Photo credit: MAX ONG


Max Ong builds software for a living, specifically website applications in start-ups, SMEs and government projects. He started Project DUST (Differently-abled Upskill Training) last year after seeing people with disabilities (PWDs) being left behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was almost an immediate need for individuals to become technically savvy and remote work capable.

Max saw this as an opportunity to help PWDs upskill, gain better living wages, and tackle the lack of developers available to spearhead such digital transformation initiatives. Thus, Max and his friends sought to impact PWDs and use low-code/no-code solutions to help companies create products or services for them.

Dear Youth,

My name is Max and I develop software for start-ups, companies and organisations. I specialise in developer platforms such as React.JS and Django to build highly scalable, sophisticated and complex websites like Carousell, Zapier and Instagram. I have worked on multiple government projects including smart systems that track your daily household electricity usage, and recently, the programming required for Chingay 2021.

I am often found in various developer communities in Singapore, and our latest attempt to create a more inclusive society was through Project DUST (Differently-abled Upskill Training).

You see, in recent years, the technology industry has been embracing diversity hiring, with practices such as blind hiring through online testing. This means that there are equal opportunities for everyone, including PWDs, as long as you have the skills, knowledge and experience to build things.

Project DUST was developed through conversations with my business partners and PWDs. We saw that many PWDs were earning low wages.There was also a high unemployment rate within the PWD population. We wondered if we could equip PWDs with the skills needed to join the tech industry, like us, to improve their quality of life.

Project DUST teaches skills and knowledge using “low-code/no-code” tools to help PWDs break into the tech industry. “Low code/no-code” is a type of software that is visual-based, easy to use, and allows anyone to build digital products or services quickly.

The software allows anyone to “drag and drop”pre-built pieces to create software like a jigsaw puzzle. This is exactly how kids are exposed to computer programming using Scratch, a software created by MIT Media Lab, which allows them to create games, animations or program robots without having to type out a single line of code.

I got this idea of teaching “low code/no-code” to PWDs while hearing of a new technology trend called citizen development over a podcast.

The IT department in the case study provided low code/no-code tools for their staff to quickly build prototypes and test out their ideas without the need for software development training. These prototypes served as a stopgap measure until the company had the resources and time to create an actual product or service with a proper software development team.

I knew this would be a great way to empower PWDs to enter the tech industry. And today, Project DUST has impacted 28 individuals through our exposure workshops and 12-week “low code/no-code” programmes.

I believe that technology and entrepreneurship are two sides of the same coin. This is the powerful combination that has created ripple effects in society through the likes of SpaceX, Shopee, Carousell, Google and Grab.

It has been my goal to help more people be a part of the startup and technology ecosystem –be it through my own personal blog, voluntary work, teaching or mentoring junior developers. I hope that through Project DUST, more people will be able to enter the tech industry regardless of race, gender, geographical location or disabilities.

For more information about Project DUST, visit our Facebook Page:

You may like these