SINGAPORE - More than 700 students with special needs will learn how to search for information on the Internet, make e-payments, use e-mail and chat online in their day-to-day lessons next year, when four schools incorporate basic digital skills into their academic curricula.
The four schools are the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN) Delta Senior School, APSN Tanglin School, Grace Orchard School and Metta School.
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said the lessons will help support the learning needs of students with mild intellectual disabilities and those with autism spectrum disorder aged between 13 and 20 years old.
This next step in building a digitally-inclusive society comes after a pilot programme earlier this year for 70 students received "positive feedback".
In announcing the move on Friday (July 26), Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said students in the pilot learnt about their SingPass accounts and how to use them to access government services, and noted that the lessons were aimed at helping them lead a productive and meaningful life.
Gaining access to digital platforms and services is a skill every Singaporean should have, he said.
Launching a three-day festival on digital inclusion on Friday, Mr Iswaran said: "Building a digitally-ready society is not only about ensuring that technology is accessible to all.
"It is also about equipping people with the skills to use the technology in ways that add value to their lives."
One student who attended the pilot programme, Mr Oun Zi Le, 18, from APSN Delta Senior School, said: "I learnt how to create a Gmail account this year. I can send (and) receive e-mails. I also know how to attach files. It is so easy; I now read my e-mails using my phone."
Principal Subash Lazar said the lessons have enabled students like Zi Le to be confident when interacting with others and participating in the community.
"We should never assume that our students are all on the same page when it comes to affinity for technology and its uses," said Mr Lazar.
"A deliberate and strategic inclusion of basic digital skills into the curriculum would ensure that our students remain relevant and competent in a world where technological advancement is ever accelerating."
On Friday, Mr Iswaran also announced that IMDA and APSN Tanglin School have developed a Cyberwellness Adventure Virtual Reality (VR) game in which students can learn about different practices to improve their cyber hygiene and why it is important to do so. This will complement the new curriculum.
In the game, students will learn to set strong passwords, identify fake news, manage cyber bullies and understand the ethical consequences of their digital footprint, said IMDA.
The minister also said more than 600 organisations have supported the Digital Participation Pledge (DPP), which is a series of commitments organisations can make to help make technology more inclusive.
These will equip employees with digital skills, educate customers, clients or stakeholders on the use of their digital services, offer and design their digital services to be inclusive and safe, and volunteer or give resources to support digital-readiness efforts.
Organisations that have taken up the DPP have pledged to fulfil at least one of these areas.
Mr Iswaran said that an award ceremony will be held in November to acknowledge some of these organisations.
"It is our way to recognise organisations which have initiatives in place to prepare their employees, stakeholders and the community to be digitally ready," he said.