Building a Smart Nation

National Day Rally 2017: Language whizz helps silver peers get to grips with tech

Mr Tariam Singh, 70, is one of 163 volunteer Silver Infocomm Wellness Ambassadors. The retired HR professional teaches his peers how to use smartphones and tablets.
Mr Tariam Singh, 70, is one of 163 volunteer Silver Infocomm Wellness Ambassadors. The retired HR professional teaches his peers how to use smartphones and tablets.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Retired human resources professional Tariam Singh speaks five languages that he puts to use regularly as he helps fellow senior citizens get to grips with technology.

Mr Singh, 70, is one of 163 volunteer Silver Infocomm Wellness Ambassadors.

"In my working life, I saw that many seniors had problems with IT," said Mr Singh, explaining why he became an ambassador.

It is also a good way to socialise and combat the loneliness the silver years can bring. About once a month, he teaches his peers how to use gadgets such as smartphones and tablets.

He does so at venues like Silver IT Fest roadshows where there are Learning Island Tutorials, at which seniors are taught to use mobile apps.

Anyone aged at least 50 can be an ambassador, as long as he is active with IT and can encourage his peers to actively adopt digital technology. He can nominate himself or his friends online.

Ambassadors are appointed by the Infocomm Media Development Authority and People's Association Active Ageing Council under the scheme, introduced in 2012.

Mr Singh, who has been an ambassador since June, said his ability to speak English, Mandarin, Malay, Hokkien and Punjabi helps him with students who may not understand terms used during lessons, which are in English.

One difficulty in teaching the elderly is that they tend to forget fast, so he gives them material to take home and his phone number.

One of his most rewarding experiences was when a man whom he taught saw him on the street, and ran to hug and thank him. He had taught the man to use a smartphone.

Mr Singh does not see himself stopping any time soon.

"My inspiration is to help my peers... Until the day they don't need me, I have no intention of stopping," he said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong singled out Mr Singh when speaking on Singapore's Smart Nation drive. He said anyone could be like Mr Singh in sharing IT knowledge with others to bring them up to speed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2017, with the headline 'Language whizz helps silver peers get to grips with tech'. Print Edition | Subscribe