SINGAPORE: More than 700 students from four special education schools will learn how to make e-payments, use emails and online chats by next year, as basic digital skills are incorporated into their academic curriculum.
The students with mild intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder are from the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN) Delta Senior School, APSN Tanglin School, Grace Orchard School and Metta School.
The initiative follows positive feedback from a pilot conducted earlier this year involving 70 students, said the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) on Friday (Jul 26).
Principal of Grace Orchard School Lisa Goh said the skills have enabled students to be more independent. “They will be able to access government websites – where they can book amenities. They can also buy their groceries online and actually access the community more than they are able to do now," she added.
“If they don’t catch up with this, if they are not taught … I think as a nation moving to Smart Nation, they will be even more left out."
A virtual reality game will also be introduced, to help students learn about setting strong passwords, identifying fake news and managing cyberbullies.
It will be offered at APSN Tanglin School for a start, and other interested schools can apply to IMDA to have the programme included.
These were among the initiatives announced by Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran on Friday at the launch of a three-day festival on digital inclusion at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar.
Mr Iswaran said technology has allowed people to do a lot more, and access to technology is a key determinant of the quality of life.
“It falls upon us all therefore to make sure that every Singaporean is able to enjoy the benefits brought by technology, and to help everyone to be digitally ready, especially our seniors and persons with disabilities," he said.
“Building a digitally ready society is not just about ensuring that technology is accessible to all. It is also about equipping people with the skills to use the technology in ways that will enrich their lives."
At Friday’s event, 40 seniors also received certificates for their completion of a digital course by TOUCH Cyber Wellness, Facebook and IMDA, where they picked up skills such as scanning QR codes and making e-payments.
Participant Chew Poh Ngee, 71, said learning to master applications like WhatsApp has made it easier for him to stay in touch with friends and family. “WhatsApp is much easier than talking, can send pictures and videos," he said.
Other initiatives announced at the event include a collaboration between IMDA and CreativesAtWork, called STOREYS. The project calls on independent content creators to submit videos on the community, elderly, the environment, family, youth or the underprivileged. With the theme “Framing a Better Home”, the aim is to use digital platforms to drive meaningful conversations on these issues.
The three-day IMDA Digital Inclusion Festival 2019 is expected to draw 15,000 Singaporeans.