Speech By Parliamentary Secretary For Information, Communications And the Arts, At The Committee Of Supply Debate, On Making Singapore An Endearing Home For All

15 March 2010 - Speech By Mr Sam Tan, Parliamentary Secretary For Information, Communications And the Arts, At The Committee Of Supply Debate, On Making Singapore An Endearing Home For All

Speech By Mr Sam Tan, Parliamentary Secretary For Information, Communications And the Arts, At The Committee Of Supply Debate, On Making Singapore An Endearing Home For All, on Friday, 12 March 2010, Parliament.

1. Sir, I thank the Honourable Members for asking about the social role that MICA plays. This is a challenging but important role. Our efforts are aimed at nurturing a sense of national identity and belonging among our people; strengthening the cohesiveness of our community; and making Singapore an endearing home for our people.

Nurturing a Sense of National Identity and Belonging

2. A key component of nation building and national identity is our shared heritage and memories. Mr Zaqy Mohamad and Ms Irene Ng have asked about our efforts to preserve familiar buildings, landmarks, neighbourhoods and things that invoke a sense of shared experience and belonging among Singaporeans. We are a young nation. Despite that, we have a reasonably good collection of old buildings, which reflect our rich national, social and cultural heritage. I agree with Ms Irene Ng that we should be cautious about razing down structures in the name of progress. To date, 61 buildings have been gazetted as national monuments. Beyond preserving them, the National Heritage Board makes efforts to engage the public, organising programmes for Singaporeans to learn more about these historic landmarks. NHB also extends its efforts online, such as at yesterday.sg and MyStory.sg, for the public to learn and share about all things heritage in Singapore.

3. The National Archives of Singapore also serves a key role of collecting, preserving and managing Singapore's public and private archival records, including oral history interviews. These are key to capturing the moments in our past, allowing researchers and the public in general to find out more about our chapters in history. One good example is Ms Irene Ng. She spent much time researching these archives to prepare for her excellent book on the late Mr Rajaratnam. The book titled "The Singapore Lion" was launched last month.

4. In addition, all political speeches deposited from Ministry of Culture, thereafter MITA and MICA since 1960s are available online via the online finding aid, Access to Archives. The texts of all the speeches are available online. Selected excerpts of audio recordings are available online as well. Specifically on Ms Irene Ng's suggestion of producing a compilation of key speeches, I am happy to share that the National Archives is now working with Minister Mentor's office to collate extracts of MM's views and comments on national and international affairs, Singapore's economic development and social issues. These will be based on MM's interviews and dialogues, both conducted in Singapore and overseas. When completed, this will give Singaporeans or researchers the opportunity to read and listen to MM's comments.

5. In addition, we recognise that there are many other things that evoke memories and a sense of nostalgia in people, although they would not necessarily qualify as national monuments. For example, you and your friends may have an interesting memory of growing up in Bras Basah Street, or the parks, such as Fort Canning, where you and your spouse used to go dating in. We want to capture these personal stories for posterity as well. I am therefore pleased to announce that MICA will be embarking on a major national project, to capture the collective memory of our people and institutions.

6. Known as Singapore Memory, the project will capture all things Singapore. It will include the pioneering spirit of Singaporeans past and present, the milestones in our nation-building journey and the creative expression and aspirations of Singaporeans from all walks of life. In essence, we aim to create a "History of Singapore" as seen through the eyes and experiences of our people. This will help build up a shared identity and greater rootedness amongst all Singaporeans, many of whom have witnessed tremendous changes in the physical and social landscape in a single generation.

7. Besides capturing and digitising these memories, we will enable them to be shared in a borderless way; where they can be accessed, discovered and researched at all levels, by researchers, students, institutions or any individual interested in Singapore. Hence I would like to assure Ms Irene Ng that all the Singapore Memories will not be locked in a vault.

8. This is a PPP, or Private, Public and People sector initiative. It is spearheaded by the National Library Board. We hope to have received 5 million contributions on Singapore's memories by August 2015. 2015 is the 50th year of Singapore's independence. For the benefit of both the present and future generations of Singaporeans, we hope that everyone will contribute generously to this collection, when we launch the project later this year.

Promoting Graciousness

9. Singapore is fast becoming a vibrant global city. Other than preserving our heritage, we agree with Mr Zainudin Nordin that we need to promote graciousness among our people. It is about our way of life and the values that shape our society.

10. The Government has been actively encouraging a gracious society. Last year, the Singapore Kindness Movement launched Project Gracious with targeted programming in five different sectors - the home, the school, the work place, our neighbourhood and public places, and finally to our visitors from around the world. SKM is working with more than 200 private and government partners, including schools, People's Association, HDB, F&N, Robinsons and Vivo City Mall, to launch many initiatives to promote graciousness among Singaporeans. The broad-based public education efforts are supplemented by deeper community engagement across all sectors of our society. Programmes like Friend of Singa allow students to take ownership of promoting kind values in schools. The Handy the Helpful Fish programme in pre-schools allow young children and their parents to learn kindness values and practice them together. The SKM also uses new media to reach out to the youth.

