at $149.

Experts have, however, said that labelled products could cost markedly more - such as when, for a higher rating, a manufacturer sends its product to an external laboratory to test its resistance to cyber attacks. This is because complying with the requirements for higher ratings involve "significant effort and resources", said Associate Professor Goh Khim Yong from the National University of Singapore's School of Computing.

While some consumers said they would be willing to pay a small premium for a more secure product, most indicated that they would prioritise other factors such as user-friendliness and reliability over cyber security.

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NUS scientists develop computational tool to help design safer devices

29 December 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Security

 

As the world embraces the Internet of Things (IoT), more and more everyday appliances are being connected to the Internet so that people can monitor those appliances remotely. While this makes our lives more convenient, there is a looming threat of cybercriminals using these devices to gain access to sensitive data.

Now, scientists from the National University of Singapore’s School of Computing (NUS Computing) have made it easier to guard against that. They have developed a software tool that can simulate hacker attacks, and which provide an automated way to protect the design. This helps designers create more secure computer chips.

The software works by simulating a physical hardware attack known as laser fault injection. To accomplish this on a real device, the cyber-criminal would first partially disassemble the hardware to gain access to its silicon chip without interrupting its operation. Then, they use a laser to generate a processor error. This throws the gates open, allowing them to extract data and security information.

Previously, it was expensive to protect chips against this kind of attack because they had to be tested manually. If the chip fails the test, the design must start over. The NUS software, called the Laser fault Attack Benchmark Suite or LABS, can now simulate attacks in a wide variety of situations and demonstrate how the chip reacts. All this can be done without having to manufacture a single chip. This helps chip designers figure out how to repel the attack, and even trick the attackers into thinking they have succeeded. With this software, chip manufacturers will be able to simulate any device, and results are available within minutes.

The NUS scientists, led by Assistant Professor Trevor E. Carlson and Professor Peh Li Shiuan, have made the software open source so researchers and the chip design community can use it, or help make it better.

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Just in time for Christmas: How Gratify plans to make gift-giving more efficient and sustainable

24 December 2020 Department of Information Systems & Analytics , Student , News Media , Social Media & Digital Business , Digital Transformation, Platforms & Innovation

 

Half of Singapore customers admitted that they are not happy with the gifts they have received.

“To prevent such loss in economic value and environmental damage, cash is theoretically the most efficient solution. However, giving cash as a gift is crude, and could be seen as derogatory. Hence, many people have resorted to getting gift cards, which is a convenient way to gift while reducing economic waste. This explains the rapid growth trends in the gift card market,” Gratify CEO & CFO Dao Xiong Teng explains in an email to e27.

But even gift cards are not perfect.

“If we think about it, most people would remove the price tags and the receipts from their gifts before giving them out, so that the dollar value is not so glaringly in-your-face. Yet, ironically, for gift cards, the dollar value is practically the gift itself,” Teng continues. “What we need is a gift that is as flexible as a gift card, but without having the gift value blatantly apparent and crude.”

This is the opportunity that local startup Gratify aims to seize. 

Launched earlier this month, the startup builds a platform to enable customers to purchase and send gifts to their loved ones. But what sets them apart from other e-commerce platform is that they provide options for gift recipients to receive, swap the gifts, or donate it to a charity.

The platform works by enabling the customer to choose from a wide array of products on their platform. Once they have checked out and given the recipient’s details, the recipient will be notified and be given the options.

If they choose to not accept the gift, for whatever reason, they can opt to swap it with a more suitable one as available on the Gratify platform. They can also choose to donate the value of the gift to a charity organisation that the startup is partnering with.

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Generation Grit: NUS undergrad with cerebral palsy plans on helping others like him

24 December 2020 Department of Computer Science , Student , News Media , Feature

 

The road to university can be difficult for any student, but Mr Ng Jun Kang had to overcome daily challenges that others gave no thought to. Like getting to class, for instance, or taking notes. Or even getting a drink of water.

The 22-year-old first year Computer Science undergraduate at the National University of Singapore has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, which was caused by a brain injury during birth.

Although his condition affects his muscle control, motor skills and his speech, it proved no obstacle to his achieving good grades and clinching scholarships. Quite the opposite, he argues.

"My condition has gifted me resilience and patience in everything that I do," he said.

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Beyond the classroom: Innovations that change the world

14 December 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Systems & Networking , Security

 

Lettuce, mint and even tomatoes – Singaporeans may soon be able to grow these vegetables and more in their HDB flats.

