The Promise of AI for Digitalisation and Sustainability (Singapore FinTech Festival 2023)

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The team at UOB FinLab was honoured to attend this year’s Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF 2023). Dubbed as a nexus event focused on discussing the promise and pitfalls of artificial intelligence (AI), SFF 2023 featured thought-provoking dialogues and exhibitions that provided key insight into the revolutionary applications of AI. SFF 2023 also served as a launch pad for new AI solutions that we predict to be extremely valuable for scaling sustainability activities.

However, as with any technological innovation, successful adopters are often those who are well-prepared and educated about the mechanics, applications, and risks of new and evolving tools. Here are our insights and takeaways from SFF 2023, including our take on the trajectory of AI and sustainability.

AI will continue to accelerate digital transformation

9 in 10 enterprises in Southeast Asia have implemented digitalisation in at least one department. However, just 7 in 10 of these businesses experienced success in their adoption. We believe that AI will be valuable in closing this gap in digitalisation success.

AI continues to have a strong presence in global tech markets thanks to transformative solutions such as chatGPT in the past year. SFF 2023 highlighted how newer versions of AI can help to digitalise and optimise operations in the finance sector by automating fraud detection, risk assessment, forecasting, and many other areas. Beyond finance, we believe that AI can be applied for optimal digitalisation across any industry.

Acceleration Programme For The Arts (Opening)
Group picture at the Closing Ceremony of the Accelerator Programme for the Arts 2023 

Our launch of the Acceleration Programme for the Arts 2023, in partnership with the National Art Council in Singapore, is a testament to this. The Programme featured panel discussions, workshops and peer discussions that taught participants to deploy AI-powered content creation tools to optimise time for digital marketing in the industry.

The AI features taught in the programme are adaptable across business functions and company departments. This shows that  SMEs from any sector or vertical can learn to apply such AI-centric tools and methods to digitise  finance, marketing, communications, and more.

New innovations for enhanced sustainability reporting

SFF 2023 featured discussions about the intersection between AI and sustainability. Responding to greenwashing concerns, MAS launched and the second phase of NovA! at the Festival. Both of these are AI solutions that improve the transparency and accuracy of sustainability reporting by streamlining data gathering through automated targeting, monitoring and assessment.

Sound reporting is an integral element in any venture as it can help promote greater understanding and trust between the businesses and their consumers, regulators, and potential investors. In fact, several SMEs tackled ESG reporting challenges through UOB FinLab’s Sustainability Innovation Programme.

Janet Panel - The Promise Of Ai For Digitalisation And Sustainability (Singapore Fintech Festival 2023)
Janet Young, Managing Director and Head of Group Channels and Digitalisation, UOB with Panellists at the Sustainability Innovation Programme 2023.

However, reporting tools should not stand alone – they must be supported with sound fundamentals about sustainability and an opportunity for SMEs to assess their present ‘green statuses’. Once educated and aware where they currently stand on sustainability or environmental initiatives, SMEs can leverage the UOB Sustainability Compass to attain clear, actionable steps for their sustainability journeys.

Overall, this holistic approach to sustainability, complimented by relevant AI support, can help SMEs make more informed decisions about sustainability strategies and any eventual tech adoption.

Extensive networks can help SMEs address the potential pitfalls of AI

SFF 2023 also brought attention to the possible drawbacks of AI including ethics and standard compliance. Various conversations demonstrated that AI requires extensive human oversight and regulations that reflect its dynamic and complex nature.

We recognise this, and SMEs can leverage UOB FinLab’s vast ecosystem to realise their full potential in AI adoption and knowledge acquisition in a safe and secure manner. This ecosystem is built on our critical alliances with government agencies, organisations, and innovation hubs across Southeast Asia that offer guidance on the dos and don’ts of AI adoption.

For example, our network in Singapore includes Enterprise Singapore, a statutory board that champions SME development through scaling and innovation, and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), a statutory board under the Singapore Ministry of Communications and Information that develops and regulates the Infocomm and media sectors to drive digital transformation in Singapore.

We have also established key collaborations and partnerships in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam that offer SMEs the ethical support and regulatory framework they need for future AI implementation.

Equipping SMEs for the next stage of AI innovation

Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, President of the Republic of Singapore (left photo, third from right), visited the UOB booth on 15 November 2023 after taking part in a fireside chat at the Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) 2023. He viewed exhibits on various UOB initiatives including artificial intelligence (AI) and personalisation.

SFF 2023 provided an excellent opportunity for attendees to obtain essential resources and knowledge on AI’s role in digital transformation and sustainability. There is still much to be learnt about AI, and optimising AI adoption requires the combined efforts of regulators, industry leaders, and internal proactiveness on the part of SMEs.

With UOB FinLab’s array of diverse accelerator programmes, we are confident in helping SMEs scale their digitalisation and sustainability activities. We look forward to seeing what the future of AI holds for propelling SMEs to new heights of success.

To learn more about the Singapore FinTech Festival, click here.

To learn more about UOB FinLab, click here.

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Start Smart Programme

Designed for business owners to enhance their digital capabilities through practical learning, this programme takes businesses to the next level.

Online programme

Start Smart Programme

Designed for business owners to enhance their digital capabilities through practical learning, this programme takes businesses to the next level.

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