By Jill Arul
From major illnesses to prison terms, a gap in work can be a challenge for Singaporeans looking to return to the workforce. This is particularly true in recent years with technological advancements, like telecommunications and even artificial intelligence being implemented at a rapid pace.
To build a digitally inclusive society, the national Digital for Life movement was launched and aims to encourage Singaporeans to embrace technology and enrich their lives with digital tools. Established under the movement, the Digital for Life Fund was started to fund and support inspirational projects that aim to bring all Singaporeans into the digital fold.
One of the 22 ground-up community projects supported by the Digital for Life Fund is the Digital Youth Ambassador (DYA) programme led by SCS Youth, a youth chapter of Singapore Computer Society, which aims to empower Singaporeans who have left the workforce due to social or medical reasons with digital skills.
Through the programme, DYA’s skilled volunteers hold regular sessions with beneficiaries like ex-offenders and people recovering from major illnesses to help them address their unique digital difficulties. Find out how three such volunteers work to provide beneficiaries with digital skills meant to ease their transition into a modern workforce and enrich their lives.
Working together for a tech-ready workforce
While resources to gain digital skills are available for the majority, people in recovery continue to struggle when looking for jobs with technological requirements. Additionally, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and rise of remote work, this digital gap has been further stretched. The struggles of these individuals were brought to the attention of project leader, Mr Aow Jia Rong in a conversation with a friend who works with similar beneficiaries.
Separately, SCS was involved with the community at large to share tech knowledge with low-income families and more recently through the installation of smart home devices in the homes of seniors and persons with disabilities. To continue giving back to the community, the DYA programme was initiated by the SCS youth chapter—dedicated specifically to people in recovery and focused on providing one-to-one guidance for maximum benefit.
“The team began by researching the digital challenges faced by people in recovery. We did this by reaching out to social service agencies like the Industrial and Services Co-operative Society Limited (ISCOS), Yellow Ribbon, ImPAct, the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA) and Trybe Singapore to better understand the beneficiaries.”
Mr Aow Jia Rong
Guest trainers and volunteers then conduct both mass workshops and one-to-one sessions to share digital knowledge like how to use video call platforms like zoom and how to declutter their mobile phones when they are short on storage.
By working with social service agencies, SCS Youth was able to deftly address initial challenges like selecting the right topics and reaching out to beneficiaries—according to Mr Aow, this feat was made easier with the help of Digital for Life’s resources and network.
Looking ahead, SCS hopes to further expand the project with a more structured process and more collaboration with other organisations or DfL funded initiatives to better support the beneficiaries.
A volunteers journey
While SCS Youth volunteers come from different backgrounds, they are brought together by their passion to serve members of the community through their tech talents. As a part of the DYA programme, volunteers have taught beneficiaries the ins and outs of video conferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, how to optimize storage on their devices, how to stand out during online interviews and more.
A student chapter member since 2019, Mr Low Jun Keat, now 21, was intrigued when the DYA programme was publicised on SCS Youth’s social media platforms.
“Re-joining the workforce can be difficult for our beneficiaries because they often face challenges like a lack of digital skills training. With digital training, they can gain access to important resources and connect with potential employers.”
Mr Low Jun Keat
Passionate about helping others, Mr Low was heartened to find out that a beneficiary he worked with was able to apply the digital skills he shared in her daily life as she found ways to communicate and create connections with family and friends online. “That was my proudest moment,” added Mr Low. “I hope to use my skills and knowledge to impact the lives of others as much as I can.”
In his third year of volunteering with SCS, Mr Teow Jo Chuing believes the mission of the DYA programme is particularly significant against the backdrop of rapid technological changes that can be a barrier for people in recovery who might not have had the opportunity to develop their digital skills.
“Sometimes we take for granted the skills we have like knowing how to use a smartphone and other online tools. But there are still gaps in our society who lack these skills—by sharing our knowledge we hope to empower them in the workplace.”
Mr Teow Jo Chuing
Finally, while Ms Nur Aisya Binte Yahaya similarly hopes to effect change in the lives of SCS beneficiaries, she feels she has learned as much as the individuals they teach. As she meets individuals from all walks of life, Ms Aisya feels her worldview has expanded through the meaningful experience of volunteering.
With the support of the Digital for Life fund and the help of IMDA, organisations like SCS can leverage the passion and expertise of skilled volunteers to ensure all Singaporeans benefit from the nation’s digital advancements—no matter their circumstance.
Are you interested in tech and eager to give back to the community? Do you have an idea for a project that can contribute to Singapore’s inclusive digital future? Non-profit organisations can apply for the Digital for Life Fund from 9 May to 4 July 2022. Click here to find out how Digital for Life can help bring your project to life!