Don’t leave elderly & less tech-savvy behind in push to digitalise: PAP MPs


As an inclusive and caring society which aims to leave no one behind, we must not forget about the vulnerable and the less tech-savvy in our push to digitalise.

Several PAP MPs highlighted this during the Ministry of Communication and Information’s (MCI) Committee of Supply debate today (Feb. 28, 2023)

When we think about this group of Singaporeans, we usually think about the elderly. But in their speeches today, our MPs also highlighted other groups that we cannot forget, such as those with special needs and those from low-income backgrounds.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson SMC) called on the Government to design solutions that connect seniors to the wider community in a way that is easy, not daunting, for the elderly.

“How would the Government encourage similar ground up community initiatives to solve real life problems?”

As the mobile phone evolved over the years, the spaces we can reach through digital means have become larger, said Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC).

“However, there are individuals in Singapore who (have) difficulty navigating a small screen. To them their world has become smaller.”

Case in point: Some of Mr Baey’s residents still do not have the confidence to use e-payment.

Lauding the Government’s “digital-first but not digital-only” approach, Mr Baey asked:

“I would like to ask the Minister to elaborate on how we are preparing Singaporeans for a ‘digital-first but not digital-only’ approach.”

While digital services are becoming increasingly common in our society, many seniors still hesitate to embrace them, said Ms Hany Soh (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) in Mandarin.

“What plans does IMDA have to further improve the digital know-how and skills of the elderly?”

“We must journey alongside seniors in the digitalisation process to ensure that the process is safe and secure for each individual,” urged Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC).

This is especially important today, with the prevalence of fake news and online scams.

“In the process of allowing seniors to go digital, may I ask if the SG Digital Office and IMDA would continue to connect at a human level to ease and smoothen the digital transformation for our seniors.”

In the move to scale digital inclusion, we should engage people from different sectors and encourage collaborations.

Ms Jessica Tan (East Coast GRC) praised the Digital for Life movement for its diverse and and vibrant ecosystem that connects collaborators from the private and public sector.

“How is the Government enhancing partnerships with the people, private, and public sectors to enhance the Digital for Life movement to scale digital inclusion, to enable the less digitally-savvy to participate digitally in their daily lives, and to allow them to take advantage of the opportunities presented?”

Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) observed that when it comes to digital empowerment, we need to tweak our approach and strategy to cater to different demographics.

“There’s also value in thinking about good and thoughtful design of digital changes that allows for meaningful transition in a way that does not overwhelm those who are not digitally-savvy.”

“I would therefore like to ask about the progress of the Digital for Life movement so far. What’s next and what can we look forward to in doing more so that no one is left behind?”

Today’s children must acquire digital competencies to ensure that they are well-equipped to face the workplace of the future, said Mr Sharael Taha (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC).

“How do we ensure that our school going children not only have access to hardware but are also digitally proficient?

In particular, how do we bridge the digital divide and ensure that children from the lower income families are not disadvantaged, that they will have the opportunity to develop the digital proficiency?”

Images via Facebook.