10:29 | 29/03/2022 Science - Technology
The Singapore International Foundation (SIF) launched last weekend a virtual volunteering program called DigiLABS to ready youth in Asia for a digital economy and help drive social innovation and change in their community through digital solutions. Tan Kiat How from the Singaporean Ministry of Communications and Information officiated the launch of DigiLABS.
Speaking at the launch this 26th March, Tan noted the need for such an initiative. He said, “Southeast Asia is undergoing rapid and unprecedented digital transformation, driven by the rising number of digital start-ups, changing lifestyles and aspirations, and a young population that embraces technology. We must continue to equip our people with the necessary skills and digital access to thrive in the digital world. Through DigiLABS, the SIF will support the building of digital capabilities of our youths in the region through its strong network of volunteers, and industry partners. Together, we will build societies that are digitally inclusive, and better prepared for a shared digital future.”
The launch event included a fireside chat on “Digital Skills for a Better World”, featuring industry experts and social entrepreneurs in the tech-for-good field. During the dialogue, the panellists shared on the potential of digital skills as a force for good. For instance, digital technology allows for radically different and scalable approaches to tackle global social challenges in various areas including environment, healthcare, and education. It also creates opportunities for cross-border connections and collaborations to address these challenges.
The speakers also discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion in digital skilling that enables everyone to be part of the tech-for-good movement. This also helps to cultivate a culture of constant learning, to remain relevant in a fast-changing world and ensure that no one is left behind.
With restrictions to international volunteering in the current pandemic, the SIF has designed virtual volunteering opportunities to allow it to continue to bring world communities together to do good.
DigiLABS is a skill-based e-volunteering initiative that will see SIF volunteers use their professional experience and expertise to train youths in the region in digital skills, such as data science and digital marketing.
The program will run annually for the next four years and each year, 600 participants get to choose from four learning paths – Data Science, Digital Marketing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cybersecurity – and undergo an eight-week foundational and a six-week accelerator course to equip them with desired digital skills.
At the end of each learning path, participants adept in a particular field will be identified as Digital Champions (DCs). DCs will have the opportunity to take industry certified digital skill courses, with up to 75 per cent of the fees subsidised by the SIF.
Mentored by Singaporean and Singapore-based volunteers, they will be encouraged to develop their passion project using tech-driven solutions and be equipped to validate these solutions for market adoption.
DigiLABS is open to youths with social impact projects in the region as participants and skilled professionals in the digital sector as volunteers.
SIF Executive Director Ms Jean Tan said: “DigiLABS was designed to raise the level of digital literacy among youths and cultivate a greater sense of responsibility for and ownership of the future. The programme also marks the SIF’s second foray into e-volunteering as we navigate the new normal in international cooperation for development.”
In 2021, the SIF launched its first online volunteer initiative, Climate Hack. The virtual hackathon created a space for youths to ideate and develop solutions for climate action through digital skills, such as design thinking, UX/UI and coding. For its program innovation in advancing digital proficiencies in Asia, the SIF was conferred the World Bank’s Digital Skills Innovation Award.
DigiLABS is organised in partnership with Singapore-based social enterprises Code for Asia and Hatch. Both social enterprises are champions of digital inclusion through providing opportunities to equip learners from all walks of life with relevant digital stills.
Ms Ernie Chen, Founder of Code for Asia, said: “At Code for Asia, we believe that digital innovation can be a powerful force that drives sustainable development. Our Data Science curriculum will provide the foundation for success in analytical careers. Participants will also have the opportunity to connect with a supportive community of peers and mentors who have the shared goal of achieving digital-readiness and making the world a better place together.”
Mr Victor Chu, Founder of Hatch, and an SIF Young Social Entrepreneurs Global 2018 alumnus, said, “Our Digital Marketing courses are taught by practitioners who believe in imparting practical skills by solving real-world problem statements. As an impact-driven social enterprise, it is also our goal to equip learners with relevant digital skills and tools to bring about a better world.”