11. Sir, Project Gracious is a long term project and will need time. However, preliminary survey results show an improvement overall perception of graciousness among Singaporeans. Full results of the most recent survey will be released early April.

12. Singapore hosts many significant international events each year. This year, we will be hosting the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, or YOG, in August. These events focus global attention on Singapore and our people, and they are good opportunities for us to showcase Singapore as a kind and gracious host to the rest of the world. For the coming YOG, SKM will be working again with partners, under a unifying theme of "Let's Champion a Smile". We hope that all Singaporeans, not just our frontline service staff, will play an active role in warmly welcoming our guests from around the world.

13. But ultimately, graciousness has to be internalised. These major events provide meaningful impetus for our efforts, but they are not the final goal. Charity starts at home. I encourage every one of us to perform simple acts of graciousness in our everyday lives and to help make Singapore a pleasant and endearing home.

Enabling Singaporeans with Leading Edge Infocomm and Media Technology

14. Another key factor in enhancing Singapore's liveability is to ensure all residents have access to leading edge infocomm and media technology. Mr Zainudin and Mr Teo Ser Luck have asked what MICA is doing to ensure Singaporeans are connected.

15. Over the last 10 years, the telecommunications market has enjoyed vibrant growth, with the entry of hundreds of telecom service providers, greater choices of telecom services and products, and a 500-fold expansion of Singapore's international connectivity. Today, Singapore has multiple submarine cable systems with more than 52 Tera bits per second of potential capacity supporting international and regional telecoms connectivity.

16. This has brought about significant improvements in the adoption of infocomm in Singapore over the years. According to IDA's 2009Annual Survey of Infocomm Usage, 83 per cent of households today have access to computers, a significant increase from the 61 per cent in 2000. Similarly, the percentage of households with broadband access has increased ten-fold from 8 per cent in 2000 to 80 per cent in 2009. Singapore's mobile penetration rate in 2009 was 137 per cent, almost double the rate of 75 per cent in 2000. As a result, Singapore's rate of household infocomm adoption has been comparable to the top 10 OECD countries since 2004.

17. More crucially, competition in this sector has lowered personal and business communication costs. For example, in 1999, international calls to the USA cost 80 cents per minute and to Australia cost 90 cents per minute. Today, with various competing international telephony services, calls to the US and Australia cost as low as 5 cents per minute, which is a hefty 90 per cent reduction in cost. Broadband services too, have not only become faster but also cheaper. For example, prices of broadband services were over $70 per month in 2002 for 512 kilobits per second access rate. Today, you can get higher speed plans of 3 Megabits per second, or six times as fast, for as low as $30/month. In addition, consumers can enjoy free wireless Internet access at Wireless@SG hotspots. For businesses, prices of international leased circuits to countries like Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and USA have also fallen by more than 90 per cent since full liberalisation of the telecoms market.

18. With cheaper, faster and greater availability of broadband, many Singaporeans are now enjoying a greater variety of online applications and services. These include online multimedia, location-based services, e-learning, and online computer games, as well as e-Government services.

19. The rollout of the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (or Next Gen NBN) will further increase the data rate, providing ultra-high speed broadband access of up to 1 Giga bits per second island-wide. This future network is set to transform the way Singaporeans live, work and play. By having the same ultra high-speed access as in their office, people can have more flexibility to productively work from home. Consumers can look forward to more innovative next generation services without having to leave the comfort of their homes, services such as personalised healthcare, immersive and interactive e-learning applications, and interactive Internet Protocol television services. Businesses will also benefit because the competitively priced services from this robust and pervasive network can improve their companies' productivity through lower costs of communications services such as broadband access, voice over IP, and high definition video conferencing. They can also quickly link up and exchange business and operational information with their business partners across different locations, or take advantage of Next Generation computing services such as cloud computing and remote data storage.

20. Rollout of this network is now underway island-wide, with more than 20 per cent of homes and offices covered thus far. I am pleased to share with the House that the rollout is on track, and could well exceed our target of reaching 60 per cent by end 2010.

21. In line with our aim of encouraging home owners to adopt the Next Gen NBN, OpenNet, the Next Gen NBN Network Company, will waive the installation charges of between $220 and $450 when home owners accept the offer of installation during the network's scheduled deployment to residents' homes. During the installation, OpenNet will also endeavour to minimise any inconvenience to home owners.

22. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all homeowners to accept OpenNet's offer when the network rollout reaches their estate or block, and allow the deployment of the network into their homes. They can then fully enjoy the benefits of innovative Next Generation services which are expected to be rolled out by various service providers in the second half of the year. This is especially since we expect the Next Gen NBN to become widely used by operators for delivery of advanced next generation infocomm services to households.

