Last updated: 13 March 2023

Published on: 11 December 2017


How do you help seniors bridge the digital divide? By providing one-on-one coaching on how to use their smartphones.

Digital Clinic

Digital Clinic
At the Digital Clinic session held at Heartbeat@Bedok, seniors enjoyed one-on-one consultations with volunteer tech coaches.

By Janice Lin


For some time now, Madam Tan Poh Choo has been struggling with making full use of her smartphone. While she knows basics such as how to send a text message, she is at a loss on how to use the other functions available such as surfing the internet.

“I know there are a lot of things I can do with my mobile phone, like buying things on the web, but I don’t even know the steps to do it,” she said.

Mdm Tan, 54, was among the many seniors who visited the Digital Clinic at Heartbeat@Bedok on 17 November to get assistance with their mobile device. Digital Clinics are part of Changi Business Park (CBP) Gives, which is led by IBM in collaboration with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the South East Community Development Council (CDC).  

In 2018, there will be 30 Digital Clinics where seniors aged 50 and above can receive one-on-one assistance with their mobile devices. At every Digital Clinic, volunteers from participating companies will guide the seniors in English or Mandarin and walk them through many of the functions available on a smartphone.

Volunteers can also help seniors with specific queries, such as setting up a Wi-Fi connection, managing phone settings and surfing the internet. Seniors can also learn how to download and use apps like SGSecure and MyTransport Singapore, as well as make mobile payments.

Dr Maliki Osman
Dr Maliki Osman (left) chatting with participants and volunteers at the Digital Clinic.

Sharing the benefits of technology

The aim of Digital Clinics is to help seniors bridge the technology gap.

This plays an important role in helping the elderly stay actively connected to the community.

“The last thing I want to see is social isolation, meaning that you are so overwhelmed by technology that you think it’s easier for you to simply avoid it,” said Dr Maliki Osman, mayor of the South East CDC and guest of honour at the event.

For Mdm Tan, she sees the potential for social isolation that comes with not knowing how to communicate digitally.

“My friends and I currently use group chats to communicate with one another and arrange events, to make sure everyone is on board and not left behind in activities. It’s so convenient, and I can imagine how not having a phone can leave you excluded,” she added.

Digital Clinic
Volunteers from companies like IBM and Yusen Logistics helped seniors understand their phone functions.

On how the Digital Clinic has assisted her, Mdm Tan says the one-on-one approach was particularly helpful.

“I’ve been to group classes but because there’s no individual attention and the classes move too fast for me, I find that by the time I returned home I have forgotten half the things I learnt.”

Mdm Tan’s goal now is to improve her English through the use of the internet and mobile apps. And shopping online is also on her to-do list. “I’ve seen plenty of interesting things on the web, but knowing how to make my purchase is another thing,” she said.  

Another senior who felt the Digital Clinic was useful was Mdm Susan Lee, 62, who had help with clearing storage space on her phone.

“I’ve been using my phone for quite a while now, but have gotten to the point where I’m unable to download anything else. One of the volunteers here taught me how to make space for new downloads, as well as set up a new Wi-Fi connection,” she explained.

Helping seniors to ride the Digital Economy

Digital Clinics are supported by a broader initiative by IMDA, the Silver Infocomm Initiative (SII), which aims to help seniors be actively engaged in the digital age. It is partnering with CBP Gives, an initiative that brings together organisations in the business park to help give back to the community, in hosting the Digital Clinics series.

Tan Kiat How
Mr Tan Kiat How, CEO of IMDA, thanking the Digital Clinic participants and volunteers.

Two clinics have previously been held, one in June 2017 at IMDA’s Silver IT Fest, and another in September at Tampines Regional Library. Thanks to positive feedback from many seniors, the clinics have now been expanded, with more to run from now until September 2018 in various locations across the eastern parts of Singapore.

The extended run will see 400 volunteers from eight companies engage with more than 1,000 seniors in 30 Digital Clinics.

“Even as Singapore embraces exciting opportunities enabled by technology as a Smart Nation and a digital economy, we must continue to ensure that all segments of our society can participate meaningfully in the digital future. It is heartening to see passionate volunteers from the people, private and public sectors come together to support our seniors in navigating the digital world, and reap the benefits of technology,” said IMDA Chief Executive, Mr Tan Kiat How.

Interested in learning technology tips and tricks at an upcoming Digital Clinic? Then check this out!



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