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New outfit to boost S'pore's digitalisation capabilities

SG Digital Office to hire 1,000 to help seniors, hawkers and others adopt technology

Hariz Baharudin on 01 Jun 2020

The Straits Times


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To ensure no one gets left behind as Singapore becomes more digitally connected, the Government will be setting up a new digitalisation office to double down on outreach efforts to the hardest-to-reach segments of society and encourage them to adopt digital tools.


This new SG Digital Office (SDO) will recruit 1,000 digital ambassadors by the end of this month to help stallholders and seniors learn how to use digital tools - skills which the Government says are more important than ever, given disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.


These ambassadors will cover all 112 hawker centres and wet markets this month to encourage stallholders to adopt SGQR codes for e-payment and avoid having to handle cash, the Infocomm Media Development Authority and Ministry of Communications and Information said in a joint statement yesterday.


The SGQR code lets stallholders receive payments through 19 different providers, such as Dash, GrabPay and local bank offerings like PayLah.


This outreach will be ramped up next month to include coffee shops and industrial canteens, and the goal is to get 18,000 stallholders on board SGQR by June next year.


The plan is to build on and accelerate existing efforts to equip every business and individual - including seniors and small businesses - with digital tools and skills, as these would be crucial "to participate meaningfully in the new social and economic environment post-Covid-19", said the two agencies.


Said Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran: "Covid-19 has irrevocably changed the way we lead our lives. While some of us have been able to make the necessary adjustments to work, learn or socialise from our homes because we are digitally connected, that is not the case for some of the elderly and vulnerable among us."


"Their lives can be better if they too are as digitally connected. The Government recognises that in the wake of Covid-19, digitalisation is now both an imperative and an opportunity," he added.


The 1,000 digital ambassadors who will be recruited under the SDO will work with companies, community groups and the public to educate and encourage all seniors as well as stallholders in hawker centres, wet markets, coffee shops and industrial canteens to go digital.


By March next year, they would have reached out to 100,000 seniors, teaching them basic digital skills like how to buy things online and how to use smartphone apps to communicate with their friends and family.


Fruit seller Ho Liang Huat, 55, made the switch to digital two years ago, when he started to accept e-payment options at his stall in a market in Ang Mo Kio.


One of the difficulties he faced was learning how to use Internet banking, and he had to ask the children of other stallholders to explain to him how it worked.


"It really helped when there was someone to explain to me how to use it," said Mr Ho.


Retiree Mike Goh, 74, echoed Mr Ho's sentiments. He initially was afraid to use e-payments because he feared he would lose his money if he did so, but felt better once bank staff took him through how secure Internet banking is.


In an interview with the media yesterday, Mr Iswaran said these seniors and hawkers will not be the only ones the SDO will reach out to, and having digital ambassadors work with partners in the community will allow them to better understand and identify the needs of other groups too.


"While we are emphasising these particular groups, the hawkers and the seniors, it is not to the exclusion of these other important segments, whether it is the disabled or... other kinds of groups."


These digital ambassadors will consist of a mix of volunteers as well as staff hired for the role. The SDO will prioritise recruiting from graduating cohorts of institutes of higher learning in Singapore, who are reportedly having trouble finding jobs in the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.



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