Friends and colleagues from IMDA and MCI,
Corporate partners and volunteers,
Digital for Life Champions,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good afternoon. A warm welcome to everyone joining us today, both here in person and also to all of you who are joining us virtually. Thank you very much for making the time to be here with us today.
Our Commitment to Digital Inclusion
2. Though last year was marked by uncertainty and disruption, it was also a watershed year in our digital transformation journey. Years-worth of digitalisation took place in the span of a few months, across nearly every facet of society. Digital access is no longer merely an optional extra; it is a necessity in our everyday life.
3. Hence, more than ever, digital inclusion is a matter of national priority for us. We want every member of our economy and society to be able and ready to reap the digital dividend, regardless of their starting point. Programmes like Seniors Go Digital and Hawkers Go Digital, aim to give these segments of our society an added boost, and their digital adoption is rising steadily and at a good pace.
Strong Corporate and Individual Support for Digital Inclusion
4. Central to our progress has been the support of many like-minded individuals, community groups and corporate partners.
5. When offices and schools were closed to curb the spread of COVID-19, our donors responded swiftly to the need to equip all with digital technology and skills. In 2020, more than $3 million was raised for IMDA’s Digital Access Programmes. Combined with Government funding, these donations provided more than 20,000 low-income households and 6,400 seniors with much-needed access to laptops and smartphones.
6. We have also benefitted greatly from the steadfast dedication of our volunteers. Over 6,000 volunteers have contributed 33,000 hours, or nearly four years’ worth of volunteering time. And this has been their personal time that they have contributed over the course of 2019 and 2020. Since July last year, our volunteers have imparted digital skills to 4,300 vulnerable seniors at Digital Learning Circles in Senior Activity Centres. Others taught free coding classes under the Code in Community programme, which has benefitted 3,000 children since 2017.
7. On behalf of all the beneficiaries and the Government, I want to extend our deepest appreciation to all of you - our volunteers, donors and corporate partners. Your contributions and inspiring example have had a profound impact on our national push towards digital inclusion.
Leveraging on partnerships to build a digitally inclusive society
8. Moving forward, we recognise that building an inclusive digital future should itself be an inclusive endeavour. Digital technology is ever-evolving; new challenges will surface even as we close existing gaps. To respond effectively, we must draw deeply on diverse interests, networks and capabilities across our society. For example, we want to encourage more volunteers to draw on their domain knowledge and know-how to foster digital inclusion.
9. Non-profit group TriGen exemplifies this approach. Many of Trigen’s volunteers are healthcare professionals, and they observed that safe distancing heightened feelings of loneliness and isolation amongst the homebound elderly. Upon realising that digital access and literacy could improve these seniors’ access to community and healthcare support, they started Project Wire Up. The project helped seniors obtain both hardware – in the form of subsidised smartphones through IMDA’s Mobile Access Scheme and public donations - and the skills to use the smartphones to connect with their families, community and healthcare networks. In its work, TriGen partnered organisations like Singapore General Hospital, NTUC Health, Montfort Care and Radin Mas Community Club. 148 seniors have benefitted from the programme since it commenced in August 2020.
10. On our part, the Government will continue to actively pull together people with diverse ideas, expertise and experiences, and pool our resources. We want to support more ground-up efforts like TriGen’s and build on the momentum of the Digital for Life Movement, which Madam President graciously launched in February this year as its Patron. Through this Movement, we will empower the community to lead efforts in helping Singaporeans engage in and enjoy the digital way of life.
11. The Digital for Life Fund aims to encourage donations in aid of community projects promoting digital inclusion, literacy and wellness. I want to especially thank Keppel Corporation and Standard Chartered Bank for generously contributing $1.3 million to the Fund. I am happy to also share that the Government will match this amount. With the Government continuing to match every donation dollar-for-dollar, we hope to raise $10 million over the next three years. The Call for Proposals for the Digital for Life Fund will open in the second quarter of 2021; and we will share more details soon.
12. In closing, I hope that many more individuals and organisations will be inspired by our volunteers and partners here with us today, and come forward with your time, energy and ideas to contribute to this important national effort. We can and we will achieve more when we come together with strong partnerships between the people, private and public sectors. Let us all do our part to build a digitally inclusive future for all.
13. Thank you.
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