Singapore

Strategies to improve digital readiness among S’poreans in the works

Strategies to improve digital readiness among S’poreans in the works
Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary said on Monday (Sept 11) that a workgroup set up by the Government comprising representatives from the public and private sectors will propose strategies to improve digital readiness among Singaporeans. TODAY file photo
Published: 4:00 AM, September 12, 2017
Updated: 8:29 AM, September 12, 2017

SINGAPORE — By early next year, a workgroup set up by the Government comprising representatives from the public and private sectors will propose strategies to improve digital readiness among Singaporeans.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary said yesterday these representatives will have “expertise and experience in applying technology to make lives better”.

These proposals will reinforce existing initiatives like the Silver Infocomm Initiative, which has reached out to more than 130,000 senior citizens to promote IT awareness and literacy.

He was responding to MPs, who had voiced several concerns about the Smart Nation drive, such as how to help the elderly get ready for it.

They also asked how the Government can build a Smart Nation that is people-centric instead of technology-centric.

Dr Janil reassured the MPs that “we do not chase technology for technology’s sake”.

“While critical to Smart Nation’s success, these and future SNPs (Strategic National Projects) are not outcomes in and of themselves,” he said, referring to the five Smart Nation national projects, with various timelines for delivery, including intermediate milestones.

He pointed out other outcomes that Singapore must strive for.

“At the individual level, Smart Nation must bring about practical convenience and a higher quality of life. For example, PayNow enables Singaporeans to pay one another, across accounts held in different banks, using just the recipient’s mobile number,” he said.

And for companies, the Smart Nation initiative must “boost efficiency, reduce costs and stimulate business,” he said, adding that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the banking industry are working to extend the use of PayNow to merchants and companies.

“Finally, at the economy and societal level, Smart Nation is about opportunity. There will be new ways of doing things, new forms of businesses and new jobs … Digital platforms will allow our enterprises to tap new markets. The Government will keep standards and platforms open so that as many enterprises as possible can take advantage of the opportunities,” he added.

However, MPs had concerns about the new digital payment modes, such as security and usability.

Mr Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC) asked about security risks associated with e-payment systems, and what measures will be put in place to tackle these challenges. Dr Janil said that compared with cash, e-payments are more secure as they can be tracked and identities can be authenticated.

“If we are comparing them to, for example, credit cards, ez-link, Nets, these are all non-cash e-payment solutions we have had for some time. We have some experience in operating and regulating these systems, and detecting threats and theft associated with these systems.”

“So I think when engaging with citizens, especially elderly, we should highlight that actually we have had e-payment solutions in Singapore for a long time. What we don’t have is a unified, unfragmented eco-system, and that’s what we are moving towards,” he pointed out.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (Macpherson SMC) asked if a biometric process for payment systems might be better for the elderly, as some of them might not know how to use cards. Dr Janil replied that the Government is looking at a software solution that can be incorporated into any number of form factors, rather than a single form factor.