Prof Loh Han Tong, Deputy President (Academic) & Provost of SIT and our host today,
Mr Lock Wai Han, Chairman of the Media Literacy Council, and Members of the Literacy Council,
My colleagues from MCI and IMDA,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very good morning to all of you. I am happy to join you today at this conference, which is timely and aptly titled, Better Internet Conference 2019.
2 The Internet, and the digital technology in the digital age, have transformed our media landscape, providing every individual with the means to create content and disseminate it widely. The impact has been pervasive and profound. We are now able to instantaneously communicate with friends and colleagues across the globe, access a vast digital repository of knowledge, or simply sit back and enjoy the latest in entertainment over the Internet.
3 The flip side of this new and powerful instrument is the challenge that it poses to our personal privacy, social cohesion and even our national security. It is a challenge for all countries and there are no easy solutions.
A Whole-of-Singapore effort to curb DOFs
4 But we know one thing for certain - A well-informed and discerning public remains our first and most important line of defence. Even as we work towards drafting legislation to curb the spread of deliberate online falsehoods, we know that this alone will not be sufficient. Ultimately, the integrity and reliability of the Internet and social media lies in the hands of netizens. And, that is why the importance of strengthening Singapore’s media and digital literacy cannot be over-emphasised.
5 It will require a Whole-of-Singapore effort, involving students and parents, citizens, industry and Government all working together to tackle the problem of deliberate online falsehoods.
MCI’s Role in Strengthening Digital Literacy
6 On its part, the Government is committed and will certainly do its best to strengthen digital literacy in Singapore. We are working on a range of programmes to cater to the varied needs of Singaporeans.
7 In conjunction with the Media Literacy Council’s (MLC) mini-campaign on Fake News in November last year, I announced that we will be launching the National Framework on Information, Media and Cyber Literacy. We are now consulting academics and relevant agencies on the development of the framework, with content guidelines that can serve as a reference for all organisations in designing their digital literacy programmes.
8 This effort builds on current programmes like the National Library Board’s (NLB) Source, Understand, Research, Evaluate (or S.U.R.E.) programme. The S.U.R.E. programme seeks to raise awareness of the dangers of fake news and about how to recognise or discern it. NLB has begun customising the programme to cater to the needs of different segments of the population, including students, employers and our National Servicemen.
Engaging our Citizens
9 To complement the Government’s initiatives, we have also encouraged and supported the efforts of various community stakeholder groups which are essential to the fight against online threats.
10 One good example is the work of the Media Literacy Council. Since its formation in 2012, the MLC has been collaborating with businesses, community groups and also Government agencies to raise public awareness and develop education programmes on digital and media literacy.
11 Over the years, the Council has organised many campaigns and outreach programmes to reach out to different segments of the public, and through a range of channels.
12 This year’s campaign has adopted a pithy and catchy tagline - ‘Be Safe, Be Smart and Be Kind!’
13 It succinctly captures the key instincts that the Council hopes to nurture amongst all of us: to be respectful in our online discourse, to be cautious in our online habits and to evaluate the veracity of the information we come across.
14 The MLC has developed several resources for this purpose: a fact–checking starter kit, in the form of an animated series; a news and media literacy toolkit, to be distributed to all secondary schools, self-help groups and selected parenting platforms; And even a fact-checking game, that is to be rolled out in the latter half of the year.
Digital Literacy from the Ground Up
15 We need many more and varied ground-up initiatives so that we can reach out to all segments of our population, to all Singaporeans.
16 With this in mind, the Council launched the Better Internet x Youth Call-for-Proposals in 2017. It attracted a good number of applications, with four of these projects on display today. I encourage all of you to view the exhibition outside the auditorium to find out more about these youth-driven projects.
17 In September last year, the Council launched the second round of the Better Internet x Youth Call-for-Proposals. Of the 27 applications received, seven have been selected and I am delighted to be presenting certificates to them today.
18 One of these projects is by the staff and students from North View Primary School. Together, they developed a resource package, consisting of a video, survey and quiz, to share fact-checking skills. They hope to distribute this resource package to other primary schools, through online platforms and at community events.
19 All these projects help in their own way to reach out to Singaporeans, emphasize the importance of safe and responsible online behaviour, and enhance our digital resilience.
Working together to strengthen Digital Literacy
20 The work of strengthening digital literacy in Singapore is an ongoing effort and we want to catalyse more ground-up initiatives.
21 It is with this in mind that during the recent Committee of Supply debates, we announced the establishment of the “Our Singapore Fund for Digital Readiness”, which aims to encourage community efforts to promote digital readiness. So, I would like to invite anyone with a good idea or programme to tap on the fund. These can range from helping our communities avoid the dangers of fake news to guiding our seniors in using digital technology in their daily lives.
22 This year’s Better Internet Conference, which brings together many experts in the fields of cyber wellness and media literacy, is another step in our collective effort to promote digital readiness. It is a good opportunity to learn how we each can play our part in securing our digital commons in which we have an important stake. Together, we can and we must ensure that we build a safer and more reliable Internet for all.
23 I want to congratulate the Media Literacy Council on the organisation of the Better Internet Conference 2019 and I want to wish you all engaging and fruitful sessions ahead.
24 Thank you very much.