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Bridging the Digital Divide - The Role of the Community

Yong Ying-I, Chief Executive Officer, IDA Singapore - Speech

Yong Ying-I, Chief Executive Officer, IDA Singapore - Speech

Singapore, 4 April 2000

1. I am very pleased to be here today to be part of the Association of Muslim Professionals' initiatives to cultivate an Infocomm culture among the Malay/Muslim community.

Embracing Infocomm

2. Infocomm is becoming a pervasive element in every part of our society. Every e-mail we send, every music video we watch online, every banking service we perform over the Internet - these functions are increasingly being carried out on a daily basis. In a few years' time, every student will be online, virtually all workers will know the basics of surfing the Net, and many senior citizens and homemakers will also be familiar with PCs.

Guarding Against The Digital Divide

3. The key challenge that we face in developing an Infocomm-savvy society is to ensure that no individual is left behind in this endeavour. The Internet can improve our quality of life, and we want everyone to be able to share that benefit. That is why our efforts to promote Infocomm through dot-coming the masses always stress the importance of widespread adoption. This means every segment of our society, be they senior citizens, the various ethnic groups, or the needy.

4. Widespread adoption is critical in bridging the "digital divide" - the gap which may develop between the Infocomm-savvy and those who are not. IDA recognises that our approach to get Singaporeans online will have to be more targeted and strategic to address the needs, abilities and interests of each population segment. We can no longer rely on a centralised, government-driven approach to take care of everyone. We acknowledge and want to address the diversity in our society. Hence, our efforts to dot-com the people sector will be a people-driven movement to make the outreach more relevant and effective.

5. This event today is typical of all 31 events organised for eCelebrations Singapore - it is a customised programme for a specific target group. I congratulate the Association of Muslim Professionals for coming forward today to present upgraded used PCs to families.

Role Of The Community

6. IDA encourages more of such support and programmes from the people, public and private sectors. It is only with your commitment and action that the transformation of Singapore into a society that embraces Infocomm, will become a reality. Civic-minded citizens and groups are essential strategic partners in our goal of transforming Singapore into a leading information society, where every Singaporean has an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of Infocomm.

7. There are three possible "faultlines" contributing to a divide between the digital haves and have-nots. These "faultlines" may occur along the lines of income, language and mindsets - between the high and low households, the English-educated and those who are not, (since PC software usually uses the English language) as well as those who are more receptive versus those who are not.

8. AMP's study in 1997 showed that computer literacy and computer investment among the Malay/Muslim community is generally low at 30%. The study also revealed that only 43% of the Malay/Muslim population use the computer at work. Those who do not use computer for work are mostly mature blue-collar workers. These findings reinforced the need and urgency to equip workers with the necessary knowledge and skills to help them stay relevant in the workforce. Further, AMP has identified that there are 4,500 Malay/Muslim low-income households that need aid to go online. Over the next 3 years, we need to focus on expanding the programmes to improve the affordablity and accessibility of Infocomm to these low-income households. We must also heighten the community's awareness of the Malay Internet by elevating it to the national level. IDA will support a national level Malay Internet programme.

9. I am delighted with AMP's relentless efforts to bring Infocomm to the community. For the next 3 years, AMP has identified a few key initiatives that will narrow the digital divide within the Malay and Muslim community. These include the "Adopt-a-Family" scheme and customised Internet training for specific target groups, such as NS men, workers, housewives, senior citizens and high-risk young couples.

10. AMP has worked with the IDA on many occasions to bring Infocomm to the community. Such efforts include computer roadshows and Surf@Stadium - a mass Internet training session. The AMP is also a co-organiser of the ONE Learning Place, a mass Internet training centre located at the Toa Payoh Community Library. IDA hopes that, in collaboration with AMP, we can also recruit and train volunteers in various communities to become e-Ambassadors. These e-Ambassadors will help their uninitiated peers go online and propagate the benefits of a connected lifestyle. This, in turn, will nurture the growth of e-communities.

11. AMP's collaboration with IDA to narrow the digital divide among the Malay and Muslim community is an excellent example of proactive and responsible citizenship in the dot-com action. IDA will give our full support of AMP's projects that align with our mission to bring the community online.

12. Today's donation is an important first step towards bridging the digital divide at the community level. May the PCs that will be given away mark the continuation of an extremely fruitful partnership between the IDA and the AMP in dot-coming the community.

13. Thank you.