Having witnessed “a deep psychological fear” when COVID-19 sparked panic buying here, Toby Fong and his team – superFARM – decided to bolster the nation’s food security. Their plan? Encourage green fingers through home-based farming.

“When we think about food security, it’s usually at a national level so it almost feels like the individual (is disconnected) from the entire food security equation,” said Toby, who graduated with a Master’s from NUS Architecture this year.

Under the “Make Our People Better” category, Toby, NUS Computing graduate Lim Hui Qi and NUS Arts and Social Sciences graduate Ong Jun Ren will design modular farming units that can fit into the smallest of homes. These units can also be customised for bigger spaces.

The plan is to transform niche hydroponics systems into functional mini-farms. In the next six months, half of their $50,000 funding will go to research such as field testing and online surveys, while the rest will be used for prototype development.

The team also wants to expand the individual’s role in food security to make sustainability a way of life.

“We want to recalibrate people’s attitude and behaviour to encourage responsible food consumption,” said Toby.

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Robot vacuum cleaners can be used by hackers to 'spy' on private conversations: NUS study

08 December 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Systems & Networking , Security

 

When your robot vacuum cleaner does its work around the house, beware that it could pick up private conversations along with the dust and dirt. Computer scientists from NUS have demonstrated that it is indeed possible to spy on private conversations using a common robot vacuum cleaner and its built-in Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) sensor.

The novel method, called LidarPhone, repurposes the Lidar sensor that a robot vacuum cleaner normally uses for navigating around a home into a laser-based microphone to eavesdrop on private conversations.

The research team, led by Assistant Professor Jun Han from NUS Computer Science, and his doctoral student Mr Sriram Sami, managed to recover speech data with high accuracy. NUS students, Mr Dai Yimin and Mr Sean Tan Rui Xiang, as well as Assistant Professor Nirupam Roy from the University of Maryland, also contributed to this work.

Mr Sami shared, “The proliferation of smart devices – including smart speakers and smart security cameras – has increased the avenues for hackers to snoop on our private moments. Our method shows it is now possible to gather sensitive data just by using something as innocuous as a household robot vacuum cleaner. Our work demonstrates the urgent need to find practical solutions to prevent such malicious attacks.”'

The core of the LidarPhone attack method is the Lidar sensor, a device which fires out an invisible scanning laser, and creates a map of its surroundings. By reflecting lasers off common objects such as a dustbin or a takeaway bag located near a person’s computer speaker or television soundbar, the attacker could obtain information about the original sound that made the objects’ surfaces vibrate. Using applied signal processing and deep learning algorithms, speech could be recovered from the audio data, and sensitive information could potentially be obtained.

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New practices needed to stay safe online in era of working from home

08 December 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Systems & Networking , Security

 

Say "no" when your child asks to use your work laptop to do his schoolwork, or set up a different user account on the work laptop for different activities.

There are ways to reset habits and practices for a more digitally secure 2021 as working and e-learning from home become the new normal even after Covid-19, said panellists at The Straits Times Reset 2021 Webinar Series: Digitalisation And Cyber Security on Wednesday.

The panellists comprised of Associate Professor Steven Wong from the Singapore Institute of Technology, Mr David Koh, chief executive of the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore; Associate Professor Chang Ee-Chien from the National University of Singapore School of Computing; and Mr Benjamin Ang, head of the Cyber and Homeland Defence Programme at the Centre of Excellence for National Security, a policy research think-tank.

Prof Chang suggested segregating devices at home by individual or workflow. For example, as far as possible, children should use a different desktop or laptop from the ones their parents use for work.

"If that is not possible, then try to segregate by setting up different user accounts on a laptop. Even if you have your own machine, you can segregate accounts for work, for family, or for playing games," he said.

"Segregation is about setting up security parameters, so that when something happens within that parameter it will not spill over to other (areas)."

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Seven NUS professors lauded for their work and service

08 December 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Programming Languages & Software Engineering , Security

 

NUS has honoured seven exceptional educators, researchers and professionals at the NUS University Awards 2020. The annual event recognises individuals for their outstanding contributions in the areas of education, research and service to the University, Singapore and the global community.

Professor Dong Jin Song from the NUS' School of Computing was given the University Research Recognition Award for developing a software verification framework that has more than 4,000 users from over 150 countries.

