WhyItMatters

Do more to aid cashless drive

The 20cm-by-8cm parking coupon is one of the last remaining paper-based practices standing in the way of Singapore becoming a truly smart nation.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the National Day Rally on Sunday that making people's lives more convenient by taking full advantage of technology is a key strategic goal of Singapore's Smart Nation push.

This is why the 40-year-old parking coupon must be retired. Its gradual phasing out starts with the availability of the Parking.sg mobile app that replaces its function. The app removes the hassles motorists face today. For instance, motorists need not rush back to their cars to add more coupons if they need to park for a longer period. The app performs such extensions remotely with just a few taps.

Parking.sg is part of a larger project, dubbed Electronic Road Pricing 2.0, that will rely on satellites to monitor vehicles to calculate road usage and parking fees.

These efforts also mean the "summons aunties", supplied by third parties, need to be retrained as their jobs may be disrupted. In the meantime, they will continue to conduct checks at 1,150 carparks, including kerbside parking spaces, as the Parking.sg app and paper coupons will be used concurrently.

Another piece of paper people cling to that hinders Singapore's Smart Nation progress is cash.

Six out of 10 consumer transactions were made in cash last year, prompting PM Lee to make a call to the industry to "simplify and integrate" the myriad payment systems that do not inter-operate, and as a result frustrate consumers.

Consumers do not mind carrying cash as they feel safe with its use; counterfeiting and black money are not prevalent in Singapore. In fact, the increased costs associated with cashless payments have actually discouraged their use. What Singaporeans need is a compelling reason, like the convenience that Parking.sg brings, to go cashless, or it would be a case of putting the cart before the horse.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2017, with the headline 'Do more to aid cashless drive'. Print Edition | Subscribe