Singtel unveils community care package to foster digital inclusion

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Singtel has announced a community care package to foster digital inclusion and close the digital gaps that have become pronounced since the onset of COVID-19.

This comes in the form of a digitalisation initiative that is aimed at two groups – senior citizens and traditional SMEs, which have found it particularly challenging to go digital in recent months.

This S$3 million initiative is Singtel’s second community care package since the COVID-19 outbreak. In April, a S$2 million donation was made to help vulnerable groups in the community, frontline healthcare workers and volunteers.

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Singtel’s digitalisation initiative will see Senior Activity Centres islandwide transformed into digital hubs where infocomm is integrated as a tool to promote active ageing. Through digital clinics and one-to-one tutorials run by Singtel volunteers, more than S$1 million worth of assistance will go to helping more than 10,000 seniors pick up basic skills like using smart devices, surfing the internet, staying in touch with loved ones online and using digital payments safely. On the SME front, Singtel will launch the “Let’s Get Digital” initiative to help SMEs accelerate their digital transformation. Backed by more than S$2 million in investment in technological platforms and expertise, over 6,000 SMEs will get support in the form of digital consultations, solutions and grants to help them adapt to the fast changing digital economy.

Chua Sock Koong, Singtel’s Group CEO, said, “The pandemic has seen a nationwide rush online but some sectors of society are still playing catch-up, perhaps none more so than the older generation, many of whom may not have access to digital devices like a smart phone nor high-speed internet connections. SMEs without a digital presence have also found it challenging to shift their operations and transactions online. We hope that our digital inclusion initiative will help more seniors plug in and achieve a sense of autonomy and better quality of life. We also hope to give SMEs, the bedrock of our economy, a hand in starting their digitalisation and innovation journeys.”

Empowering seniors to go digital

Many seniors, especially those living on their own, have had few opportunities for social interaction due to COVID-19. To ease their social isolation, Singtel is partnering various social services agencies to sponsor upgrades at Senior Activity Centres. These upgrades include Wifi connections, Singtel TV ethnic content (Chinese, Malay and Indian) and tablets to facilitate virtual engagement. The upgrades start with the Thye Hua Kwan and NTUC Health Senior Activity Centres and will gradually roll out to more centres over a two-year period.

With many seniors still preferring in-person interactions, the centres will serve as an important springboard to help them build confidence in using digital devices and going online with the support of Singtel volunteers during hands-on weekly sessions.

They can then progress to virtual engagement activities and digital buddying, where Singtel volunteers, via web calls, continue to help them embrace technology. Additionally, Singtel is also offering weekly Silver Workshops at all Singtel Shops before opening hours. These one-on-one sessions with Singtel staff are an opportunity for seniors to pick up basic digital knowledge such as using a smartphone.

Chua added, “Prior to the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon for seniors to rely on the goodwill of family and friends for picking up and learning digital skills but these past months of partial lockdowns and movement restrictions have made it more difficult for seniors to even get this kind of ad hoc support. Our initiative will hopefully see the older generation reap the benefits of going digital on a more formal and sustainable basis so no one is left behind as Singapore presses on towards becoming a Smart Nation.”

Jason Lee, Chief Operating Officer of Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities said, “Technology is an important aid for seniors to stay active as they age. We are intensifying efforts to encourage seniors to come to the centres to learn digital skills that are useful for their day-to-day activities and we are happy to have Singtel’s support, especially since many group activities have been scaled down or stopped due to COVID-19. The weekly hands-on sessions conducted by Singtel volunteers make such learning fun and easy for seniors who enjoy the social interactions and the chance to pick up a new skill at their own pace.”

Jeannie Ho, Head of NTUC Health’s Senior Cluster Network said, “These past months of social distancing have shown how hard it is for seniors to stay connected to family and friends, especially if they haven’t learnt to use the computer or the internet. Many are fearful of technology, while some have difficulties affording the devices and monthly internet and phone bills. Singtel’s programme to help seniors become more tech savvy is timely and will empower them to stay connected and active within the community.”

Embracing digital payments in daily life

Singtel is teaming up with various government agencies on programmes to encourage the adoption of digital payments. Together with IMDA, Singtel volunteers will conduct digital payment workshops that cover payment terminology, payment wallet options and online safety to help seniors overcome their anxieties about new payment technologies.

There will also be hands-on sessions at supermarkets and hawker centres to familiarise seniors with making cashless payments for daily necessities and food. In line with the government’s initiative to roll out digital payment capabilities across hawker centres and markets, Singtel will run campaigns to encourage the public to embrace digital payments as a safe payment option when dining at hawkers and coffee shops and at the same time, also accustom hawkers to accept contactless payment options.

Giving SMEs the confidence to go digital

A recent study by Singtel found that seven in 10 SMEs in Singapore are planning to expand their business in the next three years and 89% see investment in technology as a way to improve their competitiveness and sustainability, despite lowered revenue expectations in 2020 due to COVID-19. However, the study also found that SMEs have not acted on their digitalisation plans as they are intimidated by the prospect of investment costs (44%), upskilling and training staff (38%) and implementing and maintaining new systems (30%).

To address these concerns and help SMEs take that first step towards business transformation, Singtel is introducing the “Let’s Get Digital” initiative to guide them through the process of digitalisation.

Open to all SMEs in Singapore for an initial one-year period, SMEs can seek advice on how to select and implement suitable digital solutions based on their requirements. They will also have access to many other Singtel resources such as monthly webinars and one-on-one digital clinics as well as business grants from government for digital solutions.

Chua added, “We understand why SMEs have hesitated about going digital. The lack of know-how and questions over implementation and costs may seem daunting but it’s critical they take the first step as the shift towards digital tools and channels that we have seen among consumers will be here to stay even post-COVID. As their long-time communications partner, we want to give them the confidence to make the pivot, so their businesses can emerge more agile, efficient and better positioned for the digital economy.”