Parliament Sitting on 4 July 2022
QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
55. Mr Sharael Taha: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information (a) what percentage of students under the age of 21 living in rental flats still do not have a digital learning device or access to Internet at home; and (b) despite programmes such as NEU PC Plus, what more can be done to ensure that the students have access to both digital learning devices and Internet at home.
56. Mr Murali Pillai: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information (a) in the past five years, what has been the annual take-up rate of IMDA’s Home Access Programme amongst pre-qualified households who receive assistance from the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s ComCare Public Assistance Schemes; and (b) what steps have been or will be taken to improve the take-up rate.
57.Mr Saktiandi Supaat: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information (a) with current IMDA programmes such as Home Access, NEU PC Plus and Mobile Access for Seniors, what is the Ministry's projected outreach timeline to vulnerable households without adequate digital access; and (b) whether and what enhancements to the available programmes and inter-Ministry efforts can be made to reduce the digital divide across different income brackets.
1. Based on the Annual Survey on Infocomm Usage in Households in 2021, about 90% of households with monthly household income below $2,000 and with school-going children have access to a computer.
2. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)’s NEU PC Plus and Home Access programmes provide a subsidised device and broadband connectivity to low-income households, including those with school-going children. These are complemented by the Ministry of Education (MOE)'s provisions for students to support Home-Based Learning. For example, under the National Digital Literacy Programme, MOE has provisioned all secondary school students with personal learning devices as at end-2021.
3. From January 2020 to April 2022, the NEU PC Plus and Home Access programmes supported 39,000 low-income households. The annual average number supported over 2020 to 2021 is more than double that of the preceding two years. Almost six out of 10 beneficiaries are pre-qualified households.
4. Besides these programmes, the Mobile Access for Seniors (MAS) programme provides subsidised mobile plans and smartphones to low-income seniors. Since the launch of the MAS in June 2020, more than 9,000 seniors, all pre-qualified, have benefited from the programme.
5. To benefit more needy households, IMDA has been working with the Housing and Development Board (HDB), MOE and Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to pre-qualify recipients of various government assistance schemes, such as the HDB Public Rental Scheme (PRS), MOE Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) and MSF ComCare assistance. At the same time, IMDA has been collaborating with social service partners to promote awareness of its schemes and encourage sign-ups among eligible households and seniors. Since April 2021, it has also worked with HDB to conduct engagement sessions during the HDB Rental Flat Selection Exercise. By the end of the year, ComCare applicants who indicate their need for subsidised broadband and devices will no longer need to make separate applications; MSF will link up with IMDA at the back end to enable seamless processing.
6. Given the increasing necessity of digital access, the Government is committed to constantly refine our policies and programmes to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and provide affordable digital access more conveniently. In addition, IMDA regularly enhances its schemes, such as by offering faster broadband speeds and more bundled device options.