30 March 2022

Develop Digital Skills for A Better World with DigiLABS

The Singapore International Foundation’s latest virtual-volunteering programme aims to build a community of youth in Asia ready to face the challenges of a digital economy and help drive social innovation and change in their community through digital solutions.

DigiLABS Launch
DigiLABS Launch

DigiLABS was officially launched by Mr Tan Kiat How, Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore (top row, first from left) at a virtual event on 26 March 2022. Other attendees include: (top row, second from left) Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, SIF Chairman; Ms Jean Tan, SIF Executive Director; (second row from left) Mr Jaryll Chan, SIF Division Director, Programmes; and Panellists of the Fireside Chat (listed below).

The Singapore International Foundation (SIF) launched a new virtual volunteering programme DigiLABS at a virtual event on 26 March 2022.

Officiating was Mr Tan Kiat How, Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore who noted that 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.

He added: “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. They included:

  • Ms Enjiao Chen (Ernie), Founder of social enterprise Code for Asia, which champions inclusive digital innovations through its programmes
  • Mr Victor Zhu, Young Social Entrepreneurs Global 2018 alumnus and Founder of Hatch, a social enterprise that provides digital and design training opportunities for all
  • Ms Preethi Bashyam, Employer Branding Manager, Asia Pacific Japan at SAP
  • Mr Christopher Soh, Lecturer and Programme Head (WSP Specialist Diploma in Digital Business) at Republic Polytechnic
  • Mr Aaqib Alvi, Country Programme Manager at Sustainable Living Lab (Moderator)

The panellists discussed 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.

Ms Preethi pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated global digitalisation. She said: “Technology has made our world a smaller place. It has completely changed the way we communicate and interact with each other. This creates the perfect opportunity to build meaningful and collaborative networks across national boundaries.”

The speakers also highlighted the importance making digital opportunities more accessible for everyone. This ensures that all individuals and communities have access to the benefits of digital technologies.

Mr Zhu, whose social enterprise provides digital upskilling for youths with at-risk backgrounds, said: “There are opportunities too for everyone in the digital space, regardless of age and background. What is more important is one’s attitude and mindset to learn and keep improving.”

Watch the fireside chat here:

At the launch, attendees were also treated to a guided virtual tour of Killiney Kopitiam, a traditional coffee shop in Singapore. The tour featured insights into local coffee culture, the coffee shop's digitisation journey and a chat with Mr Woon Tien Yuan, Killiney Kopitiam’s second generation business leader. Mr Woon spoke about the opportunities and challenges faced by the family business as it seeks to evolve beyond traditional brick and mortar stores and keep up with the digital economy.

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.

The programme will run annually for the next four years. 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. 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. Applications for the programme are open until 18 April 2022. Register and find out more here.