Speeches

Speech By Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister In The Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister For Finance And National Development, At The Singapore Women In Identity (Wid) Launch On Friday, 28 August 2020

 

Digital Ties That Bind: Digital Identity and Inclusion in Singapore

 


Ms Helen Chua, WiD Singapore Ambassador

Ms Mallika Sathi, WiD Australia Ambassador

Distinguished Guests

1. Good afternoon to everybody. First, let me say what a great pleasure it is to be able to join you at today’s event. Thank you very much for inviting me. 

2. The launch of Women in Identity’s (WiD) Singapore chapter is timely, and even more so, given the on-going COVID-19 situation. 

Unstoppable push towards digitalisation

3. Let me first set some context. For some years now, there has been an unstoppable trend towards digitalisation. The digital economy is big, and it is growing. A 2018 study commissioned by Microsoft found that by 2021, digital transformation is set to add as much as US$10 billion to Singapore’s GDP and to increase the GDP growth rate by 0.6% annually. Even on a day-to-day basis, digitalisation has been changing the way we live.  

4. This was already the trajectory before COVID-19. But COVID-19 has turbo-charged the speed of digitalisation.

5. This has presented us with an opportunity to hit the reset button and to consider new ways of living and working that encountered resistance before. 

 

a. We have now become accustomed to working from home as the “new normal”. 

b. But you know, less than a year ago, the idea that people could successfully work away from the office and from home was still regarded with a lot of scepticism.

c. Now it is common to meet friends and family online, order our food via apps, and shop online.

6. All of these moves lead to the importance of having a digital identity. To digitalise successfully, we need a digital identity that can be used widely and securely. A national digital identity helps to catalyse business innovations, and brings convenience to citizens and businesses. In addition, given how common incidences of security breaches and data mismanagement are, countries must create safer and more secure systems for people to transact. 

Singapore’s efforts to be a digital leader: National Digital Identity (“NDI”)


7. Here in Singapore, we are striving to become a digital leader. We already have the basic building blocks in place – our digital infrastructure is solid, and our citizens are generally technologically mature. However, we do need to build on our foundations by developing a digital ecosystem. Singapore’s National Digital Identity, or NDI for short, is a key part of that ecosystem. 

8. Singapore’s NDI involves issuing residents and businesses a crypto-based digital identity, which they can use for both government and private sector transactions. It is intended to help users save both time and money. 

a. For instance, SingPass does away with the need to remember multiple usernames and passwords for access to digital services. 

b. Services like SingPass and PayNow make it faster for citizens to check and receive their benefits from government schemes, such as Care and Support Payments and GST Vouchers. 

c. Businesses can integrate parts of the NDI platform into their digital services, which reduces the need for them to develop their own costly systems. 

d. To give an example, MyInfo is a "Tell Us Once" service that eliminates the need for a person to repeatedly provide and verify the same personal information when transacting online. Banks and financial institutions have used MyInfo APIs to grant instant approvals to bank account or credit card applications. 

9. In this COVID-19 public health crisis, having a digital identity has been beneficial. 

a. NDI has made checking in through SafeEntry, the national digital check-in system, more convenient. This was done by incorporating the SafeEntry check-in feature into the SingPass Mobile app, with all the required information pre-filled. 

b. We have been continuously working to improve the SafeEntry check-in experience, to make it more convenient and seamless. In July, we rolled out the SafeEntry Group check-in feature, which allows SingPass Mobile users to do check-ins on behalf of their family members.

Closing the digital gap in Singapore

10. Having an NDI is one thing. But the other key to success is digital inclusion. Globally and in Singapore, inequality is a concern. We are determined to close that gap.

11. In Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Broadcast in June 2020, he presented the Government’s enduring vision of Singapore as “a fair and just society, where everyone can chase their dreams”. 

12. There are many facets to tackling inequality and bridging the digital gap is one of them. The global lockdown and our own Circuit Breaker put a spotlight on this. We saw how seniors, or the less educated or those from low-income households, had a much harder time than those who were digitally equipped and digitally savvy. 

