Augmented Reality Storybook Launch: My Favourite Days
Opening Address by Minister Josephine Teo at the Launch of ‘My Favourite Days’ Augmented Reality Storybook
17 Dec 2021
Good morning, everyone. Firstly, I would like to say a big thank you to Ms Leong Lai Cheng, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of TOUCH Community Services for inviting me to join you on the launch of ‘My Favourite Days’.
Greetings to the children, mums and dads who are also here this morning. This is really a project dedicated to you. And to my colleagues from the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) – Mr Chng Kai Fong, the 2nd Permanent Secretary, Ms Weixian Huang, as well as my colleagues from the National Library Board (NLB).
Transforming the lives of our people and communities through technology
I am often asked in my role as Minister overseeing Smart Nation, “What is Smart Nation about?”. And if we had to summarise and compress it into one short sentence – a smart nation is very simply about transforming Singapore through technology. That is the central idea.
And so, as part of this effort to transform Singapore through technology, we have a number of important and meaningful initiatives. For example, we have the Strategic National Projects that showcase how various technological tools can change the way government services are delivered and how estates could operate differently. We talk about open data and cyber security, and how we need to ensure that as more of our activities become transferred to the digital domain, we still keep ourselves safe.
Now, all of these things are very important and meaningful but at the heart of the Smart Nation effort, it’s about people and communities. And when we say transforming Singapore through technology, it really means transforming the lives of our people and communities through technology. To do that, we need to look no further than to ask what has made Singapore a little different from some of our counterparts overseas.
It is quite instructive when we interact with our friends from abroad, and compare and contrast some of the differences. One simple example is the use of our national digital identity. In Singapore, we call it Singpass. To some of my international colleagues, they are quite amazed by the fact that, in Singapore, well over 90% of eligible persons already have Singpass. And we use it on a very regular basis.
In many countries, this is not yet achievable because there are many concerns about what a national digital identity will mean in terms of personal privacy and data protection. And because of these difficulties, they can’t quite get it done.
Another example is something that we are very used to. Practically everywhere we go, we use our smartphones – well we can use the TraceTogether Token – but we can also use the TraceTogether App to check in and check out. Over time, we have begun to see the value of it because it informs us if we are at greater risk. And every day, the check-ins and check-outs using TraceTogether in Singapore, is a staggering 15 million. When I share with my international colleagues, it is unthinkable for them because, again, the concerns about what do you do with all this data, how do you ensure that people’s privacy are not infringed upon, how do you trust it and what is the value of it. It is quite remarkable and it gets raised as an example of why Singapore stands out.
Very recently, our Prime Minister launched the Community Development Council (CDC) vouchers and, again, we see that Singapore is beginning to do it in a different way. Although citizens are still able to get physical vouchers if they so wish, the vast majority are probably going to get it in a form of an e-vouchers. This of course is also a joint effort between the CDCs and GovTech, which comes under the Smart Nation Office. And along with this shift in the way in which these vouchers are issued, the merchants and hawkers are brought along and many of them are accepting these kinds of payments for the first time.
I share these examples to demonstrate and register the point that ultimately our Smart Nation efforts make sense to people and communities when they experience it – the convenience and usefulness of it in their daily lives. This ultimately drives our efforts in SNDGO, that at the heart of everything we do, it is not just about transforming Singapore through technology, it is about transforming the lives of our people through technology.
Partnerships are important to build a Smart Nation
And to do this, our efforts alone are never going to be enough because as best as we try, the Government will only be able to notice certain things and there will always be gaps that fall a little bit outside of our radar.
That is where our partners play such an important role. So, we are very grateful to our network of 150 or so partners today, including the partners like yourselves – TOUCH Community Services, who are part of our Smart Nation Ambassador (SNA) network. We truly appreciate each one of your contributions, helping to share the enthusiasm for technology and notice where there are potential gaps or groups and communities that are not as included as we would like them to be. And also helping to create products and services to overcome these gaps so that, truly, when we talk about a Smart Nation, it is everyone progressing together and not just some groups.
I think this is where Singapore can stand apart from other countries. In doing so, we hope that in 5, 10, 15, 20 years when we look back, we can say that this journey has been quite extraordinary, and one where we walked together and not apart. In addition to thanking TOUCH for initiating projects, I also want to thank your partners – MeshMinds as well as Meta – for coming together to contribute to it. I saw from the video the degree of enthusiasm that you brought to the table and the kind of creativity you applied. Let me just say that my colleagues and I in SNDGO, feel very privileged to have this contribution from you.
Last of all, I would like to say that it’s great to see mummies and daddies together with your children here. My colleagues at NLB are obviously very passionate about learning for life. Reading is a very big part of it and remains one of the core foundations of a person’s learning. It is great to see that reading is also being updated for the needs, interests, and inclinations of a new generation. Some of us still like the tactile feel of a book and you can’t quite replace it. You would like to be able to make markings. I still do that, use a highlighter and so on. But in the context of a younger generation, we also have to attend to their changing preferences and make sure we keep up with the times.
On that note, let me thank all our partners once again. I am very happy as we are nearing the Christmas season to mark the launch of this book and hope that everyone will grow to enjoy this book as I will.
I look forward to more good projects and ground-up partnerships in the new year. Thank you very much again for inviting me.
Mrs Josephine Teo
Minister for Communications and Information,
and Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation and Cybersecurity