By Erica Lim
For the young, it’s easy to take for granted the digital skills we’ve instinctively picked up through the years. Almost every activity, after all, only takes a few taps or swipes—from sharing cute animal videos on Facebook to sneakily ordering cheat day meals on delivery apps like Grab and Foodpanda.
But not everyone is equipped with these skills. Many of our seniors, for instance, have yet to take the digital leap. According to Visa’s Digital Inclusion Study, only 31 percent of seniors in Singapore aged 50 to 80 use mobile banking, with 52 percent still using cash as their primary method of payment. In addition, only 29 and 22 percent of seniors have respectively tried ride-hailing and online shopping apps.
With COVID-19 accelerating the digitalisation all around, we need to collectively ensure that our seniors won’t get left behind.
To this end, the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) SG Digital Office is rolling out dedicated community hubs across the island, focusing on digital literacy and the Digital for All initiative, where SG Digital Ambassadors will be stationed to help guide seniors and hawkers through their digital learning journeys.
Introducing a new digital experience
On July 7, 2020, the new SG Digital community hub at West Coast Community Centre was launched to be a “digital haven” for individuals looking to acquire digital skills to boost their digital well-being.
Although anyone facing digital difficulties is welcome to visit the hubs, the two groups who tend to face the most challenges—namely seniors and hawkers—will be prioritised, with SG Digital Ambassadors on hand to offer assistance and guidance.
These hubs form part of a broader nationwide push for digitalisation, with nearly 50 SG Digital community hubs on track to launch by end August 2020.
At the launch of the West Coast hub, Minister for Communications and Information Mr S Iswaran emphasised that these efforts are meant to teach digital skills to seniors who want to learn, but may not have anyone to help them acquire these skills.
“The interest and attitude are already there. Now, we just have to catalyse and act,” he said. “These hubs are a physical manifestation of our assurance that we will walk the [digital] journey with you.”
“Seniors are sometimes inhibited by a fear of appearing silly, or asking silly questions. They also fear that people won’t have the time or patience to help,” he added. “But these inhibitions aren’t just limited to seniors, everyone also shares that concern.”
To meet these needs, the SG Digital community hub will be the go-to space where seniors and hawkers can get personalised assistance from the Digital Ambassadors in the language of his or her preference for their digital queries.
For seniors, the SG Digital Ambassadors will provide one-on-one guidance and group lessons on how to use applications like WhatsApp and SingPass as well as making e-payments.
Classes will also be conducted in a variety of languages, including English, Malay, Mandarin, and other dialects—giving seniors all the more reason to pop by!
Meanwhile, hawkers will be taught the ins and outs of setting up an e-payment system to better accommodate their customers. Beyond these structured learning activities, however, the Digital Ambassadors in these hubs are happy to address to the best of their abilities the concerns of seniors and hawkers, whatever they may be.
You’ll never walk alone
In the spirit of the classic Liverpool FC anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” seniors will be guided every step of the way in their digital literacy journeys by Digital Ambassadors.
Mr Nur Danish Azhar explained that he became a Digital Ambassador to help people like his grandmother, whom he taught how to use WhatsApp and e-payments.
“I love to help people, especially the elderly, and that encouraged me to sign up as a Digital Ambassador,” Mr Nur Danish Azhar, SDO Digital Ambassador.
According to Mr Azhar, contrary to popular belief, seniors are especially enthusiastic. “A lot of seniors want to sign up because they recognise the benefits of having digital skills.”
Speaking from experience, Digital Ambassador Mr Lo Wei Jian stated that while many seniors are eager to learn, they may not have people in their lives who are willing to help them acquire the skills.
“When seniors find out we have enough patience and knowledge to help them, they’re very happy to learn,” said Mr Low Wei Jian, Digital Ambassador
In fact, many seniors have made a habit of regularly visiting the hubs for additional assistance. After all, with the hubs open daily (with the exception of public holidays), support for seniors and hawkers is available anytime and anywhere.
From boomer to zoomer
Although only little over a month has passed since the formation of the SG Digital Office, seniors like Mrs Rajam Sadanandan, 73, have already benefited from these courses. Having attended classes on how to use WhatsApp and QR codes, she shared that these digital tools allowed seniors like herself to conduct day-to-day activities while staying safely at home—an important aspect considering that seniors are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
Besides learning how to use these tools, Mrs Sadanandan has also picked up some cybersecurity tips and tricks, enhancing her digital literacy and helping her avoid common scams on digital platforms.
“When we grow old, we always think, ‘Oh, I’m old, I don’t think I can do it.’ But to me, age is not a barrier at all,” said Mrs Rajam Sadanandan.
Indeed, the early success of the SG Digital community hubs hinges on the principle that digital is for all and proves that all anyone needs to thrive is an open mind and a can-do spirit—in both life and digital literacy. So watch out, your grandparents or favourite hawker stall could be on Zoom or TikTok sooner than you’d think!
To find a SDO Community Hub near you, visit the SG Digital Office website today.