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S$145m push to equip S'poreans with more digital skills

SINGAPORE — Local professionals can look forward to an additional 20,000 training places geared towards equipping them with new digital skills in emerging areas like data analytics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and cybersecurity.

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SINGAPORE — Local professionals can look forward to an additional 20,000 training places geared towards equipping them with new digital skills in emerging areas like data analytics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and cybersecurity.

Some S$145 million will be set aside under the TechSkills Accelerator programme (Tesa) to create the new training opportunities by 2020, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary told Parliament on Tuesday (March 6) during the Committee of Supply debate on his ministry’s budget.

Tesa was previously focused on the information and communications technology (ICT), health and finance sectors. It will now be expanded into new areas like manufacturing and professional services.

More than 27,000 training places have been snapped up, or are committed to be taken up, since the launch of Tesa two years ago. Of these, 10,000 have been taken up by mid-career professionals above the age of 40.

The Government will also provide more targeted assistance for mid-career professionals in the ICT industry, such as by curating and highlighting job opportunities to them across the public, private and non-profit sectors.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Communications and Information is also looking to step up efforts to help older Singaporeans navigate the online world.

A six-hour basic digital skills curriculum — which covers searching for information online, communicating through email or chats, and electronic transactions — will also be offered from the middle of this year at selected Silver Infocomm Junctions, which are senior-friendly learning hubs.

The curriculum, targeted at those aged 40 and above, will also cover best practices on cybersecurity and how to discern fake news online. It will be offered in English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil by the end of the year.

Digital inclusion is “more than just access, but also equipping people with skills”, said Dr Puthucheary.

“Today, we have many programmes that focus on giving people access to affordable devices and the Internet. But being digitally ready is also about having the skills to use digital technology safely and confidently,” he said on Tuesday.

Seniors above the age of 50 who are not familiar with electronic payment services can also sign up for “experiential learning journeys” with volunteer guides to try their hands on various banking applications, get up to speed on various e-payment modes and security tips, as well as learn to pay using Quick Response codes.

Participating partners such as the three local banks, NETS and TransitLink will offer credits and food discounts to encourage seniors to apply what they have learnt.

The Infocomm and Media Development Authority (IMDA) hopes to reach some 2,000 seniors via 48 of these two-hour learning sessions at locations islandwide.

Digital clinic sessions will also be held from April for seniors and mature adults to get one-on-one assistance in using mobile devices such as smartphones. For instance, participants can find out how to connect to wireless hotspots, personalise accessibility tools or find out more about applications and transactions relevant to their lifestyles at these clinics, which will be run by volunteers.

These one-off sessions have been piloted at various community venues such as MacPherson Community Club and Marine Parade Public Library since last November. Nearly all the participants had said they felt more confident using their mobile devices after attending the clinics.

The Government hopes to reach out to 2,000 more senior residents through 54 such clinics held over a year, starting in April. The locations have not been confirmed.

To encourage innovation in cybersecurity, the IMDA and Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) will launch an accelerator programme at Block 71, an incubation co-working area at Ayer Rajah Crescent.

Dubbed ICE71 (Innovation Cybersecurity Ecosystem at Block 71), the programme seeks to nurture cybersecurity start-ups and help them secure seed funding through partnerships with universities, large local enterprises and global cybersecurity accelerators.

The CSA will also launch a funding scheme to speed up the development of innovative cybersecurity solutions for national security, critical infrastructure and classified system users by offering grants of S$500,000 each to projects that have secured at least one committed end-user.

Stepping up digital skills training for Singaporeans

For employees:

- 20,000 more training spaces under TechSkills Accelerator programme

- Targeted help for mid-career ICT professionals

For businesses:

- Cybersecurity accelerator programme

- Funding for new cybersecurity solutions

- Platform to crowdsource and develop innovative digital solutions

- Standardised nationwide electronic invoicing framework

For citizens, particularly seniors:

- Basic digital skills curriculum

- Digital clinics

- Electronic payments learning tours

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