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye lauded the award winners for being role models for the university community. “Each award winner has exemplified the spirit of excellence with an indomitable spirit. They are truly esteemed individuals – beacons and pathfinders who inspire us to better ourselves and to scale new heights even in times of crisis. NUS is proud to celebrate their dedication and distinguished accomplishments,” he said.

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60 years of facial recognition: The hidden perils behind Singapore’s ‘facial recognition era’

27 November 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , News Media , Security , Media

 

In recent years, the Singapore government has tapped on facial recognition for various purposes as part of its ‘smart nation’ initiative. For instance, Changi Airport’s Terminal 4 uses facial recognition technology for various purposes such as passenger check-in, immigration and boarding, while GovTech launched a launched the "Lamppost-as-a-Platform" project, which outfits some 95,000 traditional lampposts in the country with a network of wireless sensors and cameras to support urban and transportation planning and operations.

Associate Professor Terence Sim from the School of Computing at the National University of Singapore stated in an exclusive interview with China-based news website The Paper that there are trends of facial recognition technology being abused, and that laws protecting such technology could be further strengthened. He also elaborated further on privacy issues regarding such technology.

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Hackers hijacking WhatsApp accounts by asking for security codes

23 November 2020 Department of Computer Science , News Media , Systems & Networking , Security , Media

 

When a secondary school friend contacted him out of the blue a few months ago asking for a verification code on WhatsApp, administrative executive Tan Jun Heng, 25, did not suspect anything was amiss.

His friend simply claimed to have "accidentally" sent the code to his number. But within seconds of sending the code, Mr Tan was automatically locked out of his own WhatsApp account. It had been hijacked.

Mr Tan and his friends are among a growing pool of WhatsApp users who have become victims of social hacking, where scammers use already hijacked social media accounts to contact victims by posing as their friends or family.

National University of Singapore's Associate Professor Chang Ee-Chien, whose research interests include data privacy, said the impersonation tactics used by hackers are "very low-tech, but very effective, as people tend to trust their friends or family".

With full access to their victim's account, hackers may then exploit the victim's personal relationships and ask for money from friends or family. Or, if they glean enough information about their victim's place of employment, they may also target the victim's workplace, added Prof Chang. 

However, experts say, there are preventive measures that users can take to prevent such attacks.

Ms Wong and AiSP executive committee member James Tan said setting up a two-step verification process on your WhatsApp account can prevent others from signing in to it. Users should not click on suspicious looking links, even if they are purportedly from friends or family, they added.

For impersonation scams, however, "the only solution is to not trust people", said Prof Chang. He added: "It is very important that you must presume that whoever is speaking to you on the other end is not your friend."

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NUS team develops tool that can assess vulnerability of AI systems to attacks

10 November 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , Research , News Media , Security

 

National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers have developed a tool to safeguard against a new form of cyber attack that can recreate the data sets containing personal information used to train artificial intelligence (AI) machines.

The tool, called the Machine Learning (ML) Privacy Meter, has been incorporated into the developer toolkit that Google uses to test the privacy protection features of AI algorithms.

In recent years, hackers have figured out how to reverse-engineer and reconstruct database sets used to train AI systems through an increasingly common kind of attack called a membership inference (MI) attack.

Assistant Professor Reza Shokri, who heads the research team behind ML Privacy Meter, said such attacks involve hackers repeatedly asking the AI system for information, analysing the data for a pattern, and then using the pattern to guess if a data record was used to train the AI system.

Prof Shokri likened MI attacks to thieves probing for weak spots in a house's walls and doors with a needle before breaking in. "But the thief is not going to break in with the needle. Now that he knows (where the weak spots are), he is going to come with a hammer and break the wall," he said.

ML Privacy Meter helps AI developers through a scorecard showing how accurately attackers could recreate the original data sets and suggests techniques to guard against actual MI attacks. The Privacy Meter is the result of three years of work to create an easy-to-use tool which helps programmers see where the weak spots in their algorithms are.

Google started using the tool earlier this year. The tool is open-source, meaning that it can be used for free by other researchers or companies around the world.

"Our main focus was to build an easy-to-use interface for anybody who knows machine learning, but might not know anything about privacy and cyber attacks," said Prof Shokri, who is Iranian by birth and moved to Singapore in 2017. 

