In support of Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) “IMDA Data for All Initiative,” we contacted 148 families through a network of neighbours. Families with children below 21 years of age that are living in a public rental flat or are supported by ComCare Assistance Schemes are eligible for 50GB of data, 500 minutes of local outgoing calls and 50 local SMS monthly, provided free of charge by a telco. This 12-month package also includes unlimited incoming calls, and we were pleased to be collaborating with M1, a long-time supporter of our work last Saturday at the Jalan Kukoh neighbourhood.
Digital access is now a necessity for students. Schools have integrated home-based learning into their pedagogy and students are also expected to search the internet for information and access school assignments. So, it was no surprise when an 11-year-old boy was so excited that he kept asking for his phone number. He said that before this, whenever he needed to contact his friends about homework, he could only do so when his parents were at home. Dad is private hire car driver and mom is in the food and beverage sector. Hence, as mom and dad worked long hours, he could only meet them when they were home for their breaks. Both parents who accompanied him were happy too as it was a big relief that their son could now access home-based learning without one of them being around.
A 42-year-old mother of 4 school going children told us, “The SIM card came at the right time. The broadband contract with Neu PC Plus will end on 21 July 2022, and we can only reapply in 2023.” The NEU PC Plus Programme is another IMDA Programme that offers low-income households with students or persons with disabilities the opportunity to own a brand-new computer at an affordable price inclusive of free 3-year broadband access. When we asked her what she was intending to do if she did not receive these cards, she said that if Wi-Fi is needed in the morning, her children will sit outside a fast-food restaurant. If it was in the afternoon, they will go the Residents’ Committee office. Sometimes, they will also sit outside the home of a neighbour who was willing to share. She also said that home-based learning happens at least 3 to 4 times a month for each of her 4 children and this data will certainly reduce lots of running around.
The data was also much valued by those who already had a broadband plan. A 43-year-old mother of 2 who had a $90 monthly plan declared that the data meant more family bonding time. Going to the movies on a weekend was expensive and so watching videos on YouTube was a most affordable alternative. She added that when her broadband plan was not strictly used for school related purposes, she found the extra charges difficult to meet so the data will really help with her household budget.
Generally, everyone told us that they would tap on their neighbours’ Wi-Fi when needed as those who had were willing to share but that may mean increasing their bills. So, they do that sparingly and the biggest advantage of having data is knowing that they will not be missing an incoming call from family when they are out and not within any Wi-Fi range.
Not all who were informed showed up to pick up their cards, but 115 cards were issued to 55 households, and we are sure that those who came will be encouraging their neighbours to do so, the next time we repeat the exercise.
For peace, community, and connectivity in every sense.
Success is not just making money. Success is happiness. Success is fulfilment; it’s the ability to give. -Adam Neumann