Mr Patrick Hee, CEO of Engineering Good,
Professor Yaacob Ibrahim,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very good afternoon to one and all!
2. First of all, let me just state that I am very glad to be here this afternoon at the Tech for Good Festival 2022. It is my first time attending this Festival, but let me assure you it will not be the last. I am very excited to be here today because even though I am still feeling a little jet-lagged, I just landed from Europe after a week-long business trip yesterday. I was very inspired when I went around, looking at the different innovations, the projects, talking to the young people that are behind the idea of the projects. I just want to first congratulate all of you for the great work done. Can I lend your hands, just give all of our teams a big around of applause?
3. The experience over the past two years, I think is a powerful reminder of how tech can help overcome significant barriers. Tech enabled us to carry on with our daily social and work lives despite the various physical and social safe distancing measures, I am sure many of us witnessed during this festival itself how assistive technology can empower persons with disabilities in their daily lives.
4. This year, I was told 30 teams have showcased various tech solutions across six problem statements based on the lived experiences of persons with disabilities and their respective social service agencies. I am very inspired and very heartened by what the teams have achieved, and would like to commend each and every one of them once again for your spirit of innovation and for the great effort in pushing forth their solutions to solve the problems that we are facing today.
5. Some weeks ago, we launched the Enabling Masterplan 2030, or EMP2030 in short. The plan sets out our collective vision for Singapore as an inclusive society by 2030. As part of the EMP2030, we have also made Assistive Technology one of the 14 focal areas to increase visibility as well as to develop sector capabilities in AT among the community. This will better enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in their communities. This builds on the various efforts by the Government to ensure support for the availability and continued use of AT. Let me share some initiatives and schemes that are already available, to give you a sense of where we are today.
Government support for Assistive Technology
Provide a direct benefit via the ATF
6. The Assistive Technology Fund, or ATF, was started in 2003 to provide means-tested financial subsidies for persons with disabilities to acquire, replace, repair, or upgrade assistive technology devices such as wheelchairs and hearing aids. To make it accessible to persons with disabilities, the scheme has been enhanced over the past few years. In 2015, you might be happy to know, we doubled the lifetime cap of the scheme from $20,000 to $40,000 and extended the coverage beyond education and work. In 2020, just two years ago, we raised the monthly per capita household income cap so that more persons with disabilities are eligible. Even as recent as February this year, we increased the subsidy rates to further enhance affordability. These enhancements were introduced as we believe AT plays an important role in enabling persons with disabilities to live life to the fullest and to improve their quality of life.
Raising awareness and adoption of AT through Tech Able
7. We recognise that awareness of AT may not be consistent across the community. Therefore, SG Enable and SPD jointly set up Tech Able, an integrated AT space to promote and catalyse the use of AT. Tech Able also collaborates with community partners like Engineering Good to further expand its outreach so that more people can learn about AT.
8. Besides partnership and collaborations, Tech Able also helps match persons with disabilities to suitable assistive devices and help them in their daily use as well. It also showcases several types of AT via a loan library so that persons with disabilities can borrow these devices, try them out before they commit to a purchase of the AT, so that they can find one most suited to their own specified needs. To reach out to more persons with disabilities, a new online Tech Able Web App which provides information on AT in an easily accessible format, was also created and launched.
Supporting innovation of AT through ELI
9. The Government supports the development of AT through the Enabling Lives Initiative Grant by providing funding support for impactful projects using AT and other innovations to scale up. In case the teams haven’t been quite hearing what I was talking about, this is one grant you want to be very familiar with.
10. Under EMP2030, we look forward to many more efforts to drive awareness and adoption of AT amongst persons with disabilities, caregivers as well as practitioners. Events like Tech for Good demonstrates how the community can come together to play a key role to support these goals.
How can the community contribute to the AT efforts?
11. Today, we have seen how creative solutions, like the ones we have seen today, have the potential to meet the needs of persons with disabilities. I would like to invite more community partners, perhaps some of us are walking around, shopping around, and maybe you too, can take up a project and do something for the disability community. I want to invite more community partners and volunteers to step forward and collaborate to make ATs more easily accessible to persons with disabilities, and we can make sure together that we provide quality and easily available creative solutions for them as well.
12. Today’s festival really embodies this collaborative spirit. As I was walking around the booths earlier, what really struck me was the diverse backgrounds of the participants today, and how we can all come together despite the different parts of Singapore that we come from, the different age groups and different backgrounds; some of us are NS boys, some of us just finished NS, and some of us are students.
13. Earlier, I met the team from Think Your Best. I understand that they do not represent any one particular school or organisation, but are very passionate and empowered individuals who have stepped forward, come together due to a common interest. They have created an extension for the existing call function on mobile devices to include speech-to-text and noise cancellation features. Their innovation can help the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community by translating speech from the other end of the call into text. In doing so, individuals in the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community can now have a better call experience including when accessing essential services. How about a big round of applause for them?
14. I also met the team Weigh The Issue which comprises students from Singapore Polytechnic. Their innovation aims to solve the issue of how persons with visual impairment or blindness measure specific volumes of liquid. This innovation is important, because it comprises a syringe attachment and tactile wording for different measurements, with a turn and pull mechanism for the measurements. Persons with visual impairment can quite accurately measure the amount of fluid that they need to take it, or put into a bowl, for instance. How about a big round of applause for them?
15. The innovations we have seen today is the culmination of efforts from many different stakeholders across different sectors. The disability social service sector, representing persons with disabilities, they came with various problem statements that require creative inputs to solve. I am very happy to see innovators like yourselves who have answered the call for assistance and come up with different and very creative ways to solve these problems. I hope this spirit of collaboration and innovation will be also the way forward in which many other stakeholders come together to co-create assistive technology solutions to empower our persons-with-disabilities community.
16. Once again, to all the teams that participated in Tech for Good, I congratulate you for your hard work and innovations. Your energy, imagination and can-do spirit, which is clearly evident from your product and solutions that you have come up with over the past weeks is really inspiring to all of us, to myself, in particular. Because I am not a very tech-savvy person, so many of what you all do, even if in the most simplest formulation, can actually work wonders for persons with disabilities and their caregivers. So I applaud you for all the good work that you have done, and I hope that your shared and collaborative experiences in Tech for Good inspires you on a continued journey to find more innovative solutions to support persons with disabilities. Please do continue to work together, if you want to work across groups, all the better, continue to innovate, and do so with empathy in your creative designs.
17. On this concluding note, I would like to thank Engineering Good and the Singapore Institute of Technology, as well as all who have made this event possible – the participants, mentors, volunteers and community partners. How about a big round of applause for all of them. Thank you very much for collectively working together, so that we can all build a more inclusive Singapore for everyone.
18. Thank you very much, everyone.