The NUS research team that developed the Machine Learning Privacy Meter also consists of master's student Mihir Khandekar, 24, doctoral student Chang Hongyan, 24, research assistant Aadyaa Maddi, 22, and doctoral student Rishav Chourasia, 24.

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As competitions go online, Singapore students win big at international Olympiads

15 October 2020 Department of Information Systems & Analytics , Student , News Media

 

As international competitions move online in compliance with social distancing measures, Singapore students are flying the Singapore flag high at these virtual competitions. This was shared in a Facebook post by Minister for Education Lawrence Wong yesterday. He wrote that while the format for many international competitions such as Olympiads were altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore students nevertheless continued to excel in the Olympiads for Science, Mathematics and Informatics, and even came in first at the New Zealand Physicists’ Tournament. He also mentioned that the International Olympiad for Informatics was hosted by Singapore and organised by NUS this year, with careful planning and management undertaken by the NUS team to ensure the Olympiad’s safe execution.

Mr Wong noted that Singapore would also host the IOI again in 2021. In his post, he expressed hope that Singapore would be able to welcome participants under more favourable circumstances next year.

According to the Ministry of Education’s press release, this is the first time Singapore has hosted the IOI. President Halimah Yacob and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat were also invited to address the participants in the IOI’s virtual opening and closing online ceremonies respectively.

The Singapore team comprising of students from Hwa Chong Institution, Raffles Institution and NUS High School of Math and Science bagged four silver and three bronze medals at this year’s IOI. The competition required participants to answer a series of questions related to programming and informatics. Participants from a total of 87 countries and regions participated in the virtual Olympiad, with Singapore ranking 19th in the Olympiad.

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NUS Computing researchers develop wearable device for gait analysis

05 October 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , Research , News Media , Systems & Networking

 

Three NUS researchers have developed wearable devices that help perform gait analysis. The four sensors installed at the toe and heel of the shoes can detect the speed, rotation and step length of the user's movement. The data is reflected in the app in real time for analysis by the therapist.

Dr Boyd Anderson, a lecturer from NUS Computing's Department of Computer Science, said: “If you are an elderly person, you may be more frail when walking, and being able to quantify that is very important. If you’re a sprinter, seeing how every step hits the track is also very important for say, optimising your performance. Traditionally, you would use a clinical gait mat which is pressure sensitive."

Medical gait mats take up space and are expensive, costing upwards of $10,000. The cost of this device however, is expected to be under $500. In addition to relying on an inertial measurement instrument to measure acceleration and rotation during movement, the device also combines ultra-wideband radio technology to collect step lengths and step widths that are difficult to measure. Its accuracy rate is 97%.

The four sensors mounted on the shoes run on lithium batteries and has a battery life of 18 hours per charge. The research team has already applied for a technology patent. They are working to bring this technology to professional athletes who are looking to improve their skills.

The team is also looking at ways to incorporate the sensors for use in various running shoes.

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New $9m research programme for smart city solutions

16 September 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , Research , News Media

 

NUS and ST Engineering are collaborating on a S$9 million, multi-year advanced digital technologies research programme to further their common goals of building a people-centric, smart future for Singapore and beyond.

Research efforts of this new programme will focus on technologies related to Smart City as well as Smart Maintenance, Repairs and Overhaul (MRO), covering five areas: resource optimisation and scheduling; prescriptive analytics; decision and sense-making; reasoning engine and machine learning; as well as digital twin. These research areas support ST Engineering’s focus on developing differentiated and people-centric, smart city solutions that meet the present and future needs of cities around the world. The interdisciplinary research areas are also aligned with NUS’ endeavours as a driving force behind smart city innovations, leveraging its deep expertise that spans multiple domains and faculties.

Professor Chen Tsuhan, NUS Deputy President (Research & Technology), said, “As Singapore advances its position as a Smart Nation, having the right enterprise architecture to support those goals will determine if true digital transformation can be achieved. Over the years, NUS and ST Engineering have enjoyed a close and productive relationship. This new collaboration will combine NUS’ expertise in the science of cities with ST Engineering's industry knowledge to co-create people-centric Smart City solutions that will form the foundational systems to bring about not just impactful, but radical, change to the lives of people in Singapore and the world.”

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Pioneer batch of NUS-FinTechSG Programme students graduate

14 September 2020 Faculty , Student , Teaching , News Media , Media , FinTech

 

Just two months ago, Mr Na Yi Rong had little to no knowledge of Financial Technology (FinTech). The Engineering Science graduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS) is now working full time as a product management lead at a local FinTech start-up, after receiving the job offer when he was participating in the NUS-FinTechSG Programme.

