Chinese tech giant Huawei is offering Singaporeans more than 140 free online courses covering topics such as artificial intelligence (AI), 5G and cloud computing.

Depending on the course – all of which are available in both English and Mandarin – participants will have to commit between 10 and 50 hours each to complete, which they can do so at their own time either via their laptops or their mobile phones.

There are different courses made for different aptitudes. An entry-level AI course gives users an overview of the technology and trains them in the basics of programming language Python, as well as knowledge about machine learning platform TensorFlow. A more advanced AI course would teach users about natural language processing, among others.

Announcing the launch of the Virtual AI Academy at the Huawei Ecosystem Summit on Tuesday (June 23), Huawei International chief executive Nicholas Ma told The Straits Times that this new initiative was part of the firm’s commitment to address the AI talent crunch in Singapore.

“We believe that these efforts will help the ecosystem, as well as open up new business opportunities and emerge stronger together,” he said.

This comes after the company opened a US$10 million (S$13.9 million) AI lab at Changi Business Park last November, which was said to be the country’s first AI lab to boast 5G capabilities.

At the opening last year, he told reporters that filling the tech talent gap here was beneficial to all parties. “Hopefully… these talents will help us in the long run and make contributions to our business,” he said then.

Since the start of the circuit breaker period in April, the company did a trial run of the virtual academy, partnering with local firms to enroll more than 300 professionals for various courses.

Mr Jeff Liu, a senior solution architect at a Singapore tech firm, signed up for three courses on cloud computing, storage and intelligent monitoring systems, completing them in about 1½ months.

Even though he comes from a tech background, Mr Liu, who is in his late 40s, said in an e-mail interview that he had “always thought of upskilling, because technology evolves so rapidly”.

Some requirements of the courses came with online group discussions, which he found useful as he could ask questions. “I received answers with detailed explanations from the instructors in just two hours,” he added.

Besides cultivating talent, Mr Ma on Tuesday said that those who wished to visit the AI lab could continue to do so even though the COVID-19 pandemic has limited people’s physical movements.

“We have digitalised our AI lab and moved it to cloud to allow everybody to visit online freely,” he said.

The virtual AI lab is available on the Huawei website, where users can do virtual walk-throughs and learn about different AI applications, such as face recognition and automatic speech recognition.


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