Nurturing Singapore’s future innovators with IMDA’s Digital Maker Programme

 |   Kevin Wo, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore

In a world that is becoming increasingly digitised, new and emerging innovations will continue to disrupt the way we live, work and play. If our youths are to be the driving force for tomorrow’s digital economy, and play a critical role in realising Singapore’s vision as a Smart nation, the urgency is real for them to go beyond consuming technology to being a “maker”.

Being a maker matters. We need to help our youths embrace new technologies and leverage them boldly to create their own innovations. We want them to be able to use technology effectively, and with confidence, to solve real-world problems and build a better tomorrow for all of us.

We want them to be able to use technology effectively and with confidence, to solve real-world problems and to build a better future for all of us.

This is why Microsoft embarked on a two-year programme together with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) of Singapore, to help Singapore move beyond passive consumption of technology to develop a culture of creative problem-solving. The new Digital Maker Programme was announced by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Ministry for Communications & Information, earlier today and will be offered to all Minister of Education (MOE) primary and secondary schools as well as at community touch points.

This new partnership is a natural progression from our earlier success with Code for Change, and will allow student to create and make technology while harnessing collaborative and computational thinking. As the technology partner for the Digital Maker Programme, Microsoft will provide curriculum and training for teachers and students on how to use microcontrollers, or micro:bits, in school and community programmes. We will also be working with training partners to collectively plan, design, organise and conduct mass training sessions for teachers and students. By bringing technology, curriculum and real-world challenges together through the Digital Maker Programme, we hope to nurture future-ready youths who have “maker” mindsets.

We are excited to see the impact of the Digital Maker Programme nationwide, and look forward to working with IMDA to accelerate Singapore’s Smart Nation ambition.

Since the launch of Code for Change – a three-year initiative aimed at developing computational thinking skills for next-generation innovators to support the Smart Nation vision, the programme has impacted close to 270,000 people to date. Over 200 events have been organised to equip students and learners in Singapore with computational thinking skills, including events such as Microsoft’s We Tech Care; Science Centre Singapore’s Hour of Code, Singapore Book of Records initiative; IMDA’s ICM YouthFest, Silver IT Fest; GovTech’s BotFest; SUTD’s Women in Technology initiative; the Mendaki Learning Festival and more.

Microsoft and Science Centre Singapore joined hands to achieve a record-breaking feat that made its way into the Singapore Book of Records for the Largest Number of People Wearing Illuminated LED T-Shirts. The event saw over 180 students from 17 schools across Singapore, as well as adults from Microsoft and Science Centre Singapore, come together to design and code individual LED T-Shirts, which lit up in unison to complete the record-breaking milestone.

These public-private partnerships are important. When we spoke to 100 youths in Singapore, as part of the Microsoft Asia Digital Future Survey, they told us that while they are excited about the potential impact of technology innovations on their future, they felt that Singapore is not ready to adapt digital disruptions. These youths felt that public-private partnerships (31%) were key in driving innovation, instead of the public sector or government; and technology start-ups making the push alone.

To progress, they felt that the nation’s priorities should be to create conducive business environments to encourage start-ups, make future technology innovations affordable and accessible, and ensure schools prepare students with the right skills to fully leverage future innovations.

The enthusiasm in realising the potential of technology shown by our youths in Singapore continues to excite and drive our team here at Microsoft. This enthusiasm is also present in each of the 15 years that we have held the Microsoft Imagine Cup here in Singapore, where the student teams continue to outdo their predecessors when applying technology to solve everyday problems.

With our involvement in the Digital Maker Programme and Code for Change, we hope that this will help the nation nurture next-generation innovators and empower them to seize all the opportunities that technology presents on the road ahead.

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