On YouTube, there is a video showing Health Minister Gan Kim Yong explaining the Government’s Pioneer Generation Package (PGP) in Parliament. It had 68 views when I checked.
On April 22, another video was uploaded showing Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor talking about the Government’s communication programme to seniors about health subsidies. It had 66 views. Three were from me, because I clicked three times on the link.
In contrast, a tongue-in-cheek video in Hokkien on the same PGP had 22,521 views since it was put up on March 28. This was commissioned by the Ministry of Communications and Information. It attracted a lot more attention than most other videos on the gov.sg YouTube channel. What makes the difference? My guess is that its popularity is due partly to the sheer novelty of having government videos in dialects; and partly due to its humorous script, complete with fortune teller and 4D numbers.
But even the best efforts of gov.sg’s channel and reach pale in comparison to other Singapore videos. The Top 10 most-watched YouTube videos list of 2013 in Singapore shows that in the top three were videos from overseas: Norwegian comic duo Ylvis’ song on what a fox says; one from Korean-Australian twin sisters Jayesslee; and a Justin Bieber song.
No. 4 was a short video on the making of Ah Boys To Men 2, local movie-maker Jack Neo’s hit on full-time national service, with over one million views.
No. 5 was from a group called wahbanana, on 16 types of people at Sentosa. Its kayaking joke is funny in a distinctly Singaporean way. It’s been viewed 1.287 million times. wahbanana’s channel has 31 million views. Some of the actors from wahbanana productions went on to set up their own channel, Tree Potatoes. It put up the video 11 Differences Between Dating And Marriage just before Christmas last year. In four months, the video got viewed 1.2 million views. In all, the channel has 5.3 million views.
The Government is now ramping up its outreach programme to tell seniors about the generous health-care subsidies they will get under the PGP. I have a simple suggestion: Crowdsource. All the resources at the Government’s disposal netted the gov.sg channel a grand total of 1,000 subscribers. wahbanana has over 300,000. Tree Potatoes has over 165,000.
There’s latent creativity in Singaporeans. The Government can do worse than to tap that.
Will YouTube videos work with seniors?
Well, many seniors are online. Most live in families with children and grandchildren. Imagine the impact if teens started to show videos to their grandparents at home.
The Government can provide some basic source information, such as a list of subsidies and benefits in clear language. Actually, this is available on the Budget 2014 website.
It says the PGP is for Singaporeans aged 65 and above; who became citizens before 1987. They get subsidies of 75 to 85 per cent at specialist outpatient clinics. Each year, they get $200 to $800 to top up their Medisave, depending on age. Premiums for MediShield Life insurance will also be subsidised by at least half.
Despite the blitz of articles, speeches and television news on the PGP, recent surveys show that many seniors have heard of it but don’t know what the benefits are.
Having “ambassadors” fan out to speak to seniors in the community is one big prong of the government’s outreach. Training front-line staff at clinics and hospitals to explain and engage are also sensible. These are all essential.
They can be complemented by videos that feed both head and heart: that give information and appeal to Singaporeans.
The PGP isn’t just about specific benefits. It’s also about giving peace of mind to pioneers.
And when emotions are involved, it’s hard to beat videos with their storylines, images, and sound.
I can’t think of a better gift from the digital generation to pioneers, than to use their talent in this medium to give their elders not only information about the PGP, but also peace of mind.
And a few hearty laughs.