Letter of the week: Access to devices only the first step in narrowing digital divide

The writer applauds the effort made to ensure that no one is left behind in digital access. PHOTO: ST FILE

A recent poll found that only 30 per cent of families living in rental flats have a learning device (Only 30% of families in rental flats have learning device: Poll, April 25).

I applaud the important effort made by some organisations that are working to facilitate access to learning devices and ensure that no one is left behind in digital access.

However, access to devices is only the first step in closing the digital divide for senior citizens and the less fortunate. It is critical that three other areas are addressed in tandem.

First, curated tools to help people take their first steps. When donating devices to beneficiaries, we should consider pre-loading a curated set of software and tools which can help to facilitate productivity, learning and skills development. The vast array of options today may cause confusion, especially if the person is new to digital access.

Second, education to embed a digital way of living. Organisations supporting various beneficiaries could partner corporate and non-profit entities to develop digital literacy programmes to dovetail with the issuance of devices.

Beneficiaries could then learn how to operate their devices confidently and pick up key digital skills. For children, it is important to expose them to different technology to plant the seeds of interest and build confidence.

Finally, reliable access to connectivity. People will not adopt a digital way of living in their daily lives if there is a lack of reliable and affordable access to connectivity.

Many online resources and tools can be data-intensive. Without sustained access to connectivity with sufficient bandwidth, beneficiaries would get limited use out of digital devices.

I am heartened to see the interest and investment in ensuring all citizens get digital access. I look forward to seeing more initiatives to address existing gaps.

S. Shaikh Ismail

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