“Working Together to Build a Digitally Inclusive Society”
Her Excellency Dorte Bech Vizard,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very good morning to all of you and a warm welcome to this first Digital Inclusion Festival.
The importance of being digitally ready
2 All of us are here because we recognise that technology plays a very important role in our lives today. It has empowered us to do a lot more, to save time, and also give us greater convenience. Indeed, the access to technology is a key determinant to the quality of our lives today.
3 However, we also recognise there are segments of our community who may not be able to fully enjoy the benefits brought about by technology – either because they are not familiar with it, or because their access to this technology is limited.
4 It falls upon all of us as a community to make sure that every Singaporean is able to enjoy the benefits brought about by technology, and to help everyone to be digitally-ready, especially our seniors and persons with disabilities (PWDs).
5 This explains why we have organised this Festival, a 3-day event that brings everyone together to embrace technology. It is an important confluence and aspect of our overall national effort in terms of digitalisation. We often talk about Digital Economy - the work that we do with companies and the work we do with workers - but this is an equally important aspect because we need efforts that can take the entire society with us, as we embrace digitalisation and the benefits it brings.
6 This event today is an example of the Government’s efforts to work in close partnership with our community and corporate partners to build a digitally inclusive society.
7 Many of these partnerships are targeted at seniors, especially those who are in the low-income elderly, to make sure that they are not left out.
8 The Digital Access Package is one example. This is a year-long pilot programme that provides digital access to 200 low-income seniors in Radin Mas and Macpherson, by providing a smartphone and a prepaid plan to each senior. Volunteers reach out to teach these seniors basic digital literacy skills, and through this process, better understand and address their digital needs. The aim is to help seniors build confidence to use the technology to their benefit.
9 We also have a Digitally Ready Seniors programme, organised by Facebook and TOUCH, conducted at TOUCH’s senior centres in Ang Mo Kio and Yishun. This programme reaches out to over 200 seniors who are interested in using digital services, such as transport apps and e-payment, so that their lives are enhanced through the convenience of technology.
10 One senior who has benefitted from this programme is Mr Chew Poh Ngee, who is 71 years old this year. He picked up skills such as scanning QR codes, and making e-payment using his smartphone, which he finds very useful. More importantly, Mr Chew said the workshops have helped him gain confidence in using technology, and he even wants to be a volunteer for subsequent runs so that he can support other seniors in their learning! That is exactly the kind of multiplier effect we seek, to initiate and enthuse members of our community, who can then in turn reach out to their fellow members, in order to bring everyone along on this journey.
11 I shared two examples of partners (TOUCH and Facebook) working closely with the government to help seniors get digitally ready. We need many more such partnerships, and that is why we launched the Digital Participation Pledge (DPP) in March this year. The aim is to encourage organisations from private, people and public sectors to play their part in helping Singaporeans acquire skills and adopt technology. I am happy that, to date, more than 600 organisations have supported the pledge. I am also happy to share that the first ever Digital Participation Pledge Awards is now open for nomination.
12 The Awards are open to organisations who have pledged their support, and will be presented in November this year. This is our way of recognising organisations who have put in place initiatives to prepare their employees, stakeholders or the community to be digitally ready.
Building a digitally-inclusive society
13 However, building a digitally-ready society is not just about ensuring that technology is accessible to all. It is also about equipping people with the skills to use technology in ways that will enrich their lives – these include the availability, access, and also the knowledge and skills to use it to benefit them.
14 I am glad that we have made significant strides in our efforts to support various vulnerable groups in participating meaningfully.
15 I want to share how Grab and various agencies came together, in this case, to help Mr Francis Tay, who happens to be physically disabled. After losing a leg to amputation in 2015, Mr Tay wanted to become a Grab driver to earn a living but he faced various challenges. To help him, Grab worked with partners like LTA, SG Enable, Traffic Police and Vicom, to identify a suitable vehicle, get it retrofitted with the necessary technology, and expedite the approval processes, so that Mr Tay could drive safely and conveniently.
16 As a result of these efforts, Mr Tay has been driving with Grab since May this year, and I also understand that his passengers have been kind and encouraging in their interactions with him. The story of Mr Tay’s journey is heartening, and one that we hope will inspire many others to emulate in a concerted manner so that every Singaporean, regardless of what their background is, especially those who are vulnerable, can reap the benefits of a digital future.
17 Another case in point is the pilot of the Basic Digital Skills Workshop earlier this year at four special needs schools. The workshop covers topics such as e-payment and staying safe online, to help students with special needs.
18 Some of the students learnt how to create email accounts and communicate with their friends using emails, while others learnt about SingPass accounts at the workshop and how to make use of it to access government services. Overall, the workshop has helped the students by teaching them practical tips on the use of technology.
19 Owing to its popularity, these four schools will be incorporating Basic Digital Skills into their curriculum by 2020, and this is expected to benefit close to 700 students with special needs.
20 IMDA has also worked with APSN (Association for Persons with Special Needs) Tanglin School to come up with a Cyberwellness Adventure Virtual Reality game, where students learn about setting strong passwords, identifying fake news, and cyberbullying, in a fun-filled way. Teachers, students and the IMDA worked together to ensure that the game was appealing and effective. Through this collaboration, we were able to engage the students better, and help them enjoy the benefits provided by digital technology.
21 Besides students, we are also doing more to support our seniors. I am happy to announce that IMDA will be appointing the next group of 36 Silver Infocomm Wellness Ambassadors later today, a group of seniors who serve as role models and have stepped up to help their fellow seniors embrace digital services. This group of seniors will be actively involved in the Basic Digital Skills Workshop, originally piloted in West Coast, but will be progressively expanded to more seniors in Teck Ghee later this year. With support and encouragement from their peers, we hope more seniors will gain confidence and be comfortable in using technology.
22 We need the entire community to come together to build an inclusive digital society. I have shared some stories of how technology has been changing lives. These stories should inspire us all, and technology has created new ways for us to innovate and drive social change. In that regard, IMDA is collaborating with CreativesAtWork on a new initiative called “STOREYS”, which will support independent content creators to create online videos under the theme of “Framing a Better Home”. Content creators can submit their story ideas based on their chosen cause, whether it pertains to the Community, Elderly, Environment, Family, Underprivileged or Youth. Beyond storytelling, this initiative hopes to create opportunities for people to listen to one another and to have meaningful conversations on issues that are close to their hearts.
23 To sum up, digitalisation had, and will continue to have, a profound impact on our lives offering many opportunities. But it is also key that we do not leave anyone behind in this digital transition. Much of the conversation and emphasis in this effort revolves the economy – what we are doing with enterprises and workers – but it is key that we are able to bring the entire Singapore society with us in this journey, because what we want is an inclusive approach, one where no citizen is left behind and everyone is able to benefit from the key value proposition that digital technology offers.
24 Many partners from both the public and private sectors have come together to make this Festival possible. I thank each and every one of you for your support, and for working with IMDA on this socially significant effort.
25 I am glad that this Digital Inclusion Festival will be an annual event and look forward to welcoming many more partners to join us as we work together, and do more to help everyone on this journey of digital inclusion.
26 I hope all of you will enjoy this 3-day Festival and take full advantage of all that it offers, including IMDA’s Enable IT Forum tomorrow morning, where more will be shared on adopting Infocomm and Assistive Technology.
27 I want to thank all of you for your contributions and your efforts in this very important national transition that we are going through. We look forward to working closely with all of you and many others, as we persevere in this effort and achieve all the goals we set for ourselves.
28 Thank you.