Helping citizens, workers and businesses benefit from opportunities in a digital age
1. Mr Chairman, the emergence of new opportunities in the digital age is why Singapore is transforming itself into a Smart Nation. Smart Nation is about making all our lives easier. It is about building a strong society and economy with opportunity for all, where businesses thrive. It is important that no one gets left behind as the world becomes increasingly digital.
Helping citizens be digitally ready to benefit from the opportunities of a digital age
2. Mr Saktiandi Supaat asked about how the government will work with businesses and the community to help citizens with this transition. This is not the first time that Singapore is experiencing a technology-driven transformation. Since the 1980s, we have introduced information technology in schools, made broadband available to all homes, and transformed many public services using technology and the Internet.
3. As the pace of technological change accelerates, we will need a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to ensure that all Singaporeans can participate in and benefit from the opportunities of a digital age. To do so, we need to help citizens be digitally ready.
4. There are three important principles that guide our approach.
5. Firstly, we need to design with the user in mind. The user interface of our digital services and applications must be so easy to use that almost everybody can start using it with little or no instruction.
6. Secondly, we have redefined digital inclusion as more than just access but also equipping people with skills. Today, we have many programmes that focus on giving people access to affordable devices and the internet. But being digitally ready is also about having the skills to use digital technology safely and confidently. These include basic information and media literacy skills, awareness of cybersecurity and personal data protection, among others.
7. Thirdly, collaboration. Digital Readiness must be a whole-of-society effort. Government, businesses and the community must work together to have a deep and wide impact for Singaporeans. This is why we established a Digital Readiness Workgroup last year, bringing together representatives from the public, people and private sectors to propose strategies to address future opportunities and challenges. We have learnt a lot from hearing about these organisations’ approaches to building literacy and giving people a chance to participate in the digital world. We will publish a Digital Readiness Blueprint later this year.
8. Being digitally ready means ensuring that Singaporeans have, firstly, digital access, which is the means to transact digitally; secondly digital literacy, which is the skills, attitudes and values of a digital citizen; all of which lead to digital participation.
9. An example of the sort of issues we are concerned about for Digital access are smartphones. The smartphone becomes a key enabler for many of the digital services that we want to provide. How can we ensure that enough Singaporeans have access? Today, the total ownership of smartphones in Singapore is high, at about 150% of the population, and yet there are Singaporeans who do not have no access to a smartphone.
10. Once we ensure there is adequate access, we need to develop a base of digital literacy. To begin, we will articulate a set of basic digital skills – skills that every one of us should have as a first step towards being able to participate in a digital society.
11. The focus areas of these skills will be the ability to communicate, the ability to transact and search for information through a mobile device, for day-to-day living.
12. These skills will be articulated as a curriculum that will be made available to training providers, and can also be used by family and friends or community partners who are interested in helping everyone enjoy the benefits of our Smart Nation. To ensure that everyone can benefit from this, we will provide training for these basic skills in all four languages by the end of the year.
13. Dr Daniel Goh asked about the government’s efforts in tackling cyberbullying.
14. We agree with Dr Goh that it is important that we have avenues where youths, parents and teachers can seek help and support from credible sources. Help123 was initiated last year by the National Council of Social Service and various partners like Fei Yue Community Services and TOUCH Community Services. It provides services for youth cyber wellness issues, a dedicated web-chat, an email service and a hotline. It also refers counsellors to people who may need further direct interventional help.
15. The Media Literacy Council also does work in this space. It makes available and will continue to produce resources to tackle cyberbullying. Examples include cyberbullying instructional video as part of the “Better Internet” campaign, informational packages with information specific for victims to counter cyberbullying. Products such as those providing guidance for parents and families to detect symptoms of cyberbullying and also provide help to children. A series of workshops is being rolled out this year to help parents raise digitally resilient children.
16. Mr Vikram Nair asked how we can ensure that Singaporeans of all ages do not get left behind. Our approach has always been to be as inclusive as possible, but recognising that some groups would find the transition difficult and providing them targeted help. We will continue to help the elderly, by expanding digital readiness initiatives for seniors.
17. By the end of this year, we would have organised more than 50 digital clinics for 2,000 seniors, to help them become more confident in using digital mobile technology.
18. This year, we will also work with industry and community groups to organise 48 experiential learning journeys to benefit 2000 seniors, to learn about digital technologies useful for their daily activities, such as e-payments.
