Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of the Expansion of Code in the Community on 4 January 2020.
Mr Caesar Sengupta,
General Manager of Payments and
Vice President of the Next Billion Users, Google,
Partners, volunteers and graduates of Code in the Community,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Starting young in our Smart Nation journey
A very good morning and a Happy New Year!
I am pleased to join you today to launch the expanded Code in the Community programme. When Caesar first announced Code in the Community in 2016, he said that Google wanted to inspire more Singaporeans to become future technologists, and leave their mark on the world.
As a society, we share this aspiration too. Here in Singapore, we have been working hard to become a Smart Nation.
We know that digital technology will have a pervasive and transformational effect on our economy and society. It is already changing the way we live and work, and we can see it powering the next revolution in engineering, finance, healthcare and many other fields.
When we embarked on our Smart Nation journey, we made it a key priority to better prepare our people for the possibilities of technology.We want every person and business in Singapore to not only have access to technology, but be empowered to use technology to seize opportunities and improve lives regardless of background.
To do this, we have to start young, by equipping our children and students with the skills to use technology confidently and safely.
The Code@SG movement was started by IMDA in 2014 with this objective in mind. Code@SG has programmes for students at all levels from pre-school, all the way to our ITEs, polytechnics and universities. At the primary and secondary school levels, we have the “Code for Fun” programme. This is a ten-hour programme where students learn basic coding and computational thinking skills. From this year, we will be conducting Code for Fun classes for all primary schools, for all upper primary students. Since Code@SG began, more than 345,000 students have benefitted from its programmes. But we can and must do more, to empower a new generation of digital innovators and creators among our young.
Code in the Community
Our efforts therefore have to extend beyond schools to the community, and I am very encouraged to see the community doing its part.
The Code in the Community programme is a good example of a program by the community, for the community. This program was initiated by Google in partnership with Saturday Kids and 21C Girls and with our Self-Help Groups. Since 2017, Code in the Community has helped about 2,300 students from disadvantaged backgrounds learn the basics of coding. At the same time, the program has not only sparked an abiding interest in technology among many of its participants, but also helped them gain confidence in problem-solving, taught them not to be afraid of failure, and helped them gain concrete skills to work towards their goals, and eventually, fulfil their dreams.
15-year old Sean Lim is one such participant. Through Code in the Community’s Python course, Sean was able to develop a better appreciation for the fundamentals and logic of coding. But he did not stop there. Having graduated from this programme, Sean continued to hone his coding skills. In fact, he recently developed an app to help drivers track car park availability in real time, using LTA’s open data on carpark availability. Drivers can pull out a list of car parks in their vicinity, and find out the number of available lots and parking rates. Sean now wants to continue developing new solutions to solve other real-world problems and he hopes to be a programmer in the future. Sean has also volunteered his time and expertise to help other students, serving as a teaching assistant at a coding camp.
To Sean, and all the other graduates – Congratulations on your achievements! Your parents and instructors are very proud of you, and I wish you all the best, and hope that you will continue to stay open to learn, level up your skills, and improve the lives of those around you.
I hope that Sean’s story will also encourage and inspire all of us here today, especially the teams from Saturday Kids and 21C Girls, who run the Code in the Community programs, as well as the volunteer instructors, many of whom are from Google and GovTech. Thank you for your generosity, and in giving your time to invest in our young.
Thank you also to the partners from the four Self-Help Groups for reaching out to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and enrolling them on this programme.
Many thanks also to the People’s Association and the National Library Board for offering their spaces, so that Code in the Community classes can take place in the community.
I am confident that the seeds you have planted in our students will continue to bear fruit for many years to come.
An expanded Code in the Community
Given how much Code in the Community has achieved in three short years, I am very happy that Google has decided to expand this programme, in partnership with IMDA. The expansion will benefit another 6,700 students by 2022 – almost three times the number that you have reached so far. In addition to funding support, IMDA will also be mobilising your partners on the Singapore Digital Friends movement. Under this movement, corporate organisations and individuals sign up to help their fellow Singaporeans acquire digital skills. IMDA hopes to mobilise some of these existing volunteers to become instructors with the expanded Code in the Community programme, so this is a very good multiplier effect.
Code in the Community will also tie up with MOE to reach even more students from disadvantaged families, who are currently receiving help under UPLIFT1. This is an extension of your strong commitment to make coding accessible to students from all backgrounds.
Last, but certainly not least, I am glad that many more volunteers from our tech companies and educational institutions have also come forward to support this next phase. I was told that you will be training 1,000 more volunteer instructors, including some who will be learning coding for the first time!
Working together in our Smart Nation journey
This dynamism and strong community spirit behind Code in the Community is core to our Smart Nation journey.
A Smart Nation is not just about having 5G internet, artificial intelligence (AI) or driverless cars. At its heart, becoming a Smart Nation is about the community working together, so that no one – regardless of their age or background – is left behind by technology.
As we venture ahead in our Smart Nation journey, let us keep with this spirit of our Singapore Together movement – and do everything we can to progress together, giving our best for each other.
Let me provide some practical suggestions on what this could look like for us. To the volunteers and partners of Code in the Community, I hope you will continue to be a part of the expanded programme, and encourage others to sign up as volunteers too! To our students, Singapore’s future lies in your hands. Do continue to deepen your skills, and apply what you know to improve the lives of those around you. No matter where we are on our tech journey, all of us must stay open to learning new skills, and help those around us to make better use of technology.
By taking charge of our own learning, and by partnering one another, we can achieve our vision of a Smart Nation together. I wish all of you many more years of fun, learning and growth ahead!
 Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce
Explore recent content
Explore related topics