Opening Address by IDA Deputy Chief Executive / Director-General (Telecoms & Post) at the Digital Accessibility Forum

23 November 2009 - Address by Mr Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive / Director-General (Telecoms And Post), Infocomm Development Authority Of Singapore, As Guest of Honour At The Digital Accessibility Forum and Training Workshop

Address by Mr Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive / Director-General (Telecoms And Post), Infocomm Development Authority Of Singapore, As Guest of Honour at The Digital Accessibility Forum and Training Workshop, 19 November 2009

Dr Ow Chee Chung, Advisor to Board & Management of SPD
Distinguished Speakers and Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning,

1. Today's event is a really special one as it brings together people from different backgrounds to address and highlight the importance of digital empowerment and equal access for people with disabilities. Today's event is also very well supported. Gathered here today are web designers, content developers, IT administrators, professional caregivers, such as therapists and social workers, as well as numerous school volunteers - both teachers and students, whom I have no doubt are excited and interested to participate in the various discussions today. I believe you are here not only to learn how you can do a better job, but also to find out how you can reach out and serve the disabled community better. We are also privileged to have with us today thought leaders from international organisations who are passionate about using infocomm or ICT to make a difference to the lives of the disabled. These include the Web Accessibility Initiative, the Daisy Consortium, Microsoft and Adobe. Thank you all for making this forum possible today.

2. Much progress has been made in the area of infocomm technology in the past decade which has made it possible for the disabled community to lead more fulfilling and enriched lives. About ten years ago, we had 56 kilobits per second internet connections. Today, we have internet connections almost 2000 times faster, at 100 megabits per second. As you might have heard, with our Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network, we are going to have internet access at 1 Gbps or more. Besides the immediate effect of a larger network bandwidth in which one physical connection would be able to serve our television, fixed line telephone and internet connection needs, I think most importantly, the increased bandwidth could also help to improve the lives of the physically disabled. For example, the development of telemedicine would help reduce travel for patient therapy and the creation of new jobs with less need to be physically present at the work place would mean that there would be increasing work opportunities from home.

3. As part of IDA's ten-year Intelligent Nation 2015 masterplan, IDA has been and will continue to work with community groups and industry to develop a digital inclusive society. This includes providing infocomm access to needy students, senior citizens, as well as people with disabilities, in order to bridge the digital divide and enhance lifestyles and employability. Besides supporting low-income households with disabled family members to own a computer and obtain internet access via our Neu PC Plus programme, IDA also supports the Infocomm Accessibility Centre which is located within the SPD Ability Centre, where we are now.

4. I encourage the community to make use of the Infocomm Accessibility Centre. The IAC, is managed by SPD, and is the first centre in Singapore to provide IT training across disability types. The IAC is specially equipped with a wide range of assistive technologies to cater to the needs of people with various disabilities, making it a very conducive environment for people with disabilities to acquire and learn the necessary skills to enhance their employability through industry related courses. I am glad to know that since the IAC was first set up in July 2008, about 1,500 training places have been provided to 563 trainees.

5. In addition, the IAC combines IT training courses with on-the-job training and apprentice programmes, called the ITAP, for capable trainees to practice the skills they need for the workplace. The ITAP has already received positive support from eight employers, namely, Blue Singapore, Fico Sports Hub, FurnisHub, Kentucky Friend Chicken & Pizza Hut Singapore, KK Women's & Children Hospital, Onion Design, Lucidity and Research2Trails. These companies have committed to offer internship opportunities, commercial projects and employment to trainees upon their course completion at the IAC, which would provide valuable experience and a good foundation for IAC trainees to pursue a career in the professional workforce independently in future.

6. Encouraged by its success, the IAC has now set a target to provide 4,000 training places by end 2010 under its "SOW - It's Time to Grow" Campaign. This campaign seeks to encourage enrolment in IAC training courses and increase awareness of all the facilities and services available. This is good progress in our efforts for digital inclusion. I would therefore like to encourage all the organisations represented here today to find out how you can begin your own efforts to employ people with disabilities and support IAC's campaign.

7. As Dr Ow mentioned, in the area of web accessibility, IDA has recognised the importance of ensuring universal access to government websites and e-Services. Since 2004, the Singapore Government has been introducing Web Interface Standards to make government websites easier to use and provide a more consistent experience when navigating across different government websites. Under these standards, government agencies have to comply with a set of standards and guidelines for designing their websites and e-Services. One of the guidelines advises agencies to adopt the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 specifications for their websites and e-Services to cater to the needs of the people with disabilities. Currently, IDA is reviewing our Web Interface Standards with a view to adopting the recently revised Web Content Accessibility Guidelines specifications to incorporate better web accessibility features into our government websites.

8. Let me re-assure you and re-iterate that the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore is committed towards efforts that provide equal IT access. This is because it is important to ensure that newly created technologies continue to benefit as many people as possible and that technological improvements do not create barriers in our society. So, on this note, I would like to thank everyone, especially all the speakers who have made time to come to Singapore for this very important event. I wish everyone a successful forum and a good day ahead.

9. Thank you.

Last updated on: 13 Mar 2023