23. To help consumers and businesses better appreciate the benefits of the Next Gen NBN, IDA will be setting up an Experience Centre by mid 2010. This will showcase the possibilities and benefits of Next Gen NBN and Next Generation services through interactive, hands-on exhibits that relate closely to our daily lives. IDA will also be working closely with grassroots organisations, the CDCs and town councils, as part of its community outreach efforts.

Bridging the Knowledge and Digital Gap

24. In keeping with these technological advancements, we also want to nurture a digitally-inclusive society and ensure that no one is left behind. IDA will continue to equip needy students through the New and Used (NEU) PC Plus Programme, engage senior citizens through the Silver Infocomm Initiative, and empower people with disabilities by setting up an Infocomm Accessibility Centre.

25. The NEU PC Plus Programme offers new computers, bundled with 3 years of free broadband access and software, at subsidised rates to needy families with school-going children whose gross monthly household income does not exceed $2,500, or whose per capita monthly income does not exceed $625. Students from low-income families who are unable to co-pay can render some form of community service to receive a fully-paid PC with further assistance from the iNSPIRE Fund. Those who already own PCs but cannot afford Internet access can also tap on the Broadband-Only Scheme that provides subsidised broadband subscription. To-date, the programme has benefited more than 28,000 needy households. Overall, 95% of households with school-going children now have access to a PC at home, and 92% have access to broadband at home.

26. Under the Silver Infocomm Initiative, IDA has set up 5 senior-friendly and conveniently located IT learning hubs, called the Silver Infocomm Junctions, since 2007. Another 3 such learning hubs are being set up and will be operational within the next few months. These learning hubs offer affordable infocomm training for senior citizens and also provide computer access. To date, more than 15,000 senior citizens have benefitted from the training curriculum put together by IDA, which focuses on basic infocomm and digital lifestyle skills such as making video-calls over the Internet, using the free Wi-Fi service Wireless@SG, and using social networking tools.

27. To make it even more accessible and convenient for senior citizens to use infocomm, IDA will be setting up 100 Silver Infocomm Hotspots island-wide by March 2013. These Hotspots will be located at various community centres and residents' committees, and will provide senior citizens free access to computers and Internet services. The first 6 hotspots will be rolled out in March 2010. Another 8 will be operational within the next 2 months, and the rest by March 2013.

28. IDA will also partner schools to organise a series of Inter-generational IT Bootcamps for senior citizens to learn infocomm together with their grandchildren. You may say that this is a case of "the young guiding the old". Beyond bridging the digital divide by helping more non-PC users pick up IT skills, we hope that this initiative will also foster closer ties between our young and old. In fact, IDA has piloted one such IT Bootcamp at the CHIJ - Our Lady of Good Counsel with some 20 pairs of students and grandparents last Saturday. The feedback from the participants was very positive. The senior citizens not only enjoyed the experiential and interesting learning, but also had quality time with their grandchildren. Schools such as Serangoon Secondary, Maha Bodhi, Radin Mas Primary and CHIJ - Kellock are planning to organise similar IT Bootcamps during the March school holidays. I would like to encourage other schools to also come forward to co-organise such bootcamps with IDA.

29. To encourage IT learning among senior citizens, IDA will be initiating a scheme where incentives worth $100 each will be provided to senior citizens who complete 30 hours of IT training at any of the IT learning hubs I mentioned earlier and this incentive can be used to purchase PCs at discounted prices from IDA-appointed partners. Through owning a PC, our seniors will be further encouraged to practise and to continuously hone their newly acquired IT skills.

30. Launched in July 2008, the Infocomm Accessibility Centre, or IAC for short, aims at equipping the hearing-impaired, visually-handicapped and physically-disabled with IT skills to enhance their employability and to contribute to the workforce. The IAC has since trained more than 2,600 people with disabilities in infocomm skills.

Fostering Cyber Wellness Among Our Youths

31. While MICA encourages the adoption of new media, we share Mr Baey Yam Keng and Mr Arthur Fong's concerns on the need to foster cyberwellness and new media literacy. Last year, the Government set up the Inter-Ministry Cyber Wellness Steering Committee (or ICSC) to coordinate national efforts to foster cyberwellness for the youths in Singapore. MICA and MOE are jointly contributing a total of $10 million over 5 years, from 2009 to 2013, to support the work of ICSC. The committee recognises that a multi-pronged collaborative approach involving the community is necessary to effectively reach out to our youths. Hence on 30 October 2009, ICSC launched its first public call for proposals for projects that promote cyberwellness and new media literacy among our youths when using the internet, as well as mobile and other emerging technologies.

