The new Centre for Computing for Social Good & Philanthropy, established with a gift from the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund, aims to cultivate a philanthropic ethos among future tech leaders.
Mr Keith Chua (left), Trustee of the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund, presents a cheque to Professor Lee Wee Sun (centre), Head of the Department of Computer Science at the NUS School of Computing, witnessed by Mr Heng Swee Keat (right), Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies. (Photo: Ministry of Communications and Information)
The NUS School of Computing (NUS Computing) has launched the Centre for Computing for Social Good & Philanthropy (CCSGP) to further encourage students to serve the community and to cultivate a philanthropic ethos among future generations of tech leaders. Over time, the School aims to have one in eight students participate in programmes or projects under this new Centre.
The new CCSGP is set up with a generous S$1.5 million gift from the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund, which supports initiatives that focus on healthcare and education of the younger generation to give back through philanthropy.
“The momentum of digital disruptions is gaining pace. As we harness the power of digital technology to create new opportunities, we must also ensure that this does not result in a digital divide. Enabling everyone to progress together in a more digital future, requires all of us to play a part,” said Mr Heng Swee Keat, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, who launched the new Centre as the Guest-of-Honour.
“This new Centre will groom a new generation of technology leaders to make a difference to the lives of those around them. As we become more advanced as an economy and develop as a society, we can also be a more caring and inclusive society. This spirit of solidarity and unity, at a time when the world is becoming more uncertain and complex, will enable us to thrive in a more digital post-COVID-19 world,” he added.
Developing the ethos of service
In his speech, NUS President Tan Eng Chye noted that “education is not solely about individual career success”.
“While we will always endeavour to equip our students with market-relevant skills and help them develop deep technical expertise, we place equal emphasis on the ethos of service and empathy,” said Prof Tan.
“We live in a society, a community, a country, and we are all part of an interconnected, interdependent world. And in every society, there are many needs, issues to resolve and areas for improvement.”
Prof Tan highlighted the need for computing skills and technology solutions to bring about positive impact and improvements to lives in this digital era.
“Computing students are in a privileged position, as you have very powerful and valuable skills to make a difference to the wider society, to help and uplift the lives of others around us,” said Prof Tan.
He also thanked the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund and the fund’s Trustee Mr Keith Chua for enabling NUS Computing to establish the CCSGP.
“The CCSGP seeks to encourage students to serve the community even before they leave school, by widening opportunities for students to participate in community projects. It will also better coordinate the School’s efforts in leveraging technology to serve the community, especially the less privileged, in meaningful ways,” said Prof Tan.
Sharing his hopes for the new Centre, Mr Chua said, “It is a wonderful privilege that the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund can continue to partner with NUS in supporting research and tangible action in doing good and philanthropic engagement… The Centre will directly engage with students who will be tomorrow’s leaders in technology – and will influence continuing digital transformation nationally and globally.”
The Centre brings together three existing community programmes under NUS Computing, and will introduce two new ones this year. Associate Professor Ben Leong, Director of CCSGP, highlighted the key role CCSGP will play in the technology and digital transformation that will help Singapore emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis.
“CCSGP will work closely with our community and corporate partners to inspire and groom tech leaders who are passionate to own, shape and act on initiatives that will lead to a digitally inclusive society,” said Assoc Prof Leong.
In his speech, Prof Tan expressed his appreciation to GIC for supporting the Computing for Voluntary Welfare Organisations programme since 2015, and for the renewed commitment to increase support for the programme for the next 3 years, under the auspices of the new Centre.
Five programmes to inspire students to serve
Among its existing programmes, the Centre will firstly continue running the Computing for Voluntary Welfare Organisations (CVWO) project, which is a summer attachment programme that started in 2007 and has grown to take in 32 NUS Computing students annually.
Under this programme, students gain practical experience in building industry-standard IT systems that help local Social Service Agencies better serve their communities and beneficiaries.
GIC has been the main sponsor of the CVWO programme since 2015. A new “GIC Computing for the Community Fellowship Award” has been set up under the new Centre.
The second programme under the CCSGP is the Code for the Community Project, first introduced in 2017. Under the programme, NUS Computing students serve as volunteers to teach and upskill beneficiaries from the underserved and special needs communities.
CCSGP plans to develop a new comprehensive training programme for children from low-income families, and to offer the programme to more low-income estates.
The third programme involves NUS Computing students collaborating with the Autism Resource Centre and Pathlight School to set up a new “Nurturing Neurodiverse Talent” programme, following a successful pilot programme in 2019. Here, persons with autism will acquire practical IT skills to improve their employment prospects and be more aware of employment opportunities in the tech industry.
Two new programmes will be started under the auspices of the new Centre.
The first is a new experiential programme to help students learn the principles of leadership in a formal setting and subsequently apply those principles in a practical setting, for example through community projects with a VWO. Some 30 students are planned for the inaugural annual intake.
The second new initiative, called the Public Service Fellowship Programme, aims to encourage students to propose and undertake independent community projects. Students can apply for funding to develop new independent projects or seek support for existing projects.
CCSGP hopes to fund up to 30 projects a year and may consider expanding the programme if there is demand.
This was first published on 29 June 2021 in NUS News.