To tap AI boom, Oracle offers up to 10,000 free training slots in Singapore

To tap AI boom, Oracle offers up to 10,000 free training slots in Singapore
Tech giant Oracle CEO Safra Catz is in Singapore to attend the Oracle CloudWorld Tour customer event on April 16.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - Up to 10,000 students and professionals in Singapore will receive free training in artificial intelligence (AI) over the next three years as part of tech giant Oracle’s new plans to bolster the nation’s digital workforce.

The effort, which cements the firm’s 36 years of investment in the island-state, is expected to contribute significantly to Singapore’s vision to triple the nation’s pool of AI practitioners to 15,000 over the next five years.

This much manpower is needed to tap new opportunities created by generative AI tools, as outlined in Singapore’s refreshed AI strategy announced in December 2023.

In a rare and exclusive interview with The Straits Times, Oracle chief executive Safra Catz, 61, who is in Singapore to meet Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, customers and other local officials, said: “Education is one of the things we really care about.”

Pointing to the firm’s tradition of investment in education, she said Oracle runs a public high school on its Redwood City, California, campus – a first among tech giants, many of which have instead taken tech lessons and products into existing classrooms.

Students at the US$43 million (S$58 million) Design Tech High School, which opened its doors in 2018 on Oracle’s campus, get mentorship from its staff, and internships at the firm. Students also take classes on topics like wearables and robotics.

In Singapore, Oracle has supported computing education in 14 institutes of higher learning over the last 15 years.

In April 2023, Oracle offered up to 300 internships and apprenticeships to students and graduates across five polytechnics here. The trainees will be among the first to be considered for jobs at the end of their three-year stint with Oracle, which has about 1,000 employees in Singapore, and its business partners and clients.

The latest of these education efforts is to provide up to 10,000 places at Oracle University, which will offer free, rigorous foundational training in AI, cloud computing, cyber security and data management. Professional-level training and certifications, including its new Gen AI Professional Certification, will be payable. 

Ms Catz, who is in Singapore to attend the Oracle CloudWorld Tour customer event on April 16, said the firm will also open a second data centre here in July to meet the large computing appetites of AI training and digitalisation in the region. 

The 46-year-old database giant has been reinventing itself as a cloud computing provider by offering services that are cheaper than those of rivals such as and Google.

It has been opening up clusters of data centres, which it calls cloud regions, as part of a turnaround strategy to arrest falling revenue seen in 2019 and 2020. Now, Oracle has 48 public cloud regions around the world, including one in Singapore launched in November 2021.

Steering the turnaround is Ms Catz, who has been running the business as CEO since 2019. 

The affable executive is often overshadowed by company founder Larry Ellison, who remains actively engaged as chairman and chief technology officer at 78. She has hardly given interviews even after taking over the helm.

Ms Catz said Oracle’s expertise in handling databases has given the firm a unique advantage in the cloud computing and AI race. These technologies are inextricably linked.

“You know who else has huge amounts of data? Forget databases, (it’s) AI workloads,” she said.

“We already know how to handle the shocking amounts of data... the whole idea of breaking apart workloads is something we developed a long time ago in the database world. It is one of the reasons our database transactions are so fast.”

Pitching its cloud solutions to the Singapore Government is also on her agenda. 

“We believe that Singapore may want some of the same capabilities that the American military uses,” she said. These capabilities include clouds that are sovereign – meaning all the data stays in the country but is connected to the internet – or data centres that are so highly secure they are not even connected to the internet.

In line with Singapore’s refreshed AI strategy, some AI computing workloads will also be in the cloud, a space Oracle is jostling for. “We’re one of the most popular companies for AI workloads, because of the way we’ve architected. There might be a very good fit here,” she said.

Singapore’s updated AI strategy – the inaugural one was unveiled in 2019 – takes a longer-term view of nurturing talent, promoting a thriving AI industry and sustaining it with the needed infrastructure and research that ensures AI serves the public good.

The Israeli-American will also talk to Singapore officials about the benefits of building data centres underground, drawing lessons from Oracle’s first underground data centre in an undisclosed location in Israel which has been in operation for more than two years.

Oracle has reportedly made plans to open a second data centre in Israel, which will be located nine floors below ground level to ensure security and continuity of service amid ongoing political tensions in the region.

Whether the consideration is land scarcity, security or energy efficiency, Ms Catz believes that going underground might be a good fit for Singapore too.

“Singapore’s a small country, but a very important strategic country in an interesting neighbourhood,” she said.

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This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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