Jointly developed by the NUS FinTech Lab and Strategic Technology Management Institute (STMI), the programme was launched on 6 July 2020 to nurture Singapore’s next generation of FinTech talents and full stack developers. The pioneer batch of 25 students graduated on 10 September in a virtual ceremony after undergoing a structured two-month intensive full-time course on the fundamentals of financial services technology and business.

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NUS team showcases tech abilities, wins chance to work with Shopee

14 September 2020 Department of Information Systems & Analytics , Student , News Media

 

NUS students proved they have the chops when they took part in the region’s largest online coding challenge that saw more than 21,000 participants. Among the top 100 student teams taking part in the Shopee Code League which spread over two months from June to August, 21 teams had one or more NUS participants.

Team UET comprising NUS Computing students Long Vuong Hoang, Quang Minh Nguyen, Minh Phan and Quang Tuan Le, emerged second runner-up. They were among the 10 top teams to win a cash prize and career opportunities with Shopee, an e-commerce platform led by CEO Mr Chris Feng, an alumnus of the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programme.

The challenge consisted of a series of big data competitions that included data analytics, data science and algorithm questions designed by Shopee teams. Participants also took part in workshops facilitated by their training partners from Shopee offices located in Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, China and Vietnam.

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Don't Waste Food: Their App Lets You 'Dabao' Buffet Food For S$10, Buy Cheap Surplus Grocery

14 September 2020 Alum , News Media , Media

 

In 2019, Singapore generated around 744 million kg of food waste — that’s equivalent to two bowls of rice per person a day, or around 51,000 double decker buses.

Food wastage is a real problem — it does not only cause environmental problems, but also affects our food security and puts pressure on our resources.

When Preston Wong, 31, saw his family members clearing out excess expiring food items from the refrigerator one day, he wondered if a platform could be built to facilitate a redistribution of surplus food. He pitched the idea to his National University of Singapore (NUS) schoolmate, Kenneth Ham, 30.

The duo didn’t even share the same classes — Preston majored in law and accountancy, while Kenneth majored in computer science — but they knew each other from church.

In their final year at NUS, they decided to take the leap to develop an app to tackle food wastage in Singapore by reducing the amount of buffet food that’s thrown away at the end of the day.

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How hackers use sound to unlock the secrets of your front door key

25 August 2020 Department of Computer Science , Faculty , Research , News Media , Security

 

A group of security researchers from the department of computer science at the National University of Singapore has created an attack model they call SpiKey to determine the key shape that will open any tumbler lock.

Soundarya Ramesh, Harini Ramprasad and Jun Han are the talented hackers behind SpiKey, which they say "significantly lowers the bar for an attacker," when compared to a more traditional lock-picking attack. The theoretical methodology is deceptively simple, listening for the sound of the key as it moves past tumbler pins in turn when the key is inserted in the lock.

The Singapore hackers use a simple smartphone to record the sound of the key being inserted, and withdrawn, with a smartphone and then observe the time between each tumbler pin click using their custom key reverse-engineering application. This forms the secret of the key, the fine-grained bitting depths which, the researchers report, can differ by as little as 15 milli-inches, or 0.381 millimeters.

"As SpiKey infers the shape of the key, it is inherently robust against anti-picking features in modern locks," the research paper states, "and grants multiple entries without leaving any traces."

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Smart Nation scholars eager to help Singapore's digitalisation effort

20 August 2020 Department of Computer Science , Student , News Media , Feature

 

He was only 11 when he learnt how to code and design his first computer game, a 2D car racing game, with a $25 software called Game Maker 8.1. Now 19, Mr Victor Loh will be joining the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) once he completes his studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS), where he is reading a double degree in computer science and statistics. The national serviceman is one of 15 Smart Nation scholarship awardees this year - selected from a pool of 723 applicants, an increase from 614 applicants last year.

Another Smart Nation scholar joining GovTech is Mr Kevin Foong, 21, a Year 1 computer science student at NUS. He became interested in artificial intelligence and cloud computing during his eight-month internship at a private software engineering company last year. Mr Foong believes technology can solve problems and cited GovTech's SafeEntry digital check-in system, which aids in contact tracing efforts against Covid-19, as an example.

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