By Chua Hian Hou
A HIGH-TECH early warning system originally developed to help spot possible terrorist attacks on Singapore has been expanded to other areas like education and energy security.
In 2004, when the Government started its risk assessment and horizon scanning (Rahs) programme, the system was designed for use with the Joint Counter Terrorism Centre.
Rahs works by using artificial intelligence technology to sift through 'weak signals' from sources like niche publications, blogs or online forums, to check for any early warning signs of potentially serious national threats.
For instance, posts on an online message board frequented by known radicals asking where they can obtain boating lessons here may be pre-cursors to a maritime terrorist attack.
Although originally aimed to help the Republic's security agencies, the Government 'found it had wider application beyond the security domain', said Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security S. Jayakumar in his opening address to 300 participants at the two-day International Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning Symposium at the Raffles City Convention Centre yesterday.
He disclosed that other agencies, including the Energy Markets Authority (EMA), the Ministry of Education, and various research and educational institutions here have since begun using the system in similar ways, although the specific parameters are different from those used by homeland security agencies.
Last year, the Government began upgrading the system to make it more user-friendly and flexible, said the Defence Science & Technology Agency's Rahs Experimentation Centre head Joseph Tan.
When completed by the end of the year, users will be able to input various events - even those deemed unlikely, like the United States defaulting on its debt - and the system could generate an extensive list of all possible outcomes.
With such scenarios in hand, planners will be able to tweak their plans to counter such events, said Mr Tan.
Rahs-like systems have also grown increasingly popular in the private sector, with about 30 Singapore companies, such as DBS and SingTel, employing the services of companies like Brandtology to help them identify potential problems with their products and services so that they can fix them before they balloon into a full-fledged crises.
Besides Singapore, other countries including the United Kingdom and Germany have also embarked on national-level Rahs projects.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.