Digital for Life funding hits $7.6m for grassroots projects to plug digital gap, impart tech skills

SINGAPORE – A national movement that provides resources for grassroots projects to equip Singaporeans with digital skills and help bridge the digital divide now has $7.6 million in funding, after donations and a dollar-for-dollar match by the Government.

Standard Chartered Bank and Keppel Corporation donated $1.3 million to the Digital for Life movement, adding to the $2.5 million contribution from the President’s Challenge fund-raising campaign earlier.

With the Government matching the $3.8 million in donations dollar for dollar, the total amount of funds was increased to $7.6 million.

Announcing this on Tuesday (March 30) at an event at Suntec Singapore, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran added that proposals for the movement will be called by the Government in the second quarter of this year to support community-led projects and activities that promote digital inclusion, literacy and wellness.

The movement and the fund were launched last month by President Halimah Yacob, the patron of the movement, with an initial funding of $2.5 million from the President’s Challenge.

The fund, set up by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), is targeted to grow to $10 million over the next three years.

Digital for Life was established to help strengthen the country’s digital resilience and help people identify or reduce digital risks, even as Covid-19 hastened digitalisation and threatens to leave people behind.

Since the launch of Digital for Life, three organisations – TriGenerational Homecare (TriGen), Engineering Good and Google – have been supporting it and will expand their efforts to equip children, young people and senior citizens with digital skills and knowledge.

IMDA chief executive Lew Chuen Hong said that the Government has received an “outpouring of support from many like-minded organisations and individuals”.

Non-profit organisation Engineering Good will partner 3Pumpkins and Project D.I.P to teach students basic computer skills and equip young people with laptop repair and troubleshooting skills so they can serve as IT ambassadors for their community.

Tech giant Google has worked with the Media Literacy Council to encourage primary school pupils to use the Internet safely, through a free game called Interland last year. Google is now in talks with the National University of Singapore for their student volunteers to bring Interland to disadvantaged children and young people.

For TriGen, a non-profit organisation started by healthcare professionals to serve vulnerable seniors in the community, it has been working with various partners on a Project Wire Up initiative during the pandemic to help seniors who may be left behind digitally.

TriGen noted that with social distancing measures in place to limit the spread of Covid-19, people in their 60s or older struggled with a growing sense of isolation and loneliness.

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Project Wire Up aims to address this by imparting digital skills to the elderly so they can connect better socially and access essential services like tele-medicine consultations in which they meet healthcare professionals through video conferencing.

By the end of June, it hopes to equip 200 vulnerable seniors – many of whom live alone – with a smartphone and an Internet connection, and pair them up with a teacher to help them use these well, such as how to use WhatsApp, make video calls and search for things online.

The initiative now has 115 volunteers, up from 40 initially, who are trained to help teach seniors tech skills.

TriGen is working with Singapore General Hospital (SGH), IMDA, NTUC Health, Montfort Care and Radin Mas Community Centre on the project.

Project Wire Up aims to impart digital skills to the elderly so they can connect better socially. PHOTO: ALBERT TENG

Project Wire Up started with the elderly from SGH’s Hospital to Home programme. TriGen and SGH plan to expand the initiative to help residents from rental flats around SGH such as Bukit Merah, Tiong Bahru and Bukit Ho Swee.

For more details on Digital for Life, such as applying for funding support or donating to the movement, visit this website.

Meanwhile, IMDA recognised nine organisations and six people at its annual Partners’ Appreciation event at Suntec Singapore on Tuesday.

They were honoured for their efforts from 2019 to 2020 in supporting the Government’s initiatives to get people digitally ready.

For instance, tech company Grab received the IMDA Volunteer Partner Award for organising the Merdeka Generation Digital Clinics in 2019 to teach close to 3,500 seniors digital skills.

ST Engineering was among the donors and sponsors given special recognition for donating $1 million to IMDA’s Digital Access Programme and Mobile Access for Seniors scheme.

The donation helped needy people, such as seniors, to pay for the co-payment for subsidised smartphones, personal computers and connectivity, as well as fibre broadband registration.

Google was honoured for contributing $1 million to co-fund its Code in the Community programme to bring free coding classes to underprivileged students.

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