SINGAPORE - Cash has long been king, but for an increasing number of people like retiree Bridget Khoo, the fear of infection from notes and coins is pushing them into the sometimes daunting world of digital payments.
Madam Khoo, 63, was keen to make the digital leap but was wary at first to try her hand: "I'm worried that using (e-payment) apps like PayLah! may be troublesome, or I may key in the wrong digits and end up paying the wrong amount."
But she realised that her fears were unfounded after some guidance from a digital ambassador at the Teck Ghee Community Club on Saturday (Aug 29).
A makeshift "minimart" has been set up at the club with small items like toilet rolls and hand sanitiser on offer.
It allowed Madam Khoo, who used to work in manufacturing, to practise how to scan a QR code and then pay for items using the DBS PayLah! app.
It turned out to be a breeze: "It wasn't difficult at all, and the ambassador was very helpful."
Seniors who find using e-payment methods like apps or QR codes confusing or intimidating can now get more support through a new initiative under the Seniors Go Digital programme run by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) that provides demonstrations and hands-on experiences.
These are being held at SG Digital community hubs islandwide. There are 30 already operating, mostly in community centres, with a further 25 to be set up in public libraries.
Seniors can learn how to use their devices to buy items before putting their skills to use at neighbourhood shops or hawker centres. They can also pick up other skills, such as using common apps like WhatsApp in one-to-one sessions with digital ambassadors.
Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran noted after a visit to the SG Digital community hub in Teck Ghee Community Club on Saturday that the Seniors Go Digital programme has made significant progress in helping seniors pick up digital skills since its launch in May, thanks to the efforts of volunteers, community and industry partners.
The programme, which is spearheaded by the Singapore Digital Office under the IMDA, has already helped around 16,000 seniors and is on track to benefit 100,000 by March next year.
Mr Iswaran noted that the aim is not to get seniors to completely replace cash: "Some will still want to use it in certain locations."
But if seniors can learn about other alternatives, they will have more options to choose from when paying for goods, he added.
The Government has ramped up efforts in recent months to promote digitalisation in response to widespread economic and social disruption brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Iswaran announced in June that there will be increased support for low-income seniors by providing more affordable mobile data plans and basic smartphones. More than 800 seniors have benefited.
He noted that Covid-19 has caused some seniors to feel that they are unable to continue with normal life: "They get detached from the regular cycles, whether it is their social activities and their other daily activities.
"So, one important value proposition of digital technology is really to help our seniors cope with this kind of challenge."