SINGAPORE - Thirty hawker centres across the island will boost their digital presence by setting up their own Facebook pages, through which residents and organisations will be able to make group buys.
Helmed by passionate individuals from the community and hawker trade, or digital hawker champions, the digital support groups for these hawker centres will be set up from October to December as part of slew of initiatives to help more hawkers go digital.
Several online food delivery platforms are also coming together to trial a six-month "common acquirer" pilot scheme at 14 hawker centres. Under this scheme, consumers will have the option to mix and match food items across stalls for bundle orders, which are put together by centralised hawker captains who will interface with the hawkers directly.
The pilot initiatives were announced by the SG Together Alliance for Action (AfA) - Online Ordering for Hawkers on Thursday (Sept 23).
The work group was formed in June to help hawkers impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic to understand the benefits of going digital, and to support them in using online ordering and delivery services.
It comprises members who represent the hawker community, as well as food ordering and delivery platform companies - Deliveroo, FoodPanda, Grab and WhyQ.
Among the 30 hawker centres on board for the Digital Support for Hawkers programme are Tiong Bahru Market, Block 51 Old Airport Road and Chong Pang Market and Food Centre
Besides setting up a Facebook page for each centre, the assigned digital support groups will facilitate community group buys through the Facebook page, and organise tie-ups with organisations, such as polyclinics and businesses in the neighbourhood, to make bulk meal orders.
A digital ambassador from SG Digital Office will also be assigned to each hawker centre to coordinate the effort and launch the initiative, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in a joint statement.
Among the 14 hawker centres trialling the "common acquirer" model are Chomp Chomp Food Centre, Zion Riverside Food Centre and Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre.
Five centres - ABC Brickworks Market & Food Centre, Amoy Street Food Centre, Chinatown Market, Block 448 Clementi Avenue 3 and Golden Mile Food Centre - are involved in both pilots.
Under this model, consumers can continue to order through their preferred platforms, but all orders will be received either through a single device, or via on-site hawker captains at each hawker centre to place and coordinate orders.
WhyQ will manage transactions and payments to hawkers, with same-day payments and no commissions charged to hawkers.
Since the launch of the Afa - Online Ordering for Hawkers in June, 5,500 hawkers across 113 hawker centres managed by NEA and its appointed managing agents have been engaged by digital ambassadors from SG Digital Office on how to supplement physical transactions with digital ones, said NEA and IMDA.
The number of NEA-managed hawker stalls on online ordering platforms has also risen from 34 per cent at the start of the campaign in June, to 47 per cent today. This includes 660 hawker stalls which signed up for the first time, the statement added.
Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor and Minister of State for Communications and Information and National Development Tan Kiat How were also part of the announcement on Thursday.
"DSH and digital hawker champions (can help hawkers) look beyond the walk-in customers for more business opportunities online, by bulk deal orders, and also to handhold other hawkers in the centre who may not be technologically savvy," said Dr Khor.
Mr Tan said the common acquirer model is significant for several reasons, including WhyQ's zero-commission model being extended to all the other delivery platforms.
"Hawkers who may have been concerned about commissions can now opt for this model, and consumers will be paying fees directly to the platforms," he said.
"Consumers will also be able to clearly see how much they are charged and who they are paying the fees to, so they can make a decision whether the charges are reasonable and which platform to order their meals from."
With WhyQ extending its platform, hawkers will also have access to customers across all four delivery platforms.
"This allows us to bring the whole hawker centre online, like a restaurant, where participating stalls are now discoverable," Mr Tan added.
Cash flow concerns of hawkers are also addressed under this model, where hawkers will receive payment by 9pm for all orders made before 5pm that day.
"If successful, the initiative will be scaled up and rolled out to more hawker centres," said Mr Tan.
Dr Khor said the initiatives will also help prime hawkers for life beyond the pandemic.
"This helps the hawkers to prepare beyond Covid-19 because this trend of online ordering and delivery is going to continue... In fact, Covid-19 has accelerated the trend, and it is really timely for us to help the hawkers and encourage them to get on these platforms," she said.
"We will give them the training and support to get online if they want to, and this will likely increase the adoption rate."