By John Himor
While the future is digital, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the present also requires basic technological know-how. With technologies like e-payment options and video calls now widely available, such unprecedented times have significantly changed the way we work and connect with one another. To drive national digitalisation and ensure everyone can participate meaningfully in the post-pandemic economic and social environment, the SG Digital Office (SDO) was established in June 2020 under the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
Since its launch, SDO has provided ground-up support to thousands of seniors and hawkers with initiatives like Seniors Go Digital and Hawkers Go Digital . To mark SDO’s milestones, Minister for Communications and Information Mrs Josephine Teo reached out to beneficiaries, volunteers and SDO Digital Ambassadors (DAs) at the new SDO community hub at Jurong Spring Community Centre on 3 September 2021.
At the event, Minister Teo spoke about strengthening the Seniors Go Digital curriculum with cybersecurity and lifestyle app education as well as expanding SDO’s reach to more seniors and vulnerable groups through roving community counters, workplace engagement and the enhanced Mobile Access for Seniors (MAS) scheme. With progress on the horizon, read on to find out how SDO spent its first year promoting digital skills across Singapore.
Future-proofing our hawker culture
Despite selling traditional fare, many hawkers are taking steps to implement modern e-payment solutions to reduce contact and keep safe amid the pandemic. Minister Josephine Teo kickstarted the SDO’s anniversary by visiting three stallholders who have adopted digital solutions.
Through Hawkers Go Digital, stallholders can adopt different digital tools, including the Unified e-Payment Solution (UePS) for contactless payments. As a testament to the hard work of DAs, the programme has engaged 18,000 stallholders to implement e-payment solutions, with over 60 percent already doing so.
One such stallholder, bak kut teh chef Mr Kuek Huan Hwee, shared how e-payment is convenient for both him and his customers. With the help of DAs, Mr Kuek managed to set up and integrate e-payment into his everyday sales. He even noted seeing many seniors comfortably using e-payment. Ultimately, Mr Kuek believes that going digital will prepare him and other hawkers for rapidly changing times.
In the future, everyone will be using this type of technology. If we learn right now, we can continue using it.
Mr Kuek Huan Hwee
Keeping our seniors in the loop
Located next to the hawker centre, the bulk of the anniversary event was held at Jurong Spring Community Centre, where a new SG Digital community hub was set up on the ground floor. Over the past year, 47 community hubs have been established across Singapore to hold training sessions under Seniors Go Digital.
At these hubs, seniors are welcome to drop by to attend a one-on-one session with patient and supportive DAs. Through the programme, SDO has trained over 100,000 seniors in skills like video calling loved ones, accessing digital government services and making e-payments.
As the 100,000th senior to attend a community hub session, 63-year old Mdm Lim Siok Luan received a token of appreciation from Minister Teo. Despite initial concerns, Mdm Lim now knows her way around different apps like Singpass and WhatsApp.
There are bound to be difficulties. You can sometimes get lost and worry about pressing something wrong. But with practice, you gain more confidence and know where to tap.
Mdm Lim Siok Luan
Empowering our working seniors
Beyond personal use, lifelong learning must also extend to work, as e seniors need to embrace digitalisation to stay productive in the workforce. Recognising this, SDO works with industry partners to bring one-on-one training sessions to seniors at their workplaces. Under the new SDO@Workplace engagement channel, employers will set aside time and space for senior employees to pick up digital skills at their own pace.
At YCH Group, a local supply chain solutions company, senior employees can attend one-on-one sessions with DAs and gain digital skills useful both at home and at work. For 79-year-old material handler, Mr Gnanasigamani s/o Ramaiah, digital skills have made communications with his family as well as his colleagues more convenient. “If there are complications [at work], I can video call or take photos and send them to the group chat,” he said.
As they become more comfortable with digital processes, educating senior employees boosts their productivity and morale. Digital skills also help senior employees efficiently access crucial online platforms like e-leave portals and company emails. “It’s going to enrich their lives, give them a fuller experience and will make life easier for them,” said Mr Ryan Yap, Head of Growth at YCH Group.
Seniors paying it forward
Finally, in the spirit of true digitalisation, Minister Teo went online to engage 38 Silver Infocomm Wellness Ambassadors (SIWAs) appointed in 2021 to encourage them to support the Digital for Life movement and inspire more seniors to embrace tech in their daily lives. Launched in 2012, SIWAs are seniors aged 50 years or older who lead an active digital lifestyle and are eager to share their knowledge with their peers. So far, 319 SIWAs have been appointed.
Because they understand the struggles of their peers, SIWAs make incredible teachers. For example, 69-year-old Mr Kathirithamby Selvakrishnan, who signed up to be a SIWA after attending courses to learn more about technology. “You have to be patient,” he explained. “As a senior, I know where they’re coming from.”
In its first year alone, SDO has surpassed its goal of benefitting over 100,000 seniors and 18,000 hawkers. Looking ahead, SDO hopes to continue reaching out to more seniors through SDO@Workplace and community hubs to ensure that Singapore’s digital future remains bright for everyone.
From digital literacy, we are striving for digital competency. We are roping in more corporate and community partners, so that Singapore’s digital future can be truly inclusive.
Mrs Josephine Teo
Minister for Communications and Information
A year reaching out to 100,000 seniors and 18,000 hawkers is only the beginning! Visit the SG Digital Office website for more details on SDO’s digitalisation initiatives.