SMS Dr Janil Puthucheary
Friends and colleagues from IMDA
The larger digital community of Singapore
Ladies and gentlemen
Good afternoon to all of you.
I am happy to join you here today at this year’s Tech Saturday (Upsized!), where there is something for everyone here to experience in terms of technology, and how it is changing the way we live and work.
The Importance of Digital Readiness
2. We all know that technology has a major impact on our lives, and it is creating many opportunities for all of us, to connect with each other and to also enhance our lives. But we also know that there are segments of our community who – either because they are not familiar, or because they do not have access to the technology – may not be able to fully participate in technological change and enjoy the benefits that it can bring.
3. This year, President Halimah Yacob, at the re-opening of Parliament, highlighted that one of our Government’s key priorities is to build a cohesive, caring and inclusive society. The true measure of a nation is not just how vibrant or strong our economy is but also how we care for one another in our society, in particular, how we provide the services that are necessary to those who are in need. Our housing, education and healthcare programmes have all been important pillars of this important national effort to ensure that every Singaporean is able to level up and share the fruits of our progress.
4. In the digital age, all nations face the challenge of a new divide – between the digital haves and digital have-nots. Digitalisation will have a profound impact on our quality of life – our access to opportunities, our ability to engage in social networking and in terms of the services that we can enjoy. So, we want to ensure that no one is left behind in this digital transition. We want to ensure that every Singaporean has the means, skills and the confidence to embrace digital technology to improve their lives.
5. That is why the Ministry of Communications and Information convened the Digital Readiness Workgroup last year – to examine how we can help Singaporeans to be more digitally ready. The Workgroup was led by SMS Dr Janil Puthucheary, and comprised senior representatives from the people, private and public sectors. I was informed that they had robust discussions, generated many ideas, and spoke to diverse stakeholders before coming up with their recommendations. Several members of the Workgroup are here today – please join me in recognising them for their hard work.
Launch of the Digital Readiness Blueprint
6. Today, I am delighted to launch the Workgroup’s Digital Readiness Blueprint. This document contains strategies and recommendations that will enable Singaporeans to thrive in a Smart Nation. The Blueprint also contains specific recommendations to help the digitally vulnerable, the general public, as well as businesses and other organisations.
7. To help those who are less digitally-savvy, the Workgroup has recommended making basic digital access more widespread, providing one-on-one assistance for digital queries, and identifying a set of Basic Digital Skills as a starting point. IMDA has recognised and accepted this, and has developed a curriculum for basic digital skills and will be offering this at selected Silver Infocomm Junctions. These skills include communicating, transacting and staying safe online. The first round of workshops based on the curriculum will be conducted at the Silver IT Fest from 22 to 24 June this year.
8. MCI and IMDA are also working with the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, GovTech and the People’s Association to have dedicated one-on-one assistance at community touch points, to reach out to Singaporeans who might need help to learn and use technology. We will be piloting this at some community centres in the latter half of the year. In the longer term, we hope to make this service available at many more community touchpoints. It needs to be ubiquitous like the Internet, if we have to make an impact in people’s lives and lifestyles.
9. MCI is also studying the recommendation to provide widespread basic digital access carefully, with a view to defining the scope, identifying the people who might be more in need of a basic access package, and how best to meet their needs.
10. The blueprint is relevant not just for vulnerable groups, but also considers the needs of the wider community. The Workgroup has recommended stepping up efforts in information and media literacy, especially given the increasing problem of deliberate online falsehoods and scams. MCI is working on a national information and media literacy framework, pulling together the good work that is already being done in raising awareness and educating the public. These include the Media Literacy Council’s Better Internet Campaign, the National Library Board’s S.U.R.E. programme, the Cyber Security Agency’s Go Safe Online, and others, to make sure that the curriculum is holistic and aligned.
11. Businesses and community organisations also have a big role to play in building digital readiness. One of the Workgroup’s recommendations is to establish a Digital Participation Pledge, where organisations commit to building digitally inclusive services, and equipping their employees with digital skills. Those that are more advanced can educate their customers and support wider digitalisation efforts in our society.
12. There were several recurring themes in the course of the Workgroup’s engagements. One was the need for the human touch in the digital world. Another was the need to develop deep partnerships and collaborations between businesses, the community, and the government. And yet another was about ensuring that our digital readiness initiatives meet the needs and provide increased convenience for all Singaporeans. These are some of the guiding principles that we will bear in mind as we work across the public, private and people sectors to implement the Workgroup’s recommendations.
13. Ultimately, the heart of every nation is our people. And we want to ensure that all Singaporeans can thrive and lead fulfilling lives in a digital era, using technology as a critical enabler.
14. All of us can play a part in this important endeavour. I want to invite everybody – those of you who are here, and many more important stakeholders – to participate actively and to also help your family, friends, and loved ones to become digitally ready – so that we can all come together to live, work and play in a Smart Nation.
15. I wish all of you an exciting and fun day at Tech Saturday.
16. Thank you very much.