Supercomputing Asia 2022
Opening Address by SMS Janil Puthucheary at Supercomputing Asia 2022
1 Mar 2022
Chairman of NSCC Steering Committee Mr. Peter Ho
Speakers and delegates
Ladies and gentlemen
It is my pleasure to speak to you today at SupercomputingAsia 2022.
The theme of this year’s conference is “Toward Supercomputing for All”, which reflects the growing accessibility and ubiquity of supercomputing and High-Performance Computing (HPC). The theme resonates greatly with Singapore’s approach to developing digital infrastructure – digital infrastructure as a public good available for everyone.
Digital Infrastructure for All
In Singapore, we have taken a proactive approach to planning and building digital infrastructure and utilities, not just for the Government – but for the benefit of the wider digital economy and society.
Just as we took the lead in the past to build up physical infrastructure such as roads and rails, the state must take the lead in building up digital infrastructure as well. This is especially so in the case of digital infrastructure, which has become increasingly critical in a more interconnected and borderless world.
However, this does not mean that we build everything on our own – but rather, we will work closely with the private sector and partners like NSCC to build up these capabilities to meet current and future demands.
For example, we have one of the most pervasive 4G coverage in the world and have taken the lead to implement 5G standalone networks. We have also built up a robust national digital identity system with Singpass, which currently has 3.5 million users with more than 1700 services available through this national identity utility. Our e-payments infrastructure is another good example. With combination of good infrastructure that forms the backbone as well as the services that are layered on top of it like PayNow, we have seen widespread adoption – with more than 3 million PayNow users and 230 million transactions in 2021. I realised that for an audience that looks at petascale and exascale, 3 million doesn’t sound like a very big number. But for a single politician, and with our population, 3 million for us is rather large.
The investments paid off when we were struck by the COVID pandemic, and there was a pressing need to shift our interactions, our functions and our transactions from physical to digital. I think there’s been some degree of commentary that we managed to make this shift more easily than most countries and many other systems. Because we were fortunate that the systems and infrastructure that I spoke about were were already in place and well used, well understood by our staff, our teams and professionals, and most importantly by our citizens The national digital identity and the e-payments infrastructure helped public and private services go online during the Circuit Breaker and our supercomputing infrastructure helped to support COVID research efforts.
These are public goods, and these public goods will help us to become a world-class digital economy and society, where businesses can innovate rapidly and competitively globally, and in parallel, where citizens’ lives can be improved and where the government can provide better services to all.
SG’s Infrastructure Development Approach
To support our ambition, this aspiration, our approach to building digital infrastructure has five key tenets or ideas.
First, the infrastructure we develop, has to be trusted, secure, and resilient. We enjoy the fruits of many years of governments working together to develop our social cohesion. As a result, today, we have a high-trust society, people trust each other and the state institutions. A state that enjoys high trust is in a good position to build trusted infrastructure. One example of how we are exploring further is what we are doing with quantum encrypted communications to enhance our security alongside existing baseline security measures.
The second key principle is that the infrastructure should be aligned with international standards and be inter-operable with international partners, to connect us more seamlessly to the global economy. So we have embarked on cross-border collaborations in digital identities and e-payment with digitally advanced and like-minded countries that have the same aspirations and advanced digital infrastructure: such as through our work in linking PayNow to other e-payment systems, such as India’s UPI.
Third, and related to the point on interoperability, our infrastructure development efforts must also look outward and extend the impact of what we do here in Singapore in developing this infrastructure through cross-border partnerships and collaboration. One example is the recent MOU that we signed with the United Kingdom on Digital Identities Cooperation as part of a larger framework on digital economy. The Digital Economy Agreement seeks to develop a roadmap to enable interoperability and mutual recognition of identity systems.
The fourth principle, in order to keep pace with the advancements in technology is to conscientiously build for the future. We have to make sure that we have the necessary capacity, capabilities and skills to meet future needs. To this end, HPC – with its wide applications in research, industry, and government – is a critical area that will enable our aspiration to become a world-class digital economy and society. We have invested in ASPIRE 2, which is Singapore’s second national petascale supercomputer. I’m told that it is ten times more powerful than ASPIRE 1 and will enhance our computational resources, allowing us to meet Singapore’s high-performance computing needs over the next few years.
Lastly, the Government will seek opportunities to work together with the private sector to build this infrastructure. An important key principle to provide catalysis for private sector investments are fruitful public-private partnerships and the realization of beneficial outcomes in this digital economy, for businesses, for workers and citizens.
Our HPC Collaborative Efforts
I am glad to see that these tenets of our approach are reflected in NSCC’s work to build up our HPC capabilities, NSCC has made significant progress in increasing the accessibility of HPC to the wider economy and society. For example, NSCC’s supercomputing digital sandbox allows researchers to test out proof of concepts and algorithms done via a user-friendly environment that enables even researchers not specialising in HPC to use and benefit from HPC resources.
You have also actively pursued public-private partnerships to unlock further applications of HPC. The agreements between Singhealth, NSCC and NVIDIA that will be signed later today serve as excellent examples of the collaborative approach taken to develop HPC capabilities. These partnerships between the public sector and the private sector linked the entire value chain of infrastructure, software, digital tools and researchers to accelerate scientific outcomes, and in this case support Singapore’s healthcare and medical services.
Similarly, in the international arena, NSCC has taken the lead to establish global partnerships and facilitate cooperation, through partnerships and MOUs with HPC centres around the world.
These efforts signal our intent to accelerate not just domestic but also cross-border collaborations in HPC, which will benefit research communities around the world. The collaboration spans both the public and private sectors, as we share resources and perspectives that will help us leverage these capabilities and push the bounds of scientific research, and to better leverage technology to improve the way we live, work and play. I look forward to seeing more impactful collaborative projects in the upcoming years.
As we continue to explore the limitless potential of HPC, build world-class digital infrastructure in Singapore, develop local capability and power the research community, we have a lot to learn from our more established partners and collaborators at this conference and from across the world. I am confident that with your help and with our collective commitment, we will be able to work toward a future where Supercomputing is for all.
I wish all of you a successful conference ahead.
Dr Janil Puthucheary
Senior Minister of State,
Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Health
Minister-in-charge of GovTech Singapore