SUPPORT FOR SENIOR CITIZENS: That this House recognises that seniors are a gift to our society, contributing to a wise and resilient Singapore, and calls on the Government to continue strengthening support for seniors to age with dignity and spearhead community efforts to create a society where they can thrive.
Mr Speaker, I thank colleagues for raising the important topic of support for the elderly, especially with respect to ensuring they benefit from the technological progress that we make as a society.
2 The Ministry of Communications and Information agrees with the concerns raised by Mr Kwek, Ms Tin and Ms Pereira. MCI convened the Digital Readiness Workgroup to examine the current status, engage stakeholders and partners, and to develop strategies relevant to future opportunities and challenges.
3 This workgroup has representatives from the public, private and people sectors. Later in the year we will be explaining in more detail our strategies to help all Singaporeans, especially the most vulnerable, to understand and enjoy the benefits of technology.
4 In the interim we have agreed on some broad principles that will inform the strategies and plans that we develop:
i) Our programs, initiatives and products must be user-centric and designed for inclusion of everyone.
ii) We must go beyond the provision of access, to equipping people with skills that enable them to participate actively and meaningfully.
iii) The greatest reach and impact in this space will be achieved only through deep collaborations between the people, public and private sectors.
5 Mr Speaker, even as we plan for the future and develop new strategies, these ideas are building on a strong foundation. MCI, and its predecessors, together with IMDA and its predecessors, has been working on these issues for more than 10 years, through a national programme called the Silver Infocomm Initiative. I would like to highlight just a few programmes it supports.
i) We have over 30 senior-friendly infocomm learning hubs island-wide, including at CCs and libraries, that offer a customised curriculum to train seniors. These are known as Silver Infocomm Junctions. (SIJs).
ii) The “Seniors for Smart Nation” series of courses, run by the ‘Senior Academy’ programme of the People’s Association.
iii) “IM Bonding” programme at Senior Activity Centres focuses on lower-income elderly and involves a significant aspect of social interaction.
iv) The Silver Infocomm Wellness Ambassador is a programme to train and support Seniors to teach and encourage their peers.
6 All of these programmes, and many others, help Seniors to become familiar with technology, develop confidence to conduct transactions and interact online, connect with each other and their families using digital tools, and ultimately enjoy the benefits of technology. These programmes are available in English and vernacular languages, and over the last 10 years have helped 150,000 seniors.
7 Sir, MCI agrees with the concerns raised by members. Although there has been a lot of work ongoing over the last 10 years, much remains to be done. We are all ageing, technology will continue to develop at a rapid pace, and making sure the elderly benefit from the progress of our society must be something we are always paying attention to.