Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information at the Opening of the IDA Labs@NLB

20 November 2015 - Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information at the Opening of the IDA Labs@NLB on 20 November 2015, at 3pm, at the Jurong Regional Library.

Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information at the Opening of the IDA Labs@NLB on 20 November 2015, at 3pm, at the Jurong Regional Library.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m very happy to join you at the official opening of the IDA Labs at Jurong Regional Library. This is the third IDA Lab and the first to open within the heartlands.

2. Our libraries are important learning and social spaces which help to bring our families and community together. We have invested significantly in our libraries’ digital infrastructure and have brought them beyond just being physical reading spaces. That is why I’m excited to open the IDA Labs@NLB. This collaboration between IDA and the National Library Board allows us to merge physical and digital learning spaces to better serve the community by bringing technology closer to the public.

3. NLB’s Jurong Regional Library was chosen in line with the Smart Nation vision to develop the Jurong Lake District into a smart, connected and sustainable town. The new IDA Lab here will allow interested members of the public to tap on and to come up with innovative solutions for the community, making technology more accessible.

Bringing technology to the people

4. Today, Singaporeans are among the most connected people in the world. 88% of our homes have access to the Internet and 96% of our households access the Internet via their mobile phones. These numbers are encouraging as we become a more tech savvy nation.

5. However, we need to move beyond just being passive consumers of technology to become active creators who use technology. One purpose of the IDA Labs is to encourage such a transition by making our public more comfortable with technology through increased accessibility.

6. Visitors to the new IDA Lab can look forward to getting hands-on experience tinkering with technologies like 3D printers, robotics and microcontrollers. A range of programmes will also be organized, targeting a wide spectrum of visitors. From talks about technology open to the general public, to hands-on workshops for families, these activities aim to make tech and innovation a part of our lives.

7. Members of the public and students already well immersed into working with these technologies can look forward to crafting sessions where they can collaborate on new projects and make use of the maker toolkits and equipment provided at the IDA Labs.

Encouraging innovation and creativity among our young

8. One example of such possible collaborations is this ‘Tin Man’ which is the work of several students. Though made of cardboard and not tin, it is able to sense and even speak. These students aged 13 to 15 come from various schools but were brought together by their interest in technology. They have been working on this project for many months, and I’m glad to say that they will put on the finishing touches here in the IDA Labs@NLB.

9. This Tin Man does not use very specialized or advanced technology. In fact he is powered by parts which are readily available and technology which already exists. But what is remarkable is that our young students learnt how to use existing technologies and creatively apply what they have learnt to bring these pieces of cardboard to life.

10. And it is this spirit of creativity and experimentation that we are trying to encourage with the set-up of the IDA Labs. Technology can offer many possibilities but what is more important is how we can creatively use it to come up with refreshing new solutions. The IDA Labs are for everyone and not just the ‘techies’. To build up a Smart Nation we have to build upon everyone’s strengths. We want to encourage co-creation between different groups in our society, to bring together the artists and techies to come up with creative solutions to improve our everyday lives. 

11. Currently, our schools teach various robotics and programming skills which give our students an introduction to these areas. IDA Labs@NLB will complement what they learn in school by providing a place for them to apply their knowledge, flex their creativity and share what they have learnt with their families. They will also have easy access to a wide range of library materials to allow them to research into and grow their passion. By engaging our students outside of the classroom, we allow them to combine their varied interests, so as to cultivate in them a spirit of exploration. 

12. These IDA Labs are just one way we are reaching out to the public. Since these Labs were set up in 2014, more than 250 workshops have been organized to encourage collaboration and innovation in using these technologies. Other outreach activities include hackathons which similarly encourage the public to stretch their minds in coming up with solutions to problems by leveraging on available technology.


13. As a nation, we must constantly look forward and keep growing. As people, we should constantly expose ourselves to new innovations so that we can leverage them to advance. To create a Smart Nation, we have to become a nation of innovators, a population constantly seeking out new solutions to everyday problems. 

14. Just as libraries pass on knowledge through books, we hope that the IDA Labs@NLB can pass on the spirit of experimentation and innovation through the tools made available. Through increased exposure to available toolkits and interaction with tech communities in our IDA Labs, we want to help our students and members of the public develop confidence in creating with technology. Hopefully they will be inspired to become the innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow, and contribute meaningful projects to advance society.