COS 2022: Government Tele-services

MP Pritam Singh

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied): Chairman, in spite of the greater use of smartphones and the evolution towards digitalisation, many, especially seniors, still prefer speaking to a physical individual at the end of a phone line as compared to a bot or an AI-inspired solution. A 2020 study supported by the National Medical Research Council showed that 78% of elderly respondents were uncomfortable with AI interpreting their medical data and providing automated advice. 

This has to be seen within a wider backdrop of still relatively low Internet usership amongst the elderly. A 2019 IMDA survey showed that only 58% of seniors above 60 are Internet users as compared to 89% of the general population. 

The Seniors Go Digital initiative that was launched in 2020 help provide seniors with basic Internet skills to access Government e-services. The recent spate of banking scams may have also had a psychological impact among some of our elderly with respect to the security of online or electronic services. Only last week, the Singapore Police Force said that a new Singpass QR code scam had surfaced, in which victims are asked to fill out surveys in exchange for monetary reward.

Greater public education can go some way to ameliorate these hazards but these scams or security loopholes raise the importance of the availability of alternative channels such as the maintenance of reliable hotlines to assure our seniors that access to Government services remain available to them even if they are not online or to seek clarifications promptly.

At the same time, occasional feedback still highlights the trouble people face in getting through Government hotlines. An example was in September 2021 when the SAF was roped in to help deal with calls to MOH as some COVID-19 positive Singaporeans could not secure conveyance to a recovery facility in time. Similar concerns were highlighted during the circuit breaker in 2020 when there was much confusion from businesses about the status of their foreign workers.

What lessons have been learnt from these episodes? And is there a plan to beef up tele-services in spite of this age of digitalisation for better citizen-to-state contact?

Prime Minister’s Office
2 March 2022

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