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Digital for Life, and for a more inclusive society

More organisations are coming together to empower the less digitally abled in an increasingly digital-first lifestyle and work environment.

Digital for Life, and for a more inclusive society

Attending the Digitally Ready Families programme with her daughters helped Ms Santi become more familiar with technology and digitisation. Photo: TOUCH Community Services

Technology connects us. But in the case of Ms Santi, technology made her feel lost and left out. While her husband and daughters were busy having Zoom meetings and participating in online activities during the 2020 circuit breaker period, digital pursuits weren’t a big part of her daily routine.

“I do not use a computer for work,” the 42-year-old cleaner explained. “I mainly used my phone to make calls or send messages via WhatsApp. I didn’t really surf the Internet.”

When she tried to learn to make video calls, Ms Santi was confused by the numerous options and settings. She found online banking intimidating as well and feared losing money if she clicked on the wrong icon.

This meant that Ms Santi had to visit a branch office weekly for her banking needs. “It was a little inconvenient, as most branches close at around 5pm on weekdays and even earlier on weekends,” she recounted.

In addition, she was unable to access her SingapoRediscovers vouchers. “I didn’t know how to get to the website. Even if I did, I wouldn’t know what to do.”

EMBRACING DIGITAL, TO ENHANCE LIVES

Through her daughters who were participating in a programme by TOUCH Young Arrows , Ms Santi learnt about the Digitally Ready Families (DRF) programme by TOUCH Community Services. In support of Singapore’s Digital for Life national movement, DRF provides lower-income families with essential digital life skills.

The Digital for Life movement also encourages more people to embrace digital as a lifelong pursuit. Supported by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the movement aims to galvanise the public, private and people sectors to build a digitally inclusive society, via innovative collaborations such as DRF. Currently, there are over 100 Digital for Life partners, with the Digital for Life Fund supporting a range of initiatives that cover areas like digital inclusion, digital literacy and cyber wellness.

Attending the DRF programme with her daughters, aged 11 and 13, enabled Ms Santi to learn more about technology, including tips on how to better manage her children’s screen time.

Created by TOUCH Community Services, DRF is organised in collaboration with Meta, formerly known as Facebook. After two successful pilot runs in 2020 and 2021 reaching a total of 48 families, DRF is set to expand its outreach and benefit an estimated 120 more families in the next two years.

Building on the success of DRF, Meta launched the Heartbits Design Jam, a platform for young people to ideate and bring to life projects to make the Internet a safer and more inclusive space for their peers, in support of the Digital for Life movement.

NO FAMILY LEFT BEHIND

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic greatly accelerated the need for a digital lifestyle, some low-income families have found it challenging to stay digitally included, due to a lack of access to resources and the support networks to safely navigate the digital landscape.

“DRF equips parents and children with the skills needed to use basic digital platforms and provides cyber wellness resources to help them manage their use of digital platforms,” said Mr James Tan, CEO of TOUCH Community Services. “The programme, with modules designed by TOUCH Cyber Wellness, also focuses on parent-child communication, which plays an integral part in managing your child’s device usage.”

When it comes to strengthening digital wellness, support from corporate partners like Meta is essential, said IMDA cluster director Dawn Low. “With more than 4.5 million Facebook users in Singapore in 2021, Meta has a pivotal role to play in ensuring users’ safety and well-being, while online. Their support of DRF is a step in that direction,” said Ms Low.

“Today, we rely on the Internet for tasks that once would have seemed impossible online and this trend towards digitisation is only likely to accelerate. With this in mind, being able to empower people with online safety tools, resources and skills is one of the most important steps we can take, and it is vital that we lend our support to the Digital for Life movement,” said Ms Clara Koh, head of Public Policy for Singapore at Meta.

BECOMING DIGITALLY READY, AS A FAMILY

With the help of DRF trainers, Ms Santi conquered her anxiety around online banking and familiarised herself with the interface of her banking app. She also booked a hotel stay using her SingapoRediscovers vouchers and renewed her children’s passports online.

“At DRF, my children learnt the right keyboard finger placements and can now type faster with fewer errors,” said the proud mother. “Learning about technology can be quite nerve-racking but eventually I learnt so much! The skills I’ve picked up from DRF have saved me time and money and enabled me to be more efficient.”

The DRF experience has also strengthened Ms Santi’s bond with her family. “The parenting component of the programme has helped me to better connect with my children. Previously, it seemed like my family was just spending more time online and I didn’t know what they were doing. It felt like we belonged to two different worlds. Now I know when my children are using their laptops for school or for leisure. This helps me to better manage their screen time.”

As the world goes digital, the hope is that more partners will come forward to help Singaporeans who need assistance with upgrading their digital skills.

“As we capitalise on the opportunities offered by digital technology, it is important that all stand to benefit. We must ensure that no one is left behind in our digital transformation journey,” Ms Low said.

“We appreciate the partnership and support of corporations and individuals in championing Digital for Life, and welcome more  to step forward to contribute resources, donate to the Digital for Life Fund, or volunteer their time and skills to help others embrace digital. Everyone can play a part in driving digital inclusion,” she added.

Interested in doing your part to build a digitally inclusive society? Visit Digital for Life to learn more about donating, volunteering or starting a digitally inclusive project of your own.

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