QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
40. Mr Murali Pillai: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information with regard to the Home Access plan which makes Internet connectivity more affordable to the low-income group (a) what is the number of beneficiaries who have been pre-qualified for this plan by reason of them participating in government financial assistance schemes; (b) what is the percentage of such beneficiaries who have signed up for the plan to date; (c) how many households have benefitted from the Home Access plan since its commencement in September 2014; and (d) what further plans does the Ministry have to improve digital inclusion amongst low-income households.
Digital inclusion is a priority for my ministry. All Singaporeans must be able to access the opportunities in the digital economy, especially low income households, the elderly, and people with special needs. That is why IDA has implemented digital inclusion programmes for a decade, which have benefitted more than 32,000 low-income households.
2 Our Digital Inclusion initiative comprises several programmes, including the Home Access Programme and NEU PC Plus. The Home Access Programme, which Mr Murali Pillai asked about, provides low income families without school-going children with subsidised broadband connectivity and a tablet. So far, 5,000 households have benefitted from the Home Access Programme.
3 Mr Murali asked about the number of households which have pre-qualified for this Programme. Over 2,000 households which are on long-term government assistance schemes have been pre-qualified and notified. To date, 100 of these households are on the Home Access Programme. The rest may not see a need to take up this scheme at this time.
4 The NEU PC Plus Programme is targeted at low income households with school children and persons with disabilities, who may need more support for their schooling and other needs. The Programme provides beneficiaries with a desktop or laptop, and three years of free broadband. These schemes require a small co-payment, but needy families can tap on IDA’s iNSPIRE and defray their co-payment by doing some community service. More than 27,000 low-income households have benefitted from NEU PC Plus.
5 We constantly enhance our schemes to keep pace with the changing infocomm landscape. Earlier this month, I announced two enhancements to the NEU PC Plus programme. First, we raised the monthly household income cap from $3,000 to $3,400. We also raised the per capital monthly income for households with persons with disabilities from $875 to $1,125. These changes have enabled another 5,000 households to benefit from the scheme over the next five years. The second enhancement makes provision to allow special education students already on financial assistance to receive a subsidy of up to 75% more easily. Previously, there would be an assessment on whether their subsidies are pegged at up to 50% or 75%. Now, they would qualify for the up to 75% directly.
6 Thank you.