The Big Read: As banks go big on digital banking, spare a thought for seniors left behind

The Big Read: As banks go big on digital banking, spare a thought for seniors left behind

A better way to approach this is to shift the onus to institutions, including banks, that are trying to digitalise, said Asst Prof Ang.

These institutions should bear the responsibility of minimising the burden that they impose on their most vulnerable users when implementing digital tools, whether it has to do with design, accessibility, cost, privacy, or the need to re-learn processes, he added.

“There must be mechanisms to enforce, compel, or incentivise institutions to be inclusive in their efforts to digitalise — institutions especially vital ones dealing with banking, health, and housing should not be able to get away with reaping the benefits of digitalisation while passing on the costs to vulnerable groups,” he said.

“At a minimum, this would mean ensuring proper pre-implementation research is done to see how specific digital tools may help or hinder older adults in their everyday lives. We seem to do this for the environment, why not for people as well?”    


The digital divide —  which has left many seniors getting the short end of the stick — has long been a subject of national concern.     

In 2020, then-Nominated Member of Parliament (MP) Anthea Ong said in an adjournment motion speech that there is an urgent priority to close this divide as more needs to be done to help “digital outcasts”, such as seniors and people with disabilities. 

In response to Ms Ong’s speech, then-Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran stressed that digital inclusion has been “at the heart of the Government’s national digitalisation effort”. 

Mr Iswaran said digital readiness is not just about hardware and connectivity, but also about the literacy and skills to derive its full benefit. 

That is why the Government has rolled out initiatives such as the Silver Infocomm Initiative, launched back in 2007, which provides a range of programmes for seniors at different levels of digital skills and in vernacular languages to meet their needs. 

On Friday (Jan 20), Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo told reporters that the Government is looking at ways to enhance digital inclusion and is in the process of consulting stakeholders.

“This will, of course, include groups that work with different communities on the ground so that we get a better sense of what more we can do to strengthen digital inclusion,” she said in Davos where she was attending the World Economic Forum.

She reiterated that a priority of the Government is on building skills and capabilities so that people can get the best out of their digital engagements. 

“It’s how people can navigate the digital world with a sense of confidence. And confidence comes from skills,” she said.

“How can we build this up and do so in a manner that doesn’t rely only on the public sector’s efforts?”