Launch of the Infocomm Literacy Month

Mr David Lim, Acting Minister for Information, Communications & the Arts and Senior Minister of State for Defence Opening Address - Launch of the Infocomm Literacy Month, Nanyang Polytechnic

Mr David Lim, Acting Minister for Information, Communications & the Arts and Senior Minister of State for Defence
Opening Address - Launch of the Infocomm Literacy Month, Nanyang Polytechnic
Singapore, 31 August 2002

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be here this morning to launch the Infocomm Literacy Month with the Great Singapore Surf. The Great Singapore Surf is the biggest mass IT training event ever held in Singapore and aims to equip 10,000 Singaporeans with infocomm literacy skills over these two days.

Today, we find computers everywhere. But not everyone knows how to use them yet. Some people may even feel that there is no need for them to learn how to use them. But increasingly, IT, and especially the Internet - is used everywhere. Our challenge, therefore, is to give everyone a basic knowledge of these technologies.

It was with this in mind that our Prime Minister launched the National IT Literacy Programme, or NITLP, in June last year. Over three years, the NITLP aims to help 350,000 Singaporeans, especially workers, homemakers and senior citizens, learn basic things about using computers and the Internet.

After one year, about 100,000 Singaporeans have been trained. The project is well on its way to meeting its target. This year, our goal is to train another 126,000 people.

The reason why we are placing so much emphasis on IT training is because IT is no longer something that is used only by experts or professionals. Ordinary people use IT in everyday activities.

Let me illustrate this with a few examples.

At Metro's new store in Sengkang, sales staff now use handheld, wireless point-of-sale terminals. Because they are small and mobile, staff can use them just like a regular checkout terminal to accept credit card payments from customers anywhere in the store.

Companies like Metro hope that by using IT in this manner, customers will be able to buy things without having to wait in long queues. This, in turn, can help the store to make more sales without hiring more people. In this way, IT helps to increase productivity and profits.

Another example can be found at Citicab, where taxi drivers can now go online to look for relief drivers. By pooling information, taxi drivers have more choices, and a better chance of finding relief drivers that suit their schedules and live nearby.

In future, more stores will be like Metro, using IT to offer better customer services and to achieve higher productivity and profits. And more companies will be like Citicab, using IT to benefit their staff, and help them do a better job. Such companies will want to hire staff who know how to use IT, and are willing to be trained in new ways of doing things. These are just two examples that illustrate why it is important that workers today learn to use IT.

But computers are not just being used at work. They are also used at home. For example, homemakers too have begun to leverage on the Internet to enhance their lifestyles. Let me share with you the example of Mdm Jorah Binte Ahmad, a 35 year-old housewife with school-going children. She attended the NITLP, as she was fearful of becoming "outdated". She said that her experience of going through the NITLP brought a "new light" to her life. Now, not only is she able to help her children with their schoolwork, Mdm Jorah also uses email regularly and shops online. Having found the basic course so useful, she has now taken up a course under the Infocomm Competency programme to upgrade her skills further. Mdm Jorah is just one among many thousands of people who put the skills they have learnt to good use.

Senior citizens too are not left behind. The Internet can also be relevant and useful to them. Some are using it to access information on health tips or playing mahjong online with friends. Others like Mr Tan Soo Ren, aged 64, and his wife, Raelene, who are both retirees, have found it useful in even more important ways. Both of them attended the NITLP recently. They have a son living overseas. Now that they have learnt how to use email, they use it to email their son, and even to chat with him on-line from time to time, just to keep in touch. The Internet has given them a powerful, and inexpensive, way to stay in touch with their son.

As all these examples demonstrate, the NITLP has successfully helped more and more Singaporeans discover the exciting benefits of an e-lifestyle. Already, we have one of the highest levels of computer ownership and usage in the world. seven out of 10 homes have a computer today. And six in 10 have access to the Internet and six in 10 Singaporeans are infocomm literate. Usage of online services has also increased, with many more Singaporeans spending more time on the Internet for leisure and community bonding. Topping Singaporeans' list of favourite online activities are emailing, chatting, watching news web casts, downloading music and playing online games.

I would like to thank the 29 Authorised Training Centres (ATCs) and the Manpower Ministry for being our pioneers in bringing infocomm literacy to all Singaporeans. We look forward to your continuing support. We welcome more companies, community groups and training partners to join hands with us to build a connected community.

I would like to commend five ATCs: the National Library Board, the People's Association, Cyberland Learning Centre, the Singapore Indian Development Association and the Chinese Development Assistance Council. Through their commitment to the programme, these five ATCs have exceeded their training targets for the first year. They have also consistently exceeded their monthly training targets. My congratulations to our top five performers, who have collectively trained more than 60,000 people.

Despite these successes, there is still much work to be done. Over the next 12 months I would like to encourage all ATCs to sustain their commitment and contribution to our nation.

Finally, for the NITLP trainees here today, remember to practise at home what you learn here. Don't be afraid to venture online to discover the fascinating array of activities that awaits you. As Confucius said:

" I hear I forget. I see I remember. I do and I understand."

And although I am not as wise as Confucius, I would like to add - "I use, and I benefit." I am sure you will find that this is true. I wish all of you happy surfing on the Internet.

It now gives me great pleasure to declare the launch of the Infocomm Literary Month with the Great Singapore Surf.

Thank you.