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More plans to keep senior citizens wired to Internet

Title : More plans to keep senior citizens wired to Internet
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Date : 22 November 2009 1803 hrs (SST)
URL : http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1019825/1/.html
SINGAPORE: A new three-year programme to get the elderly more connected to the Internet will kick off in January.

Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew announced that 100 hot spots with computers and Internet services will be set up islandwide for senior citizens to use for free. He said this at his first ministerial dialogue session on Sunday.

No budget has been confirmed for the programme yet but the Infocomms Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) is working with partners to move this forward.

Facilities are already in place to train the elderly in IT skills. Four senior-friendly and conveniently located IT learning hubs, called the Silver Infocomm Junctions (SIJs), have already been rolled out. Another four more are due by October next year.

But now authorities want to bring such services even closer to the people. Hot spots, say the authorities, will be located in easily accessible locations such as community centres, Senior Citizen Connect areas as well as clan and society buildings.

Mr Lui said: “Each centre will have Internet access as well as maybe a couple of computers so that elderly will have a chance to practise their skills. We will also step up training in the Internet for the elderly.”

But as to whether the government would also consider providing subsidised PCs for use by the elderly at home, the answer was ‘no’.

Mr Lui said: “Nor do we plan to in the near future. We want this to be one of a range of instruments that will help draw the elderly people out from their house into a community setting, make friends and look after one another rather than stay at home.”

Another issue that came up during the dialogue was the one aired by disgruntled viewers who will have to pay for two plans and two set-top boxes, with the current spat between SingTel and StarHub after the former won the rights to screen the hugely popular EPL matches.

While the government has always positioned this as a commercial decision, Mr Lui offered a glimmer of hope for viewers.

Mr Lui said: “Going forward, the government is looking at two things. One (is whether) we can have a common set-top box and that is under the NIMS programme. By, say the third quarter of next year, we should be far, far clearer as to what is the possibility of that. But even before that, the suggestion by (StarHub CEO)Terry Clontz to carry the EPL won by SingTel on StarHub, it’s something that is worth looking into.”

Still, Mr Lui clarified that if any of the ground rules were to be changed, a more comprehensive look would have to be taken at all genres and not just sports programming. Extended notice will also have to be given to the service providers so that they can factor this into their bidding process for programmes.

In response, StarHub said it believed it would be best to have a universal set-top device connected to the new national broadband network. It added that it was prepared to work with the government to address any short term measures for such a transition.

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