Singapore sets up new office to drive national digital efforts

Country's SG Digital Office has been tasked with driving digital transformation and adoption across the local community, including the elderly and traditional business segments such as hawker centres.

Singapore has established a new office to drive digital transformation and adoption across the local community, including businesses and residents such as the elderly. To kick off such efforts, some 1,000 "digital ambassadors" will be recruited to help stallholders and seniors go digital, including stall owners in hawker centres, wet markets, coffee shops, and industrial canteens.

Parked under industry regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the new SG Digital Office has been set up to "drive the government's concerted new push" to accelerate digital adoption as Singapore looks to begin its economic recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic

Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran said: "COVID-19 has irrevocably changed the way we lead our lives. While some of us have been able to make the necessary adjustments to work, learn, or socialise from our homes because we are digitally connected, that is not the case for some of the elderly and vulnerable amongst us. 

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"Their lives can be better if they too are as digitally connected," he said, noting that digitalisation now was both an imperative and opportunity. "We are seizing the moment by establishing the new SG Digital Office and doubling down on our efforts to help every individual, worker, and business go digital."

Iswaran said the new office would work alongside the community, corporate entities, and individuals, to push "Singapore's national digitalisation movement".

The 1,000 digital ambassadors, comprised of full-time employees and volunteers, will be deployed by the end of this month and work with businesses and community groups to engage the target groups over the next few years. These individuals are expected to provide frontline, personalised one-on-one, and small group support for the targeted users.

To start off, the digital ambassadors in June 2020 will make their way to all 112 hawker centres and wet markets across the island, and champion the adoption of SGQR codes for e-payment. This will be expanded next month to include coffee shops and industrial canteens. 

The Singapore Digital Office said it was targeting to engage 18,000 stallholders within the next year to get them onboard the national QR code e-payment system.

In addition, IMDA, National Environment Agency, Jurong Town Corporation, Housing Development Board, and Enterprise Singapore will provide a bonus of SG$300 ($211.5) per month over five months to encourage more stallholders at these dining facilities to use e-payments. 

The funds are part of the Singapore government's announcement last week to set aside more than SG$500 million ($352.49 million) to support local businesses in their digital transformation efforts, as they deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. Specifically, the funds will go towards facilitating companies in their adoption of e-payments, e-invoicing, as well as more advanced digital tools. 

The digital ambassadors are also looking to engage 100,000 seniors by March 2021, up from the current annual target of 10,000 seniors, through one-to-one skilling efforts. "We want to quickly include our seniors in these digital efforts, so that they can join other citizens in communicating and transacting digitally," said the Singapore Digital Office, adding that seniors from lower-income households will be offered financial support to acquire the necessary devices to go digital.

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