Government crowdsourcing ideas for cashless system at hawker centres, heartland shops

A customer paying for her purchase via FlashPay at a drinks stall in Beo Crescent Market and Food Centre.
A customer paying for her purchase via FlashPay at a drinks stall in Beo Crescent Market and Food Centre. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - What e-payment technology will work at the hundreds of hawker centres, coffee shops and heartland shops in Singapore?

Four government agencies have put out a Request for Information (RFI) to crowdsource ideas to find the answer, in what is Singapore’s first coordinated effort on e-payment at these places where cash is king.

The four agencies are the National Environment Agency, Housing and Development Board, Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office.

In a joint statement on Friday (Aug 25), they said: “Given the low-value transactions in these places, the solution must be affordable for the merchants, for payments between them and their customers and between them and their suppliers.”

The move is in line with Singapore’s Smart Nation push, and comes after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday that Singapore is lagging behind many cities in going cashless.

According to documents seen by The Straits Times, the four agencies said the desired solution should include PayNow, an instant fund-transfer system launched last month, and should interoperate with international schemes such as Visa or Mastercard.

 
 
 

Transaction fees imposed on merchants should also be negligible or standardised so that merchants are not inclined to accept one payment scheme over another.

“A settlement within the same day would be viewed favourably,” the agencies said in the document, addressing hawkers’ and merchants’ concerns over cash flow.

The problem today is that many e-payment schemes – although commonplace at foodcourts, supermarkets and department stores – are not interoperable.

“Ideally, payment solutions should be interoperable to minimise possible fragmentation of the e-payment space.”

Insights from the RFI will help the four agencies prepare a Request for Proposal to co-create solutions with the private sector, or kick-start procurement processes for the e-payment solution to be deployed at hawker centres, coffee shops and heartland shops.

Those interested can access the RFI on government procurement website GeBiz from Friday. The closing date for submission is Sept 15 this year.