13. During the Circuit Breaker period, schools switched to full home-based learning. However, for many students from low-income families, home-based learning was not a straightforward shift. Some did not have Internet-enabled devices at home, or had to share devices with siblings. Others had devices but no Wi-Fi.  

14. MOE stepped up, with teachers helping to identify students in need and to offer support to the family. MOE and IMDA quickly modified and enhanced the support schemes for students to acquire digital devices, by broadening the eligibility criteria and speeding up the delivery.  

a. Schools loaned out devices to support students in home-based learning, while IMDA also subsidised a second computer for large families with three or more children.  

b. Private sector corporations like Starhub, and community organisations like Engineering Good and SG Bono, also stepped forward to lend their support. For example, by loaning out new devices, providing free wireless dongles, and refurbishing donated second-hand laptops.

15. The Government has put in place several initiatives to close the digital gap. First, access to devices. 

a. In June, the Government announced that all secondary school students would get a personal laptop or tablet by 2021. 

b. MCI and IMDA also have long-running schemes, such as Home Access and the NEU PC Plus, which subsidise broadband connectivity and a shared household device for lower-income families.

16. But access to devices without more is not enough. Digital inclusion is also about having the skills and the literacies to benefit from digital connectivity. So, the second step, is to equip those who are often digitally excluded with these skills.  

a. For example, our Seniors Go Digital programme is being rolled out by the SG Digital Office, and it includes one-to-one or small group classes for seniors to improve digital literacy. The learning programme for each senior will be tiered, according to his/her digital needs. Seniors will be guided through three tiers of digital skills, starting from basic communication tools like WhatsApp, and gradually progressing to using e-payment tools and Internet-banking apps. 

b. We have also set up Digital Community Hubs in accessible locations, like community centres or libraries. This enables us to reach deep into the community, and provide supportive and encouraging environments, with personalised advice and support.

17. We also introduced other initiatives to help different segments of society cope during COVID-19. For many businesses, digital transition is now a matter of necessity. We have seen restaurants and hawkers rise to the challenge of dine-in restrictions by getting onto online platforms. Even if online delivery and takeaway orders cannot completely replace dine-in revenue, it is nevertheless still a much-needed source of revenue at a time when the F&B industry has been severely affected.  

a. The Hawkers Go Digital initiative aims to get stallholders to adopt e-payment solutions and enable them to take online orders.   

b. The Digital Resilience Bonus is an initiative to help SMEs by uplifting the digital capabilities of a broad base of enterprises, starting with the food services and retail sectors. 

18. Ultimately, digital inclusion requires a whole-of-society effort. While we try to make it as easy as possible for everyone to digitalise, all these initiatives will not amount to much, if there is no drive for digitalisation on the ground. If we are to succeed, the Government’s efforts must be complemented and strengthened with the strong support of public, private, and people sector partners. For example, the Code in the Community programme offers free, multi-level coding classes for underprivileged students. Earlier this year, Google contributed $1m in grant funding, with IMDA matching its contribution. The increased funding will enable partners, Saturday Kids and 21C Girls, to bring the programme to another 6,700 students, aged 8 – 16 years, by 2022.

Conclusion

19. Allow me to conclude. Despite the pandemic, digitalisation offers hope for the future. We must seize the opportunities afforded by digitalisation. The Government will support citizens and businesses and bring everyone onboard, so that technology becomes a source of growth and progress for all, rather than an accelerator of inequality or a wedge of division.  Everyone should be part of this growth future, including women. Hence, I am very pleased to be here for the launch of Women in Identity’s Singapore chapter today. This will contribute greatly to ensuing that women are right up there in the vanguard of those with digital identity.

20. Once again, let me congratulate Women in Identity’s Singapore chapter on its launch today. Thank you very much.

 

Published on : 28 Aug 2020