Ground-up initiatives crucial to fostering digital inclusion: President Halimah

President Halimah Yacob observing a digital literacy workshop at Chua Chu Kang Primary School.
President Halimah Yacob observing a digital literacy workshop at Chua Chu Kang Primary School.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

SINGAPORE - Ground-up initiatives can drive up digital inclusion by connecting beneficiaries to resources that help them increase their digital literacy, said President Halimah Yacob.

The families or individuals who need them are sometimes unaware of the funds, courses and programmes that are available, she said on Friday (Sept 10) after observing a digital literacy workshop at Chua Chu Kang Primary School.

The workshop was run by Project Digital Inclusion Programme (Project D.I.P), which was started in January by Ms Francesca Wah, 30.

Run by a group of volunteers, the programme promotes digital inclusion, particularly among school-going children from lower-income families, by providing them laptops and teaching them how to use the laptops effectively.

Topics covered in the workshops, which last about seven hours spread across two days, include basic skills such as changing the desktop background, creating a new folder, using a search engine, as well as Internet safety.

The laptops come from various sources. New laptops are provided for eligible students under the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) Neu PC Plus programme.

Refurbished laptops are provided for needy students that do not meet the eligibility criteria for the IMDA programme.

Ten schools are participating in the programme, which has benefited more than 350 students, and partnerships with 10 more are in the works.

Ms Wah said she started Project D.I.P after observing children who lived in rental flats struggling with digital access, while working with them as part of another community project she started.

"I noticed that in some of these households, they don't have a laptop nor Internet access to themselves.

"Even those with a laptop loaned from their schools don't know how to use it, so I thought that we should adopt a holistic approach to promoting (digital) inclusion in Singapore."

Speaking to the media after her visit to the school, Madam Halimah said digital literacy allows children to use a computer in ways that will help them perform better in schools.

Affirming that more ground-up initiatives can be expected to be part of the President's Challenge in future, she added: "The basic premise of the President's Challenge is to empower people - and to empower people, we need so many different hands and legs on the ground"

The theme of this year's President's Challenge is Building A Digitally Inclusive Society.

In March, the challenge provided $2.5 million for IMDA's Digital for Life fund, to support efforts to strengthen the country's digital resilience and help people identify or reduce digital risks, even as Covid-19 hastened digitalisation and, along with it, the digital divide.