By Saraniyah Saravanan
Early last year, while isolating in our homes, many Singaporeans turned to technology to stay in touch with friends and family over video calls, online games and video sharing platforms. From communication with loved ones to e-payment and online work—it is clear that the pandemic has accelerated the role of technology in almost all aspects of our lives. However, as the nation embraced the digital wave, less tech-savvy communities such as the elderly, persons with disabilities and less privileged families may have felt left behind, or worse, became at-risk of cyberattacks.
Dedicated to building a safe and inclusive digital society where all Singaporeans are digitally empowered, we rewind the year to catch up with Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) three major initiatives aimed to bridge the digital skills gap and place easy-to-use resources in the hands of these communities.
Join us as we look back over 2021 and the great strides taken towards inclusivity through the Digital for Life (DfL) movement, the Singapore Digital Office (SDO) and the SG Together Alliance for Action's (AfA) online ordering for hawkers.
Empowering communities from the ground up
Officially launched in February by patron President Halimah Yacob at the President’s Challenge this year, the Digital for Life (DfL) movement was set up with $2.5 million seed funding to empower Singaporeans as they embrace digital as a lifelong pursuit. Since then, the movement has managed to raise a total of $7.6 million and has dedicated $4.8m of its funds to 21 ground-up community projects set to equip a host of different communities with digital education, tech skills and the relevant resources to help technology enrich their lives.
Notably, the Digital Enablement Programme (DEP) partnership supported by Microsoft Singapore, SPD and SG Enable has helped to drive the digital upskilling and increase employability of persons with disabilities. Robust and easy-to-follow training sessions by the DEP instill in its trainees the confidence to access online government services, ensure digital wellness and safety and utilise digital productivity tools on their digital devices. Designed to close the digital divide for persons with disabilities, the programme empowers participants with useful digital skills and ultimately, valuable job opportunities.
Participant, Ms Ng May Chan, 64, shares that as an individual who has cerebral palsy and lives alone, it can be a challenge to take public transport and buy groceries. However, after taking part in the DEP, she now buys daily necessities online. Equipped with her new digital skills, Ms Ng has found greater independence and is eager to embrace a digital future where everyone will be able to participate no matter their differences.
A year of encouraging the elderly to embrace digitalisation
Similarly, in a bid to equip the senior community with the relevant skills to join the march towards Singapore’s digital future, IMDA and the SG Digital Office (SDO) launched the Seniors Go Digital and Hawkers Go Digital initiatives in June 2020. Celebrating its first anniversary this year, the SDO has benefitted more than 100,000 seniors by guiding them through digital skills that range from smartphone video calls to e-payments.
Additionally, with the enhancement of the Mobile Access for Seniors scheme, beneficiaries will enjoy a subsidised mobile plan for a rate of only $5 per month. In an effort to broaden its reach, SDO has also set up an additional 200 roving community counters to reach more seniors across the island—ensuring as many Singaporeans as possible are digitally empowered.
One beneficiary, 81-year-old Mdm Teo Gek Kee, remarks that the digital courses at the Taman Jurong Senior Activity Centre (SAC) provided her with the digital know-how to connect with her friends through her phone and navigate online platforms like YouTube with ease.
Expanding beyond basic skills towards greater digital confidence, SDO has also updated the Seniors Go Digital curriculum to include health related applications and the introduction of a SG Cyber Safe Seniors Programme to raise awareness on cybersecurity and good digital hygiene practices. To benefit working seniors or those from vulnerable communities like the hearing impaired, SDO has also partnered with workplaces to upskill individuals and increase convenience for these communities at work.
Such improvements to the SDO initiatives are poised to further increase the digital competency of Singapore’s typically less tech-savvy communities—equipping more individuals with the skills and confidence to embrace the nation’s digital future.
All hands-on deck to digitalise hawkers
Finally, aimed at integrating digital opportunities into hawker centres, SDO also runs Hawkers Go Digital where stallholders are encouraged to adopt contactless payment with a unique SGQR label at their stall. With this label, stallholders will be able to receive payments through 19 different payment schemes, benefitting local hawkers in more ways than one.
The integration of digital tools within hawker centres across the island will bring greater convenience, appeal to younger customers and reduce physical contact maintaining public health and safety. Grateful for the programme, Mr Kuek Huan Hwee, a bak kut teh chef, comments that e-payment has eased the transaction and sales processes. Enjoying the benefits of contactless payment, he sees the necessity for hawkers to go digital in these unprecedented times.
Similarly aimed at bringing Singapore’s unique hawker culture into the future, appointed representatives from the hawker community, industry partners, and government agencies have formed the SG Together Alliance for Action (AfA) to lead efforts to help hawkers benefit from going online.
In support of AfA’s vision, SDO Digital Ambassadors have been engaging stallholders in hawker centres to increase awareness on the online ordering options popular with customers. By explaining the advantages of various online platforms, SDO hopes to help hawkers make informed decisions that benefit them and their businesses through digitalisation.
Across all communities, from seniors and vulnerable groups to hawkers, IMDA continues to empower individuals with the relevant digital skills required to participate in Singapore’s digital future. Through successful initiatives aimed at educating and connecting with communities, IMDA continues to build a safe and inclusive digital society for all.
Find out more about our year in 2021: Check out how we are building Singapore’s digital economy to be globally competitive, and how we are nurturing tech talents to enable them to grasp the opportunities in the digital domain!