Wise people needed to run a smart nation

It seems that smart technology makes for a smart nation that requires smart people to call the shots (Bridging the elder digital divide; March 12).

But is this really true?

To be a smart nation, we do not need smart people, but wise people.

Being "smart" merely requires making a "yes-no" decision. Being "wise" calls for the ability to assess a multitude of variables that determine risks.

When it is only smart people making choices in using smart technology, the cost of implementation is inevitably higher.

For instance, online credit card transactions now require two-factor authentication and a one-time password sent to a phone with a post-paid SIM card.

Customers who do not have such a phone have to purchase one to use this service.

No smart banker would think of reimbursing the customer.

But a wise banker would think of a way to provide customers with other options. He could, perhaps, send the one-time password by e-mail instead, or accept phones with pre-paid SIM cards.

This is just one case where we seem to have missed the forest for the trees. It is the weak and vulnerable who have to suffer for this lack of perspective.

Another example is in the termination of 2G phone services. Users can exchange their 2G phones for a 3G one. This seems like a generous move.

But why insist on an exchange? Collecting and disposing of the returned 2G phones is additional work. Customers also have to remember to erase their personal data before exchanging their phones.

Wouldn't it be simpler to just let customers buy discounted 3G phones as long as they prove they currently use a 2G phone service?

Again, it seems that "wisdom" was not consulted prior to implementing a "smart" plan.

We honour the pioneer generation in various ways, but we must be wise to see when our other actions may make life more difficult, inconvenient and costly for them.

A smart nation can come about only when we have people who know how to use smart technology with wisdom.

Thomas Lee Hock Seng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2017, with the headline 'Wise people needed to run a smart nation'. Print Edition | Subscribe