Retention of manual payment methods (PQ Reply by Minister Josephine Teo)
Retention of manual payment methods for seniors
Fourteenth Parliament of Singapore – First Session for the Sitting on 29 November 2022
Mr Yip Hon Weng asked the Prime Minister with the recent update that 99% of all Government transactions can now be done digitally (a) how will the Government ensure that there remains manual payment methods for seniors who have difficulties with digital payments; and (b) with constant threats from increasingly sophisticated cyber scams, whether such total digitalisation will put our seniors at greater risk of scams.
Written answer by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation and Cybersecurity (for the Prime Minister)
The Government serves a wide range of citizens. As more of them use and enjoy the benefits of digital tools in their daily lives, our services must also strive to offer comparable user experiences. This is a key impetus for government agencies to digitalise many transactions with citizens.
By and large, digitalised services have brought added convenience to the public as more transactions can be completed anytime, anywhere. Nonetheless, we recognise the need to support those who are not ready or unable to use digital services. Most government agencies provide in-person over-the-counter support or contact centre services to assist them. We have also set up ServiceSG centres where officers can guide and help citizens complete frequently used government services across 20 agencies.
In addition, we recognise the need for continued availability of non-digital options for services that seniors regularly access. For example, physical CDC vouchers can be printed at community clubs and used for payment to participating merchants. In healthcare, patients at the 14 public hospitals continue to be able to make cash or NETS payment over the counter, even as digital options have become more widely used. Most also offer additional payment options, such as through 7-Eleven retail outlets, post offices, SAM or AXS kiosks.
Like the Member, we are concerned about the increased threats of scams. It is not only seniors who are scammed; victims come from all age groups. Scam tactics also vary and do not always rely on digital means.
The Government cannot realistically prevent citizens from falling prey to scams by avoiding digital services for public-sector transactions, when so many of the transactions in their private lives have gone digital. We can instead seek to raise the level of security to make it harder for scammers to succeed. For example, with scams perpetrated through calls and SMSes, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean explained during the Parliament Sitting of July 2022 the comprehensive set of measures to strengthen backend prevention, detection and mitigation measures that Government is implementing.
Public education is another critical plank of our anti-scam measures. For seniors in particular, the Singapore Police Force works with various stakeholders like Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) and RSVP Singapore to implement targeted programmes. The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA)’s SG Cyber Safe Seniors Programme also raises awareness and drives adoption of cyber hygiene practices amongst seniors. It has engaged more than 45,000 seniors since its launch; Programmes are also regularly reviewed and updated to ensure their relevance.