Students, seniors to get more help to access digital technology: DPM Heng

SINGAPORE – More help will be given to students and seniors to enable them to access digital resources, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Tuesday (May 26).

He noted that during the ongoing stay-home period, families have been making fuller use of digital technology for home-based learning, entertainment, ordering meals and keeping in touch with their friends and family members.

The value of having access to digital technology is clear, he said in his fourth budget speech this year, adding that it has enabled people to connect with and support each other safely during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In a post-Covid world, having all on board digital channels will open up exciting new possibilities for different members of the community to engage with and support each other,” Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister, told Parliament.

“Going forward, digital inclusion should be an important way for us to strengthen social resilience. Regardless of age or resources, all members of our society should have access to digital resources, with no one left behind.”

He said the Ministry of Education will “accelerate the timeline” for all secondary school students to own a digital learning device as part of its longer-term plans to support digital literacy for all students.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung will announce the details of the accelerated timeline when they are ready, he added.

In March, Mr Ong had announced during the debate on his ministry’s budget that every secondary school student would own such a device by 2028.

Students have already gone through about four weeks of home-based learning during the circuit breaker period, which ends next week, but some students from lower-income families may not have digital access at home, the Deputy Prime Minister noted.

He said the Education Ministry has loaned out more than 22,000 computing devices and Internet dongles to these students for them to benefit from full home-based learning and continue to connect with their teachers and friends.

For seniors, Mr Heng said the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will launch a Seniors Go Digital movement to support seniors to adopt digital channels, and equip them with the digital skills to do so.

This will require support from family, friends and the wider community, he said.

A Digital Ambassadors movement will also be launched to rally the community and volunteers to help seniors acquire digital skills, he added.

“For seniors from lower-income households who wish to learn but are unable to afford the devices, we will also provide them with financial support,” he said.

Mr Heng also encouraged the young with digital skills, as well as corporate companies, to step forward and be involved in the programme.

The Minister for Communications and Information and the IMDA will announce more details at a later date, he added.

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