Older cabbies receive training to conquer fear of digital platforms

Student Bryan Seah going through the Parking.sg application with taxi drivers (from left, foreground) Mr Lian Cheng Swee, Mr Ramasamy s/o Kupusamy, and Mr Ong Yok Kun. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, looks at taxi driver Foo Chi Yong (in pink) go through the parking.sg app. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Taxi driver Chee Chan Boon takes a wefie with his fellow taxi drivers, Minister Ong Ye Kung and Republic Polytechnic students. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Sixty cabbies attended a Skillsfuture For Digital Workplace (SFDW) pilot programme which was designed to help them overcome their fear of new digital platforms.

Trainees were shown how to use digital platforms and applications like Parking.sg, ePayment methods like PayNow, Internet banking and other relevant business applications on Saturday (Oct 21) at the Republic Polytechnic (RP).

The programme, delivered by the NTUC LearningHub (LHUB), National Taxi Association (NTA) and RP, aspires to arm taxi drivers with practical and relevant skills to assist them in their daily work.

Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung joined the trainees as the RP's School of Infocomm Cyber Ambassadors guided the cabbies, whose average age was 62 years old.

Said LHUB chief executive office Kwek Kok Kwong: "Technology is always very threatening and frightening to some people. So what we try to do is to make the learning as experiential and as fun for the learners as possible."

Taxi driver Yeo Tong Chye, 69, said he did not know "heads or tails" when it comes to anything digital, until he attended the training programme on Saturday.

He had mostly used his seven-year-old mobile phone to send messages to colleagues in his Whatsapp chatgroup.

But he wants to change to adapt to the disruption faced by the taxi industry.

Said Mr Yeo, who has been a cabby since 1978: "At home, whenever I get stuck or don't understand some apps, I turn to my 12-year-old grandson. It's not that I can't learn but I'm only able to learn slowly."

NTA president Raymond Ong said taxi drivers are concerned that they may not be able to cope with technology.

Added Mr Raymond Ong: "Our objective here is to try to change their mindset... We must try to learn and accept new technologies so that we can enhance productivity as well as enhance our income."

He said the association intends to start a "buddy system" involving younger or tech savvy cabbies teaching and guiding older ones on how to embrace digital technology.

The taxi industry, among many other industries, is undergoing rapid change due to changes brought about by technology.

The Straits Times had reported in July (2017) that the industry saw a 10 per cent drop in business after ride-hailing apps Uber and Grab arrived here in 2013.

According to 2016 figures, there are 25,000 active taxi drivers in Singapore, with half aged 55 and above. That same year the number of private rental vehicles - used by Uber and Grab drivers - soared to over 60,000.

LHUB aims to train another 1,000 taxi drivers in 2018. The course curriculum will include 10 hours of classroom sessions and two hours of off-site learning.

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