Singapore to roll out measures to help its people better navigate digital services: Josephine Teo

Singapore has committed to improving digital capabilities and making digital services more usable for one million people. PHOTO: ST FILE

DAVOS – Singapore aims to be a digital nation for everyone, and is working on measures to equip people with the skills to use such technologies with confidence, said Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo on Friday.

She said the Government will consult groups that work with seniors, people with disabilities and families with young children, on what policies need to be enhanced.

In an interview with Singapore media on her visit to the World Economic Forum (WEF), Mrs Teo said the Republic pledged at the forum to strengthen digital inclusion – where people have access to digital technologies and also the skills to use and benefit from them in their daily lives.

Specifically, Singapore committed to improving digital capabilities and making digital services more usable for one million people, she added, as part of the WEF’s Edison Alliance which aims to speed up global efforts to strengthen digital inclusion.

Mrs Teo noted that 99 per cent of households in Singapore have Internet access, and 92 per cent have a computer. In addition, 97 per cent of the eligible population have a Singpass account – the national digital identity.

“How do we build on these foundations? It’s not just connectivity. It’s how people can navigate the digital world with a sense of confidence. And confidence comes from skills,” she said, adding that this effort should not be driven by the public sector alone.

The Government will consult various groups that work with communities on what enhancements are required to ensure that “digital Singapore is for everyone”, she said, adding this will be done as part of the Forward Singapore national engagement exercise.

Asked what skills are needed, Mrs Teo gave the example of how people need to be able to discern fact from falsehoods online.

The National Library Board launched a programme in 2013 to help the public assess the reliability of news, she noted, adding: “We’re looking at ways in which we can strengthen these (initiatives).”

Singapore has rolled out various initiatives to equip Singaporeans with digital skills and help bridge the digital divide over the years, including the Digital for Life movement which was launched in February 2021.

The strong consensus among WEF participants on the need to strengthen digital inclusion was one of three main takeaways for Mrs Teo. She said there was also a strong appetite for cooperation with international partners, as well as considerable interest in Singapore’s approach to promoting trust and improving safety “as the overall foundation for technology governance”.

For instance, there was interest in Singapore’s Cybersecurity Act as well as new laws to tackle online harms which will take effect in 2023, added Mrs Teo, who is also Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation and Cybersecurity.

Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo (centre) attending the Securing Critical Infrastructure session at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Jan 17. PHOTO: WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM

Giving an update on an ongoing review of the Cybersecurity Act which was announced in March 2022, Mrs Teo said the Government is making good progress and expects to start public consultations on the proposed changes in the first quarter of 2023.

The Act defines who is responsible for the cyber security of critical information infrastructure in crucial sectors such as water, power and healthcare.

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore is looking into expanding the Act to, among other things, protect virtual assets like cloud systems that support essential services and cover key digital services including apps.

Singapore’s delegation to the WEF also included Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and National Development Minister Desmond Lee. Mr Tharman spoke at panel sessions on banking and economic growth, while Mr Lee discussed issues such as ageing and the care economy.

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