32. The community's response to the call for collaboration was encouraging. The ICSC received a total of 32 proposals from the public, people and private sectors. The supported proposals are progressively being rolled out since February, and will reach out to youths, parents and educators. Examples of these initiatives include (a) cyberwellness education programmes for schools covering primary, secondary and post-secondary levels, (b) cyberwellness camps, (c) counselling services, and (d) a nationwide outreach campaign by MDA to nurture Cyber Street Smart Kids. In particular, to address the issue of computer addiction, the ICSC is supporting the CyberWIZ camp. This camp is organised by the Institute of Mental Health, to provide intervention and education to parents and children to break away from computer addiction as highlighted by Mr Arthur Fong.

33. Significantly, the ICSC will also be commissioning a research project to study and better understand the state of cyberwellness practices and behaviour among Singapore youths. The findings will enable direct government and community efforts to focus on areas that require more attention. This study will look at not just Internet usage, but also the gaming environment which is increasingly becoming a popular social space for youths. At the initial stage, the study will focus on how youths behave within this gaming space. This will then help our efforts to support and coordinate a balanced and targeted range of programmes and activities that can better address cyberwellness issues and concerns. Over time, with more wide-ranging programmes, we aim to foster and entrench a culture of cyberwellness practices among our youths as well as across the community.

Delivering Quality Broadcast Programmes

34. Sir, MICA also seeks to foster social cohesion, as well as a sense of community and national identity among our people. As Mr Viswa has pointed out, we recognise that TV is an effective vehicle, and we aim to achieve these objectives through the funding of Public Service Broadcast programmes.

35. Besides its social role, we agree with Mr Chiam See Tong that TV programmes should be diverse, of high quality, and provide good entertainment. The support for PSB programmes ensures that viewers are able to enjoy a greater range of programmes, including those genres that tend to be commercially less viable and may, otherwise, not be produced and broadcasted. PSB programmes cover a wide variety of genres such as information and current affairs, arts and cultural programmes, minority language news and programmes, children's and locally-produced sports programmes as well as quality local dramas.

36. Based on the findings of the Public Programme Appreciation Survey, a representative survey of our community which was first started in 2007, public service programmes have generally registered high levels of appreciation. On average, 8 in 10 of the most appreciated shows surveyed are public service programmes. Such programmes are also well received by viewers, as evidenced by their high viewership numbers. For example, the Malay drama Pinggiran Ramadan (Ramadan Blessings) was one of the highest rated programmes to date on Suria with a rating of 22 per cent, as compared to an average of 12 per cent for other programmes on Suria. The finals of the Vasantham Star variety programme hit record high ratings of 26 percent versus an average of 15 percent for programmes on Vasantham.

37. Some PSB supported productions are also being represented by international distributors and acquired by established regional media players and channels such as ATV and TVB in Hong Kong, PTS in Taiwan, and TVN in Indonesia.

38. Our PSB programmes have also been receiving international recognition, including seven awards at the 14th Asian Television Awards in 2010. As you probably know, our Little Nyonya is a hit overseas and has been broadcasted in several other countries, such as China, Malaysia and Hong Kong. The programme Lifewatch,which documents the work of healthcare givers and their interactions with patients, received the prestigious 2009 CINE Golden Eagle Award. These are testaments to the rising quality of our local productions.

39. Notably for Vasantham, after it was relaunched as a full standalone channel in October 2008, it now offers a wider variety of quality Tamil programmes, as well as content that reaches out to non-Tamil speaking Indians. With news and current affairs being key sources of information on community events and Singapore's policies, the daily Tamil News bulletins and the weekly current affairs programmes Ethiroli (Echo) and Naam (Us) feature community events like book launches, family day carnivals, and Indian festivals of relevance to Singapore's Indian community at large. The new financial year will also see a new weekly community news-based programme focusing on local events. These programmes will serve to bring the Indian community together, including PRs and new citizens, a point made by Mr Viswa.

40. I am pleased to say that over the past year, Vasantham has done well in attracting more viewers. Its prime time viewership has gone up by about 50 per cent since its launch as a standalone channel. While there is competition from cable TV channels, such as Sun TV and Zee TV, Vasantham has consistently garnered the highest channel reach among Indian viewers who watch both free-to-air and cable TV.

41. The Media Development Authority (MDA) will continue to work with the broadcast industry to ensure that the variety and quality of TV programmes are constantly improved, especially for local productions. This is also in MediaCorp's commercial interest, as it is such local content that allows local channels to build their unique branding and differentiate themselves from competitors. We will also study Mr Viswa's suggestions on using more Singaporean talent.

Conclusion

42. Sir, in conclusion, we will continue to engage all segments of our society to fulfil our aspiration to build and strengthen our nation, where our citizens are engaged and emotionally attached to Singapore, a place where all of us call home. Thank you.

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Last updated on: 13 Mar 2023