By Ingrid Espinosa
There’s no doubt that digital tools are an essential part of our daily lives. Consider our smartphones. Nowadays, they aren’t just for calls—they’re also a post office, encyclopaedia, and portal to the world, all rolled into one powerful device. From meetings to milestones with distant family members, many life events today are held through the screens of our smartphones and computers.
Our collective reliance on technology was further accelerated during COVID-19, when social distancing measures prompted events and gatherings to shift online. However, not everyone can easily make the switch for various reasons, including a lack of digital literacy and access to digital technologies.
Such “invisible illiteracies” make it difficult for vulnerable groups like seniors and lower-income citizens to navigate the rapidly-evolving digital economy. To ensure that no one is left behind, a new national movement called Digital for Life was announced by President Halimah Yacob at the launch of the President’s Challenge (PC) 2021 last 8 February 2021. With the theme “Building a Digitally Inclusive Society,” this year’s iteration of the President’s Challenge will focus on efforts to equip all segments of society with digital tools, skills and connectivity.
Rising to the digital challenge
Now that many Singaporeans have found new ways to connect, learn, and carry out essential daily activities through digital means, Digital for Life aims to mobilise the community to make the digital way of life more accessible to all. In doing so, the movement hopes to eventually realise Singapore’s vision of a digitally inclusive society where all Singaporeans can achieve a better quality of life by embracing digital.
Given the many aspects of digital inclusion, Digital for Life is set to be a whole-of-nation movement — mobilising corporates, community organisations, government agencies and even individuals. By partnering closely with these sectors, more community resources and networks can be dedicated to ensuring on-the-ground impact.
“Those who are unfamiliar with these technological tools or who do not have access to them stand to face challenges in their digitalisation journey,” commented President Halimah Yacob, who is also patron of the Digital for Life movement.
“By upgrading skills and capabilities using digital technologies and solutions, we not only uplift vulnerable groups, but also bring about more sustained changes to their lives.” President Halimah Yacob
“While we have made good progress, the task is not complete. There is an abiding need to endow all with digital access skills and know-how so that no one is left behind,” added Minister for Communications and information Mr S Iswaran, who was also present at the PC2021 launch. “Inclusion has always been at the heart of our digital push.”
Contributing to a worthy cause
To make these efforts possible, a Digital for Life fund was established to support projects and activities initiated by the community for the community up until 2023. The President’s Challenge will donate S$2.5 million in seed funding, with IMDA planning to raise another S$2.5 million. Adding on, the Government will match all donations dollar-to-dollar, bringing the total fund size to S$10 million.
In her speech, President Halimah Yacob also commended organisations that have pitched in to assist those in need, such as volunteers from Singtel who taught seniors to safely use the internet and navigate mobile apps.
“We should build on this momentum to encourage more of such collaborations. Digital inclusion has many facets beyond access and literacy. As the digital landscape changes rapidly, we need the entire community to come together to build and strengthen our digital resilience,” said President Halimah Yacob.
Areas to be supported by the Digital for Life fund include digital technology and inclusion, which seeks to make digital tools more accessible to needy segments of society and encourage greater technology adoption. Projects in this area will also promote the use of digital technology for social good initiatives. Another area of interest is digital literacy and wellness, which seeks to protect Singaporeans from online harm by sharing responsible Internet practices.
A glimpse into the digital future
Under its new digital focus, the President’s Challenge will commit to a broad range of social causes, supporting a record high of 92 beneficiary agencies. One of the programmes already being supported under the President’s Challenge 2021 is TOUCH Community Services “Digitally Ready Families,” which teaches low-income individuals and families to use digital technology more effectively and responsibly.
Mr Mohamad Roslan Bin Palil, 54 years old, is one such beneficiary of “Digitally Ready Families.” After seriously injuring his back in an accident, he has been unable to work. Since that fateful accident, Mr Roslan is now levelling up his digital skills and learning to become more digitally-savvy in hopes of securing a new job.Of course, Mr Roslan’s account is only the beginning. With continued support from various sectors, more inspiring stories from beneficiaries-turned-bonafide digital citizens will surely arise.
“I hope that companies, social service agencies and Singaporeans will continue to walk the path together towards Singapore’s digital future. Share your ideas and stories, collaborate with one another and build a safe and accessible digital environment for all,” concluded President Halimah Yacob.
The Digital for Life Fund is the flagship for fundraising efforts under the Digital for Life movement. All cash donations received will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Government.
Want to play a part in empowering all Singaporeans to participate in the digital future? Visit https://www.giving.sg/community-chest/digitalforlife for more information on how to contribute.