Diabetes issue resonates, but concerns on Smart Nation expressed: Reach Poll

PM Lee spoke about the war on diabetes, preschool education and Singapore's journey to becoming a Smart Nation during his National Day Rally speech last month. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - The war on diabetes was the issue that resonated most with Singaporeans, among the three topics raised by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally speech last month.

A telephone poll conducted by government feedback unit Reach, showed that 91 per cent of respondents agreed that diabetes was a serious issue that deserved national attention.

Some 86 per cent also said they would adopt PM Lee's suggestions to prevent or manage diabetes, such as switching to healthier food options like brown rice.

The two other issues PM Lee spoke about during the rally were pre-school education and Singapore's journey to becoming a Smart Nation.

While a large majority also agreed that these two issues were important and would improve the lives of Singaporeans, the poll numbers fell between 70 per cent and 80 per cent - slightly lower than the poll numbers for diabetes.

On Smart Nation initiatives, 70 per cent of people were "mostly convinced" that quality of life would improve as Singapore became a Smart Nation.

But Reach also pointed out that during dialogues and public feedback sessions, people expressed the need to ensure the elderly were not left behind, as Singapore transformed.

"On the idea of a cashless society, there was also resistance from some Singaporeans, who cited overspending, lack of confidence over digital modes of payment, and inability to acquire new technology, as reasons for not adopting e-payment methods," the Reach statement said.

Reach also noted that some Singaporeans had a "very limited understanding of what Smart Nation entails" - a sign that more public education is needed.

On diabetes, Reach chairman Sam Tan said that "Singaporeans who gave their feedback on Reach engagement platforms felt that PM's message on diabetes really struck a chord with them".

"Many felt that it was timely that PM highlighted the seriousness of the issue, and felt encouraged to eat more healthily," added Mr Tan, who is also Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office.

Reach surveyed 1,710 Singaporeans above 15, from Aug 22 to 31, to gauge the public's reactions to PM's speech, it said in a statement on Wednesday (Sept 27).

In the Smart Nation push, support for using technology to counter terrorism was high. Some 85 per cent of those surveyed considered it "acceptable for the Government to use data from sensor networks to detect and counter terrorist threats".

The authorities said last year it would use public transport video camera footage and data from the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system to tackle terrorism. The police have also been rolling out a network of closed-circuit television cameras in the heartland, under a programme called PolCam.

As for pre-school education, over three-quarters said they were optimistic that efforts to improve pre-school education would ensure children have the best start in life.

Among other initiatives, the Government had announced plans to increase the number of pre-school places by 40,000 over the next five years, and set up the National Institute of Early Childhood Development to train pre-school teachers.

"Many felt that pre-schools served as the foundational phase when children build up their character and passion for learning. Many also agreed that it was important to give young children a good start and have the best chance to succeed in life," said Mr Tan.

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