Community Series #7 - Digital Inclusion

13 Nov 2019

Cognizant:    Download all slides here  |  View video here
Panel: View video here


A Smart Nation is a Caring Nation – the foundation on which Cognizant has built its outreach in Singapore, and a reminder that technologies are meant to help and not harm us.

Here are some of interesting questions and responses we picked out from panelists United Overseas Bank (UOB), Info-Communications and Media Development Authority (IMDA), and Singapore Pools (Pools) during the 7th Community Series:

Question: In Singapore’s push to be a Smart Nation, who are the pockets of people who may be left out, and what are the real issues faced?

IMDA: I think when we talk about being excluded, there are two parts to it. One is being excluded in terms of devices and tools to do that, or digital access. The other one is that you have the tools, as we see in many of the seniors, but you don’t have the literacy, the knowledge, the skills to take advantage of the digital economy and the digital society.

For access, not having it is often related to financial debts and that’s where we have some schemes to close somebody’s financial gaps to give them the tools.

From our survey [on digital access], we’re at 98 percent in terms of broadband access. [On school-going children] to make sure that they are not left behind and are on equal playing field with their peers, we have kind of gone to close to 100 percent. So, it’s good, I think now the kids have that equal opportunity but what they do with it is the next set of question.

As you know, having the tools is not good enough. You have seen many seniors with iPads and the latest phones but just can’t take advantage of the opportunities. On [our survey about] internet usage, 87 percent of our population are able to go online [to use various services], but there’s quite a bit of gap in the age [of internet users]. You can see that 55 percent of those 60 years and above are online – meaning close to half of them are still not able to take advantage of their digital access.

I think the mindset is where we struggle the most. In fact, with the seniors, many of them – the 45% who are not online – say “there is no need to” [go online]”. For us we cannot live without it, but for them, they do struggle with the changes and that’s where some of our programmes will helping to build their confidence to come onboard. And really, I think it’s about helping them see that need, [such as to] to communicate with grandchildren and family members. Technology as we all know is a tool to get what we want. We just need to push on that need and to help them to see the benefits of getting onboard.

Question: How have various organisations enabled Singaporeans to benefit from new technologies?

Pools: At Singapore Pools, what we considered was, “do we have anything within our assets and capabilities that we can share to enable charities and non-profits?” Hence last year we launched our platform for good called iShine Cloud; it’s in partnership with National Council of Social Service (NCSS), but what powers it is Pools. This is a cloud-based platform for charities to do all their operations. We have now about 50 charities with almost 500 users onboard, and we can reach about 3,000 users in the next 1-2 years.

To maintain our gambling servers, we have three huge data centers in Singapore, so we use them to house all the charities’ information and they are all protected by our firewalls. Our people will also manage and provide whatever support their IT needs. Currently we have about 1.5 percent of our workforce whose focus is on helping the charities at iShine Cloud alone, [and with iShine Cloud expected to grow] we may have to increase these numbers. But I think from Pools’ standpoint we are very happy to see what we can do, in what we call our capital for purpose strategy, in terms of leveraging our assets for the good of these charities.

UOB: You know as technology advances there’s always going to be a group of customers that are inevitably left behind because they are either overwhelmed by the multiple solutions available, or they simply distrust all these technologies out there. So, I see it as a job to convince them that technology can benefit them and make their lives more convenient – such as connecting with their loved ones with Facebook or Whatsapp or doing banking transactions through PayNow. When you talk to some of them, they don’t even know their bank account [number].

So, what I realised is that for us to be more inclusive, our staff also need to be comfortable with our various technologies out there. They need to be firm believers first before they can actively promote to our customer as well. Because if it’s something our staff do not use, know nothing about and do not believe in, even if they do promote it, it will be done without a passion, and then customers will not be interested as well. To equip our staff with all these skills sets, we enroll our staff for courses like SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace and others provided under the Professional Conversion Program by WSG, [which is partially] funded by the government.

We also have a team of 30 digital advocates at our branches. They are deployed at various branches at our self-service machines because you will be surprised at the number of seniors that are not comfortable using machines. They rather spend half an hour just to queue up to have their transaction done over the counter when the transaction is as simple as a cash withdrawals. So what these digital advocates do is they guide our customers and tell or show them how easy it is to withdraw money from ATMs or even make transfers or even if they have questions on our mobile application, UOB Mighty.

On top of that, we also have quarterly digital clinics where seniors can come for advice on digital-related questions and I think this is done together with Cognizant and IMDA.

IMDA: We have an IT-enabled programme that reaches out to those with disabilities such as a new personal computer (PC) scheme which we give subsidised PCs to low-income students and to those with disabilities. Beyond funding, the other thing that we are working on with other partners is to promote the awareness on assistive technology. I think it’s amazing how technology will support those with disabilities to perform. Some of these features include accessibility features that help those with poor vision see better, and text-to-speech technology which is common in many of the devices you already have. The great thing is that some of these tools that traditionally support persons with disabilities can also benefit people like us who are ageing as well. Whether it is physical mobility or vision, hearing or anything like that – that is the power of technology that we have today.

But beyond what the government can do, I think what’s important is is how we can work together to bring that benefit to the community. We shared about the e-payment digital clinic where we work with UOB and Cognizant, bank and technology company and the government, coming together to bring the convenience of going online and joining digital payments to everyone in the streets so that’s just one of it. We have always been working with UOB on bringing digital payments to seniors with LTA (Land Transport Authority) where we help seniors learn how to top up their MRT card using the kiosk, and of course separately we have been working with Cognizant on other volunteering opportunities, so when they told us they wanted to do more, we just brought the two companies together and that was how the e-payment digital clinic came about.

It is amazing how our work has brought so much joy to the seniors on the ground. Like how UOB and Cognizant came to talk to us, like HP and many of you here, we started with that conversation and from there we grow ideas into projects and then look at how we can scale it into the communities. So, I think that is the value you can bring to the partners here – so we can then bring people together, make a project happen and target a particular community to help that company benefit from technology in a digital society.