Singapore lags behind other countries in e-payment
MAS working to simplify and integrate electronic payment schemes
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say was queueing up to buy chestnuts at a street stall in Shanghai when he saw people in front of him waving their phones, taking their chestnuts and leaving without paying.
Mr Lim thought it was a special deal, he told the hawker he did not need it and would pay the full price in cash.
Then he realised that the customers were snapping a QR code provided by the hawker to use mobile payment service WeChat Pay.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's anecdote of this "suaku" (country bumpkin in Hokkien) incident drew laughs at the National Day Rally yesterday.
Electronic payment was highlighted as an area that Singapore still lags in despite having the "right ingredients" in our Smart Nation initiative.
In Singapore, six in 10 transactions are still carried out with cash or cheque.
There are currently too many different systems of e-payment in Singapore, said Mr Lee.
"People have to carry multiple cards, and businesses must install multiple readers. This is inconvenient for consumers, and it is costly for businesses."
To deal with this, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has been "working hard" to simplify and integrate our systems, he said .
For instance, MAS and the banks recently introduced PayNow, which allows for the easy transfer of money to accounts across different banks using registered mobile or NRIC numbers.
Using QR codes to transfer money will be introduced soon, said Mr Lee, adding that he will look forward to using PayNow to buy a meal at a hawker centre. (See report on right.)
Another major Smart Nation initiative is the building of an integrated national sensor network.
This involves making "every lamp post a smart lamp post" by mounting different types of sensors on them, installing more closed-circuit television cameras and combining data from different sources - police, Land Transport Authority, hotels and commercial buildings, and mobile phones - to flag any unusual activities.
Mr Lee also highlighted smaller projects that can solve daily problems.
For instance, replacing parking coupons with an app called parking.sg.
With parking.sg, drivers can pay by the minute using a credit or debit card, and can choose to extend a parking session remotely.
It will be officially launched in October.
The Smart Nation is for all ages, Mr Lee said.
For example, schools are teaching students basic computing and robotics, new jobs for engineers; programmers, data analysts, technicians will be created; and start-ups such as Homage will connect professional caregivers with senior citizens who need help.
Highlighting the story of Mr Tariam Singh, 70, a volunteer Silver Infocomm Wellness Ambassador who helps other seniors learn new information technology skills, Mr Lee said this is how Singapore will become a Smart Nation together. (See report below.)
"By taking the initiative to improve ourselves, by helping others and bettering all our lives. By looking towards the future and making Singapore a happening place where people love to live," he added.
National University of Singapore Business School's Associate Professor of marketing Chu Junhongsaid that while the Republic is ready to embrace the Smart Nation initiative, it is still lagging behind.
She called for more to be done to encourage adoption and usage of initiatives like e-payment by offering monetary incentives, and promoting these services as well as the use of QR codes for payment as being more efficient.
Citing China as an example, Prof Chu said: "Once used to the convenience of e-payment, Chinese consumers take it for granted that all merchants should accept it, which forces merchants - big or small - to accept e-payments."
Pay with QR codes at hawker centres
In the push towards cashless payments at hawker centres, the National Environment Agency, Spring Singapore and the Monetary Authority Singapore are exploring how to reduce the cost of digital-service systems.
QR codes is one such method, Senior Minister of State (Trade and Industry) Sim Ann told Parliament in May.
About 90 per cent of consumer transactions at hawker centres and wet markets involve cash, consulting firm KPMG Advisory said last year.
In May, DBS Bank launched a programme to recruit up to 1,000 ambassadors to encourage small cash-based merchants, including hawkers, to adopt DBS PayLah QR codes as a payment method.
Pay with cards on public transport
Account-Based Ticketing (ABT) - which allows commuters to pay by contactless bank cards that do not require top-up - has been piloted with Mastercard since March.
Participation in the ABT pilot has grown to more than 100,000, and other payment schemes may be added.
The Land Transport Authority said this month that it will gradually remove cash top-up services at passenger service centres in MRT stations by 2020. - LINETTE HENG