Abdullah Tarmugi, Minister for Community Development & Sports and Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs - Speech e-Pedoman Launch & Malay Internet Week, Pan Pacific Hotel
Abdullah Tarmugi, Minister for Community Development & Sports and Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs - Speech
e-Pedoman Launch & Malay Internet Week, Pan Pacific Hotel
Singapore, 24 March 2001
Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen
I am happy to be with you here this morning to launch the ePedoman portal and the Malay Internet Week that will commence on Monday.
E-Powering the Malay/Muslim Community
1 There are many factors that can prevent individuals or even communities from crossing the digital divide. Access to technology, available disposable income, held mindsets, and command of the English language are but some of the key factors. The way to overcome these barriers is to assist and provide adequate opportunities for and assist individuals and communities, such as the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore, to scale the barriers and cross over the divide.
2 With this mission in mind, the Malay Internet Steering Committee was set up in May 2000 to bring together strategic partners in Malay content development and public education projects. For the past year, organisations such as Yayasan Mendaki, MUIS, and AMP, have been active in designing targeted activities to attract and educate the community on how to enjoy the benefits of an e-lifestyle.
3 These organisations are also actively involved as lead agencies for many of IDA's e-lifestyle projects. When the e-Ambassador programme was launched, the 3 organisations collectively pledged to recruit, train and deploy 250 volunteers by 2002. Yayasan Mendaki and AMP are also partners of the PC Reuse Scheme that refurbishes used Pentium PCs and gives them to needy families. Over 300 refurbished PCs have since been donated, and bundled with basic Internet training for the household and free Internet connectivity.
4 I would like to take this opportunity to commend the excellent efforts that Yayasan Mendaki, MUIS, and AMP have put in to get the Malay/Muslim community connected.
Setting New Heights @ e-Celebrations
5 In conjunction with this year's e-Celebrations Singapore, the Malay Internet Steering Committee, together with community and industry partners such as Yayasan Mendaki, AMP, MUIS, and MESRA have organised a Malay Internet Week that will begin on Monday, 26 March and ends on 1 April. Comprising a series of 6 events, the Malay Internet Week is set to e-power more than 30,000 Malay/Muslim participants. Each of these events is carefully designed to acquaint and engage people in the experiences of e-Learning, e-Entertainment, e-Communications and e-Transactions.
6 Earlier this month, a Community Pavilion was set up at e-Festival Asia to orient and educate the Malay/Muslim community on the use of online services that are available in the Malay language. Following the success of this effort, which saw 6,000 Malays come to the pavilion in order to have a first-hand experience of the Malay Internet, we are confident that the Malay Internet Week will further fuel the community's interest and encourage their adoption of an e-lifestyle.
7 We live in an exciting era when technology allows us to do and experience many things that were not possible in the past. Imagine a Malay businessman reading the Wall Street Journal in Malay every day. Imagine a Malay homemaker exchanging a recipe written in Malay with another homemaker who reads it in English. Imagine a grandchild studying overseas sending an email in English to his grandfather who reads it in Malay. All these can be made possible today by the ePedoman portal, which we are about to unveil.
8 This is an innovative and exciting initiative undertaken by the Malay Internet Steering Committee. ePedoman is a state-of-the-art English/Malay bi-directional search and directory portal that is built with automatic real-time translation. This allows our target users to browse websites, which are originally created in English, in their native language - Malay. With this feature, the portal becomes a gateway for the non-English literate Malay/Muslim community to search, access and interact in an English-dominated online environment without a language constraint. In its next phase of development, users will be able to read real-time translated emails from English to Malay and vice versa.
9 The ePedoman portal offers exciting possibilities for people from all walks of life. Through this portal we are one step closer to our vision of empowering businesses and consumers to learn, transact and communicate with no language constraint, thus bridging the lives of people of different cultures.
The Next Step - From Connectivity to Interactivity
10 I am encouraged by the efforts of the Malay Internet Steering Committee and the 3 organisations to help bridge the digital divide for the Malay/Muslim community. But the efforts to reach out to the community must also be shared by groups who are in a position to share and assist. Last week a group of lawyers launched a counselling online portal where VWOs and individuals can seek legal and other advice for free. The ease and speed at which the query can be answered and the privacy which the inquirer enjoys are made possible because of technology. But the impetus to exploit technology, not for profit but for public good, comes from the willingness to share.
11 We need a similar mindset within the Malay community. The Internet revolution has far too long been seen for its commercial potential. Maybe the meltdown in Nasdaq has changed this somewhat. Yet the potential of the Internet to reach out to low income and at-risk groups and to provide them with affordable services in education, training, information and other useful services has barely been tapped. With a PC and Internet access in every low-income household, and now with ePedoman, services such as counselling, educational advice and tips, training mentoring and information, and many others can be put online to reach out to these households. To achieve this, we need groups, such as the group of lawyers I mentioned earlier, to come forward and provide such services to our community.
12 The low-income and IT illiterate groups within our community are not a market waiting to be tapped. These are groups which need to be assisted. Having access to the tools of technology can help to bridge the digital divide. But having a professional class that is willing to share and use the technology for the benefit of the target groups will help to also overcome the income divide. It is the classic case of the haves assisting the have-nots in the Internet era. The power of the Internet can potentially multiply the many helping hands into the numerous networks reaching out to many more groups needing help. This is the next big step that we need for our community. I look forward to the emergence of civic groups with our community that are prepared to share and use technology for our common good.
13 Finally, I would like to congratulate the Malay Internet Steering Committee on the successful development of this portal and I would like to encourage the Malay/Muslim community to go online and experience the new possibilities made possible with the advent of infocomm technology.
14 Thank you.