SINGAPORE - From July, low-income seniors will be able to sign up for affordable one-year mobile data plans that cost as little as $5 per month for 5GB, as part of a national initiative to get them connected online.
Basic smartphones starting at $20 will be bundled with the mobile plans under the Mobile Access for Seniors scheme, which was announced on Monday (June 29) by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
There will also be no excess data charges, and surfing speeds will be throttled should seniors inadvertently exceed their data limits.
The plans will be offered by Singtel, StarHub, M1 and TPG Telecom. Seniors have to be aged 60 and above, and be receiving Comcare assistance or be living in HDB Public Rental Scheme housing, to qualify for the scheme.
"Seniors worry about the knowledge part (when going digital) - 'who can help me?' Another major concern they have is about cost, and I think this subsidised plan addresses that concern," said Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran on Monday in unveiling the plans.
He added that the absence of excess data charges is an "important source of reassurance" for seniors that they are not going to be "shocked by a bill" that exceeds what they are committed to.
Eligible seniors can register their interest for the mobile plans with Seniors Go Digital digital ambassadors after they have attended digital literacy programmes and acquired at least one basic digital skill, such as learning how to use messaging apps like WhatsApp, or scan QR codes.
Separately, the four telcos, along with virtual telco Circles.Life, are also launching low-cost mobile plans available to all seniors.
For example, StarHub's four plans include SIM-only plans with 5GB or 30GB of monthly mobile data for $8 or $20 respectively.
The other two, which come with a bundled smartphone, are priced at $40 or $60 per month for 15GB or 40GB mobile data respectively over two years. Customers can sign up for these plans from Monday at all StarHub outlets.
Meanwhile, M1 is offering a 25 per cent discount on its regular device and SIM-only plans for seniors, along with three-month complimentary access to streaming services Viu Premium and TVBAnywhere+. This means, for instance, that its $25 SIM-only plan with 30GB monthly mobile data will cost $18.75 for seniors. The plans will be available for sign-up on July 24.
Singtel said it will launch its plans in July, which will come with data-free messaging on WhatsApp among other perks. It will also hold Seniors Go Digital workshops at eight outlets across the island to give seniors personalised assistance. These will be held at 9am to 11am, two hours before the outlets open.
The new Mobile Access for Seniors scheme augments broad-ranging outreach efforts under the Singapore Digitalisation Office (SDO) formed last month, including the Seniors Go Digital movement that aims to reach 100,000 seniors by the end of this year.
This SDO will recruit 1,000 digital ambassadors by the end of this month to help seniors as well as stallholders at hawker centres and wet markets to learn how to use digital tools.
These ambassadors have reached all 112 of Singapore's hawker centres this month, and around 500 coffee shops, Mr Iswaran noted.
"What we have now is a truly national digital movement, in terms of its reach, and the inclusiveness, involvement and participation in the effort," said Mr Iswaran.
"There aren't many countries in the world that are doing this kind of effort, where we are actually going to almost the very extremes of our society in order to make digital adoption pervasive."
The IMDA also announced that it has received a $1 million donation from technology and manufacturing firm ST Engineering for its digital access programmes such as Mobile Access for Seniors.
The donation is the largest single contribution to IMDA's digital access programmes to date and is expected to support 4,500 beneficiaries over the next 12 months.