Technology must be an enabler for ordinary people for smart nation to become reality

Imagine an app which connects a blind person with a volunteer who can help him catch a bus.

This was one of the ideas suggested at a SGfuture Engagement dialogue session, held at library@orchard on Tuesday (March 8) night.

Members of the Malay-Muslim community attended the session, titled Embracing Technology For Lifelong Learning, which was jointly organised by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and the Ministry of Communications and Information.

The session aimed to discuss ways to promote technology in Singapore for specific demographics such as senior citizens, young people, and the disabled.

Mr Basir Amir, 33, architectural executive, said of the participants' ideas: "Their solutions are very valid, because we are using what's current to solve issues."

Some stressed the importance of removing the fear of technology, by having children and grandchildren teach senior citizens.

Ms Siti Mardiana Tumadi, 25, used the example of her mother, who has diabetes. After teaching her how to use technology to monitor her blood sugar level, her mother no longer has to go down to the doctor to check it.

"It gives them a sense of self-empowerment," the systems analyst said.

"I see technology as a solution for them. Once they learn that technology is not something scary, and it can aid them in staying connected with their loved ones, why not?"

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, who attended the session, said the country's smart nation initiative "is just an idea, but for the idea to become reality, we need people like you and me to become fascinated by IT as an enabler".

He noted that Singapore is facing a worsening manpower crunch in the IT industry, with an estimated 30,000 jobs available by 2020, but only 6,000 IT graduates a year.

He also added that more could also be done to encourage women to enter the IT industry as Singapore prepares to be a smart nation.