Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Communications and Information, Dr Janil Puthucheary (centre), was at the inaugural run of the IM Bonding Learning project for seniors to learn how to use a smartphone.
By Suresh Nair
Smartphones are not just for the young and the tech-savvy anymore. These days, even the silver generation is learning how to use this digital tool.
Madam Christina Ong Ah Lee, 79, and Madam Aminah binte Sakibau, 72, for instance, recently learned and adapted well to the basics of using a smartphone, from swiping to unlock and tapping to answer calls. Both quick-witted grandmothers also reacted positively to their first experience with any kind of smartphone.
The two seniors, who possess a can-do attitude, enjoy the thrill of picking up new technology. They were part of about 20 students, aged between 50 and 80, attending the IM Bonding Learning Project – a tripartite collaboration between the Infocomm Media Development Authority, Lions Befrienders and POSB. The inaugural run was held at the Lions Befriender’s Tampines Senior Activity Centre.
The IM Bonding Learning Project leverages the respective parties’ area of expertise in the public, people and private domains, to strengthen communities through technology.
Through the befriending approach, the volunteers guided the seniors, walking them through the basic steps of smartphones others may take for granted, including how to use the notifications bar, unlock their phones, switch between applications and surf the internet.
Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Communications and Information, Dr Janil Puthucheary, attended the three-hour session to encourage and recognise the efforts of the seniors who had stepped forward to learn.
Madam Ong (left) enjoyed the tutorial sessions, which she found very helpful. She intends to continue to practise using her phone at home so as to familiarise herself with the new skills, as well as pass on her knowledge to her elderly friends.
Madam Ong added that the seniors are picking up smartphones to connect with their children and grandchildren, especially if some of their family members are working or studying overseas. In order to stay in touch with them, they start using these gadgets to keep themselves abreast of their family members’ lives.
Madam Aminah said that a lot of the pioneers grew up in a pre-digital age and are finding that they need more help to navigate the digital world. They may lack basic academic education, too, and now need “closer attention to guide them”. “I’m quite comfortable in the early learning stage and when I get home, I intend to patiently teach my 85-year-old husband how to be digital savvy, too,” she added.
Bonding Learning Project
The IM Bonding Learning Project comprises eight three-hour sessions, and will focus on using technology for social connectedness. Participants from low-income households also have the chance to learn how to use a tablet and different IT skills, including basic introductions to the device and Internet, digital TV, e-communication, social media, and POSB’s Digibank and Paylah! apps. The entire curriculum is spread out over an eight-week learning journey.
IMDA, together with the support from corporate sponsors such as POSB, NTUC FairPrice Foundation and NetLink Trust, will be providing 900 pre-qualified low-income households the opportunity to sign up for home broadband and tablets at no cost as part of the Home Access Programme. The other low-income households can enjoy subsidised home broadband with the option to own a tablet.
“As IMDA strives towards a digital economy for Singapore, we are also nurturing a digital society where everyone is connected,” said Mr Tan Kiat How, Chief Executive, IMDA. “With the support from partners in the private and community sectors, such as POSB and Lions Befrienders, we are able to help more low-income families access the internet and benefit from digital services.”
Ms Susan Cheong, Head of POSB, added, “The world is becoming more digital and we want to play our part to ensure that our seniors are not left behind. As we move together towards Singapore’s vision of a digital future, we want to help empower our seniors through this initiative.”
The Home Access Programme is part of the Digital Inclusion effort under IMDA. To date, about 8,000 low-income households have benefitted from the programme since 2014. The Home Access Programme targets to benefit another 16,000 low-income families starting from April 2017.