Age no barrier for hawkers going digital

Seniors among 5,400 stallholders who have adopted e-payments in their businesses

Hawker Lee Fook Choi encourages his customers to go cashless when paying for the herbal tea at his stall, noting how they would not need to look for small change if they simply scanned the QR code on the wall.

Just a month ago, however, the 75-year-old, who has had a stall at Chinatown Complex Food Centre for the past four decades, did not even know it was possible to receive payments in this manner.

"I use my phone to stay in touch with my friends on WhatsApp and to make calls, but I didn't know that the phone can do so much more," he said in Mandarin.

"Old people like me have to be taught how to do these things."

Mr Lee learnt about the system when digital ambassadors stopped by his stall to promote its use, as part of the Government's broad digitalisation efforts under the Hawkers Go Digital scheme.

Launched in June, the scheme aims to help Singapore's 18,000 stallholders in wet markets and hawker centres adopt the unified Singapore Quick Response Code (SGQR) e-payment solution by the middle of next year.

The SGQR, introduced in September 2018, is a single QR code that combines multiple e-payment solutions into one.

Hawkers who sign up for SGQR under the scheme are eligible for a bonus of $300 a month - up to a cumulative $1,500 - if they log at least 20 transactions of more than $1 each in a month.

Transactions under this initiative must be completed by May 31 next year.

Mr Lee is among the 1,900 stallholders who have gone digital with e-payments over the past two months, bringing the total in Singapore to 5,400.

He said: "People think seniors are not open to new technology, but that's not true. We just don't understand how these things work. But as long as someone shows us, we're open to learning."

Plans are under way to educate seniors on digital devices and applications at SG Digital community hubs islandwide.

IT'S CATCHING ON

Last year, most of my customers who used it were from China. Singaporeans always tend to use cash, but now the younger ones know how to use the system.

MR LIM SIEW LEONG, 73, who runs a porridge stall also in Chinatown Complex Food Centre and is an early adopter of the SGQR e-payment solution. 

GUIDANCE NEEDED

I use my phone to stay in touch with my friends on WhatsApp and to make calls, but I didn't know that the phone can do so much more. Old people like me have to be taught how to do these things.

MR LEE FOOK CHOI, 75, who has had a herbal tea stall at Chinatown Complex Food Centre for four decades.

At these hubs in community centres and public libraries, residents can learn how to use common mobile apps such as WhatsApp and SingPass Mobile in one-to-one sessions with digital ambassadors.

Mr Lim Siew Leong, 73, who runs a porridge stall in Chinatown Complex Food Centre, was one of the early adopters of the SGQR solution, having had it set up since December 2018.

He has seen a noticeable change in recent months. More Singaporeans are using it to make payments, he said.

"Last year, most of my customers who used it were from China.

"Singaporeans always tend to use cash, but now the younger ones know how to use the system," he said in Mandarin.

China is known for being a cashless society, with large segments of the population preferring to use digital payment systems.

Mr Lim added: "I tell my senior customers to try it out as well, but they either do not have devices that can scan QR codes, or their phones are not linked to their bank accounts."

Still, the recent rise in cashless transactions at his stall is encouraging. From getting a handful of cashless transactions every couple of months last year, he has been logging more than 20 such transactions each month this year.

"It's convenient for everyone. I can see all the transactions coming in at one go too," he said.

The Government has ramped up efforts this year to promote digitalisation amid the economic and social disruption brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

They include helping stallholders to minimise physical interaction with customers and the handling of cash.