19. Mr Yee Chia Hsing asked whether more can be done to prepare elderly residents for digital TV. Today, about 3 in 10 households are still using analogue TV signals. We have put in place the Digital TV Assistance Scheme to help households switch to Digital TV, and will continue to provide targeted assistance to the elderly, including organising briefings and demonstration sessions using both English and the vernacular languages.
Helping workers and businesses build strong digital capabilities to seize opportunities in the digital economy
20. Just as we will help citizens become digitally ready, the government will also help workers and businesses build strong capabilities to benefit from the opportunities in a digital economy.
21. Mr Saktiandi Supaat asked about the progress of the TechSkills Accelerator and its upcoming evolution.
22. The TechSkills Accelerator, or TeSA, is a key tripartite initiative to help build strong digital capabilities through training. We have heard from Minister that outcomes have been encouraging; and since its launch in 2016, more than 27,000 training places have been taken up or committed, greatly increasing the opportunities for workers. Every individual who has gone through TeSA’s Company Led Training programmes and more than 90% of job seeking trainees from the Tech Immersion and Placement Programme have been successfully placed.
23. We will scale up these TeSA initiatives with an additional $145M of funding, and this will provide more training places, more programmes, and will address more user sectors. TeSA is a key initiative not just for the workers but also for the businesses. And one of the key issues about the development of the digital economy is going to be the provision of capabilities and skills in the workforce. So our focus on TeSA will help workers find jobs, transition to new jobs, and we are helping businesses develop their skills and capabilities to help them grow.
24. What are these initiatives? Firstly, TeSA will provide an additional 20,000 training places by 2020. This will continue to require and build upon the strong multi-agency and tripartite approach that we have taken.
25. Secondly, TeSA will work closely with industry to develop more programmes in frontier technology areas, such as artificial intelligence and data analytics, cybersecurity, internet of things and immersive media. There will be more job opportunities that demand such frontier technology skills. Up to now, a significant part of what TeSA has been doing is concentrating on the existing skills gaps, the existing jobs gaps, known technologies, well-developed and mature business issues. We need to push towards these frontier technologies to try and anticipate what would be the next steps required to grow our digital economy. I hope many more companies will work with TeSA to co-develop training programmes in these areas.
26. Thirdly, we will widen our approach to more user sectors. ICT professionals are in demand across many economic sectors, as the economy and many industries rapidly digitalise. Currently, TeSA is quite focused on the ICT sector, as well as on the Finance and Healthcare sectors. Moving forward, TeSA will expand its training offering into the Manufacturing and Professional Services.
27. In line with our commitment to develop our people, TeSA will also strengthen our support for those who might need it most, such as mid-career ICT PMETs in search of new job opportunities as the economy and the ICT job landscape evolve.
28. Mr Desmond Choo asked about how we can better support workers, especially mature ones, to re-skill and up-skill. TeSA programmes have been benefitting mid-career professionals. Since 2016, approximately 10,000 TeSA training places have been taken up by those above the age of 40. TeSA will do more to support more mid-career ICT PMETs.
29. Firstly, the government will help to curate cross-sector ICT job openings. While there are ICT job openings in the public, the non-profit and private sectors, as well as across different industry sectors, many mid-career ICT PMETs are unlikely to possess the networks or context or the sector-specific skills needed to make the transition into a new sector. So they may already have skills that are either the private, the public or non-profit sectors or they may have ICT skills that are domain-specific to a given industry within the economy. What we need to help them do is make a transition across domains, the industries or sectors. And if we don’t, this will be a missed opportunity because there are many job opportunities that could potentially be meaningful as a next step for mid-career professionals. IMDA is working with other government bodies such as the Ministry of Education to identify jobs that ICT professionals can be placed into. We are also working with industry partners via the SMEs Go Digital programme to curate more suitable job roles.
30. Secondly, we will also strengthen employment facilitation for mid-career professionals. Leveraging our integrated career services, a career support ecosystem with partners like the Singapore Computer Society, WSG, e2i and NTUC, individuals will get more career guidance, more mentoring, and better support for better job matching. The career coaches and mentors within this ecosystem will also be provided with better and more timely insights on job openings and industry skill needs moving forward so that they can better assist workers.
31. Through TeSA’s scale-up and targeted assistance, we will build strong digital capabilities in our workforce.
32. Sir, MCI and our partners will help workers, businesses and citizens benefit from the opportunities of a digital Singapore. In the next few months, we will share further details on our digital economy and digital readiness efforts. Thank you.