Yong Ying-I, Chief Executive Officer, IDA Singapore - Speech MOU Signing Ceremony for Sped.com, Suntec Singapore
Yong Ying-I, Chief Executive Officer, IDA Singapore - Speech
MOU Signing Ceremony for Sped.com, Suntec Singapore
Singapore, 31 July 2000
Dr Aline Wong, Senior Minister of State for Education
Mr Wayne Foster, Acting High Commissioner for Canada
Mr Benedict Cheong, Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Social Service
Representatives from our Partners in the SPED.com programme
Ladies and Gentlemen
Introduction - Do You Know?
1. Let me begin with a story. In the 1870s, there was a young student named Herman Hollerith, who had a cognitive processing disability. He had a habit of jumping out of his second storey classroom window to avoid taking his spelling lessons. He also came up with an idea to use punch cards to keep and transport information. In 1896, Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company, where he served as a consulting engineer until his retirement in 1921. Three years after that, the Tabulating Machine Company changed its name to the International Business Machines Corporation - better known to us all as IBM.
2. In 1974, Dr Vinton Cerf, a professor at Stanford University, developed TCP/IP, which stands for Transfer Communication Protocol/Internet Protocol - the host-level protocols for the ARPANET. Initially used as text messaging, otherwise known as an email forum for researchers, ARPANET gained rapid global acceptance. Today, we all know it as the Internet. For his work, Dr Cerf is known as the "Father of the Internet". But did you also know that many years before his great discovery at Stanford, he had already been communicating with his wife using text messaging? Because Dr Cerf has been hard of-hearing since birth, and he's married to a lady who is deaf. Therefore text messaging was his way of getting around the problem of communication. According to him, "I have spent a fair chunk of my time trying to persuade people with hearing impairments to make use of electronic mail, because I found it so powerful myself." Today of course, email is used by virtually all of us, whether we have hearing problems or not.
3. If not for a hearing impaired man, we might never have invented the Internet. If not for an intellectual impaired person who had a problem retaining information, we might never have invented the computer. My friends, what we do today for the disabled, the returns are shared by us all.
4. It is therefore, my pleasure to welcome you today, on behalf of IDA, to the MOU signing for SPED.com, between the National Council of Social Services, IDA, and the industry.
5. SPED.com stands for dot comming the Special Education community. It is a joint initiative between NCSS, IDA and industry to help disabled students join the Information Society. SPED.com will provide specialised computer access infrastructure in all the special schools. A trust fund will let students from needy families buy equipment for use at home. The assistive technology can help students learn in new ways. It can also give them access to the rich world of the Internet and e-commerce. Most importantly, technology can also close job opportunity gaps. For example, with special technology, a blind person can work in a call centre or staff help desks. With communications capabilities today, he can even work from home. Technology, with the training to use it, can enable the disabled to have good jobs in the new economy that can give them a better standard of living.
6. Singapore is short of infocomm manpower especially in hot areas like E-commerce and Internet development. These are areas where creativity talent is as important as technical expertise. And as my 2 opening stories showed, some of the biggest inventions in IT have come from the disabled. The challenge is how to help them to tap their potential. They have different and sometimes unique needs, which require us to make the extra effort to find solutions for them.
7. Often, the biggest challenge we face in finding these solutions is our own mental hurdles. How many times have you heard the phrase, "think out of the box"? But how often do we really question our - yours and mine --self-imposed limitations. I ask you today to open yourself to new possibilities. Stretch your imagination. Ask how we can use technology creatively to overcome hurdles -- the physical hurdles, access hurdles, and social hurdles. For instance, access to information could be made more easily accessible to the disabled. Employers could also take advantage of assistive technology so that employees with disabilities can do jobs that they otherwise might not have been able to.
8. Today, it gives me great pleasure to announce that SPED.com have raised S$1.8M in cash and kind to bring technology to the disabled. Of this $1.8M, a $900,000 Trust Fund is for needy disabled students to buy PCs and assistive equipment for educational purposes, thanks to generous contributions from Cisco, HP, and Shaw Foundation. Over $900,000 worth of hardware, software, a website, and awards have also been contributed by Cisco, HP, KnowledgeTouch.com, L&H, Microsoft, Rotary Club of Raffles City, SCV, and the Canadian company IS Inc.
9. I would like to use this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to our industry partners and to Shaw Foundation for your generosity and support. You have set an example that I hope others in industry will follow. Your contributions will bring technology to the doorsteps of these special people. I believe you are making a difference to their lives. And I believe that all in Singapore will share the ultimate benefit.
10. Thank you