Opening Address by Ms Low Yen Ling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education, at the ICDL Digital Literacy Day, SMU Mochtar Riady Auditorium

Published Date: 20 July 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you here at the 2017 ICDL Digital Literacy Day, jointly organised by ICDL Asia and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), to discuss the importance of digital skills for our people. This topic is highly relevant to Singapore where technology is widely used. Our adoption rates of information technology are one of the highest in the world. We are impacted on a daily basis by technological advancements which are causing disruptions across different industries. Digital literacy has therefore become a core skill for our workforce. The Government has been supporting human capital development because Singapore does not have any natural resources and our people are the only resources.

Technology as a key enabler

2. Advances in digital technology have opened up new possibilities to enhance the way we live and interact, and will continue to transform our lives. As noted in the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) report, the opportunities arising from the digital economy are significant. They support the transformation and growth of not just the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, but also many other industries.

3. Last year, the Government announced the rolling out of 23 Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) under the $4.5 billion Industry Transformation Programme. The ITMs cover different sectors such as food services, food manufacturing, hotels and retail. These sectors collectively represent 80 percent of Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The ITMs are not designed in isolation but with private sector inputs and ICT sector is one of them. Opportunities in this digital economy include value-added services to be performed by manufacturing companies, autonomous technologies to enable new urban mobility solutions and the use of healthcare data to predict and prevent disease.

4. On the other hand, technology will disrupt entire industries and fundamentally transform business processes. For example, we now have vending machines for cuisines at affordable prices. This is made possible by technology and will address the severe manpower crunch in the food services sector. The pace at which skills become obsolete will increase – so we cannot assume that the skills we have for today will still be adequate for tomorrow. Even those who already have digital skills should not rest on their laurels, due to rapid changes in technology. We will have to continuously update our digital skills to keep up with the latest developments in technology.

Building strong digital capabilities

5. Growing up in an era and a country where technology is pervasive, it is easy to assume that we are sufficiently digitally competent. The barriers to entry to equip ourselves with digital skills have also come down. However, a study by ICDL Asia found that there exists a skills gap in the execution of common computer applications such as Spreadsheets and Word Processing.

6. It is thus crucial that we proactively prepare for and adapt to the digital economy, to ensure that we are able to stay ahead of the curve, reap the benefits of technology, and seize the new opportunities that are being created. Key to this is the need to build strong digital capabilities for our people and enterprises. This is again the reason for the ITMs and why there are ongoing efforts to develop a digitally competent workforce, ranging from programmes for our students, to post-graduation transition and lifelong learning initiatives.

7. Our Post-Secondary Education Institutions have launched initiatives to develop digital literacy and skills amongst our students. Topics such as computational thinking, information research skills and basic programming have been curated and infused into the core curriculum taught at our Autonomous Universities. Hackathons are also held by institutions and agencies to raise awareness and generate interest among students in areas such as cyber defence and the Internet of Things.

8. To ease the transition from studies to work, tertiary students and fresh graduates are provided with meaningful work exposure and training in a real-world environment. Programmes such as Enhanced Internships and the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programmes (ELP) have been implemented in areas such as cyber security, big data and software development. The SkillsFuture ELP is targeted at mainly polytechnic and ITE graduates. For example, in the logistics sector, Republic Polytechnic (RP) is the sector coordinator and they work with the industry to design the curriculum. The participating companies will also have committed mentors to enhance their learning. What the ELP participants do at work is related to what they learn at the polytechnic. This allows them to reinforce what they have learned. SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) will continue to work closely with Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) and the Institutes of Higher Learning to develop more ICT-related ELPs and we encourage fresh graduates to consider these pathways to build digital skills and grow their careers.

9. 9 Digital knowledge and skills are important not just for our students, but also highly relevant for the workforce. Since 2010, SSG has been partnering ICDL Asia to offer industry-relevant and internationally-recognised ICT training and certification. Under this initiative, 21 ICDL standards and certifications are aligned to ICT competencies under the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualification Framework (WSQ) for Employability Skills. To date, more than 215,000 certifications have been issued to individuals seeking to upgrade their ICT skills under this collaboration.

10. In addition, as announced at the Committee of Supply Debate in 2017, the Government will be rolling out a national training programme under SkillsFuture to help individuals develop basic working knowledge, such as an understanding of emerging technologies, their impact on the workplace as well as the interpretation and usage of data and information. More details on this programme will be announced later this year.


11. To sum up, being digitally competent is an important skillset in our evolving landscape. There will be further sharing by our speakers today that will provide you with more interesting insights. I would like to wish all our participants a meaningful and fruitful discussion today as we prepare ourselves for the future economy ahead.

12. Thank you.

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