A scheme that makes computers and broadband connectivity more affordable for needy people with disabilities and students has been enhanced to benefit more people.
Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday announced two changes to eligibility criteria for the Infocomm Development Authority's (IDA) NEU PC Plus scheme, which offers beneficiaries new computers with three years of free broadband access, at a cost subsidised by up to 75 per cent.
From Sept 1, the monthly household income cap will be raised from $3,000 to $3,400. This is expected to benefit another 5,000 families over five years.
In addition, special education (Sped) students on the Ministry of Education's Sped Financial Assistance Scheme will automatically qualify for the subsidies.
Other criteria have also been tweaked to help more low-income families (see table).
For applicants who cannot afford to pay even after the discount, they currently can earn their computers by doing community service, such as sorting books at school libraries.
The monthly household income cap to qualify for this will also be raised from $2,300 to $2,500 from Sept 1.
Dr Yaacob was the guest of honour at Enable Empower Connect (E² Connect), an inaugural forum to raise awareness of the positive impact of technology on the daily lives of people with disabilities.
Speaking at the event at the Enabling Village in Lengkok Bahru, he said: "As policymakers, our role is to provide the infrastructure and policies to create a more inclusive environment.
"This means finding ways in which technology can help to improve our processes and services, making technology accessible to those who need it, and ensuring that persons with disabilities can afford devices that suit their needs."
Since NEU PC Plus was launched in 2006, more than 27,000 low-income families with students or people with disabilities have benefited.
One of them was Nanyang Polytechnic student Leonard Wong, 20. He received a Lenovo laptop in 2014, paying just around $330 for it.
Back then, with his mother being the sole breadwinner, he and his two brothers used to have to share a laptop, but it was an old model and not suitable for him in schoolwork.
"Without the subsidy and new laptop, I'd have to stay back in school to do my projects and use computers in school only when they are available," he said. "I'm glad the scheme has been expanded to help more people."
Yesterday, IDA also unveiled a new wheelchair-accessible bus that showcases assistive technology gadgets. It will offer workshops with a customised curriculum for different special needs, such as cerebral palsy and autism, and will travel to community centres, shopping malls and Sped schools.
IDA deputy chief executive Leong Keng Thai said: "A smart nation is about people, not technology alone. It's about using tech to make people's lives better, creating new opportunities and building stronger communities; it's for everyone."