SPEECH BY DR YAACOB IBRAHIM, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION, AT THE SILVER IT FEST OPENING CEREMONY ON 10 SEPTEMBER 2016 AT 11.10 AM, AT THE LIFELONG LEARNING INSTITUTE
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. I am happy to be here to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Silver IT Fest. I feel energised to be with so many people who are passionate about lifelong learning. I have attended many Silver IT Fest over the years since I took on this portfolio and this year, it is fantastic.
2 As Singapore moves towards being a Smart Nation, we must ensure that our seniors can continue to keep up with technology and benefit from it. I am therefore heartened by the stories that some of you shared with me earlier today, about how you picked up IT skills, and how that has helped improve your lives. Let me share three stories.
Embracing technology, creating learning opportunities
3 The first is Ms Noorjahan Bte Kamaruddin. Noorjahan uses IT regularly in her daily life. She uses the Internet for online shopping or making travel bookings, and services like Facebook and Skype to catch up with her friends and family. What impressed me is that she picked up most of her skills on her own. She started out as a passive Facebook user receiving updates from her friends. Gradually, she learned to become more active, and today she regularly shares news and information with her friends. I will have to check if she is my Facebook friend. She has become so proficient over time that she is now a volunteer who teaches seniors about IT.
4 I am pleased to announce that there will soon be more opportunities for seniors to be like Noorjahan, thanks to IDA’s new partnership with the People’s Association’s Senior Academy. Under this partnership, the number of training centres supported under the Silver Infocomm Junctions will grow threefold, from 10 to 30 locations island-wide. This includes 24 Community Clubs. With this increase, more of our seniors will be able to access a training centre and learn IT skills. Additional resources, such as mobile devices, will be made available for training use and enhance the seniors’ learning experience. Seniors who take part in the PA’s IT training programmes will also benefit as IDA and the PA will work together to make these programmes even more enriching and meaningful.
Making learning less intimidating
5 Beyond just having the opportunities, one must also have the courage to learn something new. Ms Norolhuda Bte Padillah is a good example. Norolhuda used to be so afraid of IT that she had to ask her children to send and receive emails on her behalf. Eventually, she decided to learn how to use computers and smartphones. She joined POSB’s Active Neighbours programme and received IT training. Through regular practice, she now both uses and teaches others how to use smartphone apps like Whatsapp, Instagram or Carousell. Actuallly I do not know what is Carosell but I will go find out. Perseverance pays off, indeed!
6 But not everyone can be like Norolhuda. For those of us who may be daunted by the idea of learning IT skills from scratch, I have some good news for you. IDA is partnering the Lifelong Learning Council and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency on a new project to make it less intimidating and more comfortable for seniors to pick up these skills. Called “Learn and Live I.T.”, this project is supported by the LearnSG Seed Fund, and has two parts. The first part, “a B.I.T – a B.I.T”, will help seniors learn how to use mobile devices, apps such as Whatsapp or OneService, and Web services through bite-sized lessons, we take it one step at a time. These lessons will be held at easily accessible locations such as Seniors’ Wellness Centres, Community Clubs and shopping malls. The second part, called “Touch & Click Kakis”, will help seniors improve their skills by practising with and learning from their peers so it is a peer-to-peer learning. Through these activities, “Learn and Live I.T.” will create a more conducive learning environment for seniors, and enable them to reap the benefits of being digitally connected. And once you are comfortable, you can start playing Pokemon Go.
Offering active support and encouragement
7 My third example is Mr David Teo. I am sharing David’s story because he is passionate about helping people of all ages learn about technology. He also leads the IT Interest Group at Taman Jurong CC, which is probably no coincidence. In this role, he tries to make learning interesting for his group members by sharing information on new apps or software, or sending quizzes. For example, he recently introduced his group members to SurfEasy, which helps them surf the Internet safely and securely, even on a public Wi-Fi network. He also provides seniors with guidance on how to develop IT skills, as well as practical advice whenever they run into computer problems. In short, David shows us many ways to actively support and encourage others to learn about technology. If we follow his example, I am confident that the seniors around us will find it much easier to pick up IT knowledge, and I discovered David and I are the same age.
8 Noorjahan, Norolhuda and David are part of the new batch of Silver Infocomm Wellness Ambassadors appointed this year. IDA has appointed more than 100 Ambassadors over the past four years. These ambassadors have led by example – they have adopted technology in their own lives and demonstrated a sincere commitment to help our seniors hone their IT skills too. I would like to thank them for their dedication, and I hope that their numbers will continue to swell in the years ahead.
9 It is also my pleasure to announce that IDA will be launching a new voluntary programme called “Friends of Silver Infocomm”. Through this programme, individuals and organisations can sign up as volunteers to help our seniors become IT-savvy. I would like to see many “Friends of Silver Infocomm” at the next Silver IT Fest, and with the support of all of us here today, I am sure that will happen.
10 So friends, ladies and gentlemen, technology is ever-changing, and we must always catch up. I hope the stories of Noorjahan, Norolhuda and David will spur all of you to continue learning about IT, and to continue helping others learn.
11 The Silver IT Fest is one of the many Silver Infocomm Initiative activities that IDA organises to help seniors to develop IT skills. Just one small publicity, as some of you may already know, IDA will soon be restructured into two agencies. So by next month, these activities will be led by the new agency known as the Info-communications Media Development Authority, or IMDA. There will be no more IDA, just IMDA. I hope you will continue to support IMDA’s efforts and get your families and peers involved too.
12 Thank you, and I wish all of you an enjoyable and enriching Festival.
 The POSB Active Neighbours programme is an initiative launched in 2009 under a strategic partnership between the Council for Third Age (C3A) and POSB. Seniors are recruited to work up to two days a week at POSB branches. Their tasks include assisting customers, especially their peers, with their banking transactions and encouraging the use of self-service banking services.
 SurfEasy provides VPN services.