The biggest news last week was no doubt PM’s National Day Rally. The amazing thing was, for a rally that offered no freebies unlike previous years, this year’s rally sure stirred up the mud in the water.
The buzzword? “Smart Nation”.
At the centre of the Smart Nation debate was the issue of cashless payment; compounded with LTA’s announcement that the new MRT lines will do away with cash top-up machines for EZ-Link cards, the city was abuzz with arguments for and against.
As usual, those against this initiative argued that there will be segments of people who would be left behind. The elderly, the poor etc.
To me, it was the usual office politics, magnified at a national level.
How many times have the IT department of a company decide to roll out a new initiative, like scanning of class atten1dance, or use of a new document sharing system, only to be resisted by certain groups of people11?
The reason of resistance?
“We have to cater for the ones who are not familiar with technology”.
For example, I know of organisations who pushed back against digitising of course notes, because they were concerned that learners who do not have access to PCs/mobile phones (surprise!) or data plans would be left out.
Instead of thinking of ways to empower those who would potentially be left out, the decision was made to stay status quo in order not to marginalise people.
In other words, those who resist the idea of a Smart Nation wants the nation to stop this progression for the sake of the slow-movers, rather than to insist the slow-movers pull up their socks and move ahead with the others.
Call me cold, but I think it is more important for Singapore to stay competitive than to be complacent for the sake of those who refuse to move with the times.
Singapore has zero natural resources and there are more and more cities / countries that have the capabilities to take over us. There should not even be a choice on whether to stay or to move forward.
We have to move forward.
Yes, the government may have to think of ways to empower those who might be left behind (for eg, poor people who do not even have enough money to set up a bank account, much less have the ability to make cashless payments), but we have to put our foot down and insist the other party, those who have the means to move forward but who wants to stay complacent, to move with the times.
The voices (I would love to call those whines, but then, I have to be politically correct) of those resistors are worrying, because if these non-progressive voices win, it means the future of Singapore will be lost. And the existence of such voices is cancerous to Singapore, hindering our progress and everyone else’s ability to live in the high quality of living as we enjoy today.
On a side note, I think there was a worthy point about the main stumbling block for a transition towards a cashless nation: People who choose to make cashless payments are actually penalised via a surcharge, compared to those who make cash payments.