Credit: Ministry of Communications and Information

Credit: Ministry of Communications and Information

Singapore launches Digital Readiness Blueprint to help Singaporeans thrive in a Smart Nation

Singapore Minister for Communications and Information Mr S. Iswaran recently announced the launch of the country’s Digital Readiness Blueprint.

In his Opening Remarks at Tech Saturday, Minister Iswaran highlighted the importance of digital readiness.

“We all know that technology has a major impact on our lives, and it is creating many opportunities for all of us, to connect with each other and to also enhance our lives. But we also know that there are segments of our community who – either because they are not familiar, or because they do not have access to the technology – may not be able to fully participate in technological change and enjoy the benefits that it can bring,” he said.

According to Minister Iswaran, the true measure of a nation is not just how vibrant or strong the country’s economy is but also how it cares for citizens in the society, in particular, how the Government provide the services that are necessary to those who are in need.

“In the digital age, all nations face the challenge of a new divide – between the digital haves and digital have-nots. Digitalisation will have a profound impact on our quality of life – our access to opportunities, our ability to engage in social networking and in terms of the services that we can enjoy.  So, we want to ensure that no one is left behind in this digital transition. We want to ensure that every Singaporean has the means, skills and the confidence to embrace digital technology to improve their lives,” he added. Minister Iswaran’s comment on digital readiness echoes President Halimah Yacob’s emphasis on building a cohesive, caring and inclusive society is a key priority of the Singapore Government.

To bridge the digital divide and promote digital inclusion, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) convened the Digital Readiness Workgroup last year to examine how the Government can help Singaporeans to be more digitally ready. On 2 June, the Workgroup’s Digital Readiness Blueprint was launched. The document contains strategies and recommendations that will enable Singaporeans to thrive in a Smart Nation. The Blueprint also contains specific recommendations to help the digitally vulnerable, the general public, as well as businesses and other organisations.

The guiding principles of Digital Readiness Blueprint include: (1) the need for the human touch in the digital world, (2) the need to develop deep partnerships and collaborations between businesses, the community, and the government, and (3) the need to ensure digital readiness initiatives meet the needs and provide increased convenience for all Singaporeans.  To help those who are less digitally-savvy, the Workgroup has recommended making basic digital access more widespread, providing one-on-one assistance for digital queries, and identifying a set of Basic Digital Skills as a starting point.

IMDA has developed a curriculum for basic digital skills and will be offering this at selected Silver Infocomm Junctions.  These skills include communicating, transacting and staying safe online.  The first round of workshops based on the curriculum will be conducted at the Silver IT Fest from 22 to 24 June this year.  MCI and IMDA are also working with the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, GovTech and the People’s Association to have dedicated one-on-one assistance at community touch points, to reach out to Singaporeans who might need help to learn and use technology. The Government will be piloting this at some community centres in the latter half of the year.

“In the longer term, we hope to make this service available at many more community touchpoints. It needs to be ubiquitous like the Internet, if we have to make an impact in people’s lives and lifestyles,” said Minister Iswaran. Minister also shared that MCI is also studying the recommendation to provide widespread basic digital access carefully, with a view to defining the scope, identifying the people who might be more in need of a basic access package, and how best to meet their needs. 

“The blueprint is relevant not just for vulnerable groups, but also considers the needs of the wider community,” he said.

The Workgroup has recommended stepping up efforts in information and media literacy, especially given the increasing problem of deliberate online falsehoods and scams.

To this end, MCI is working on a national information and media literacy framework, pulling together the good work that is already being done in raising awareness and educating the public. These include the Media Literacy Council’s Better Internet Campaign, the National Library Board’s S.U.R.E. programme, and the Cyber Security Agency’s Go Safe Online. Acknowledging that businesses and community organisations also have a big role to play in building digital readiness, another recommendation is to establish a Digital Participation Pledge, where organisations commit to building digitally inclusive services, and equipping their employees with digital skills. Those that are more advanced can educate their customers and support wider digitalisation efforts in our society. “Ultimately, the heart of every nation is our people.  And we want to ensure that all Singaporeans can thrive and lead fulfilling lives in a digital era, using technology as a critical enabler,” Minister Iswaran concluded.

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