Singapore is moving a positive step towards a smart nation and enabling Singaporeans to become digital citizens but a key question remains – what will really spark the rapid adoption of digital payments? Under Singapore’s Smart Nation plans, a key national strategic project is the advocacy of e-payments in the ambition towards a cashless society, marked by simple, quick and safe digital payments between individuals and organisations.
Singapore still lags behind other cities in e-payments, with six in 10 transactions in Singapore involving cash and cheques. The fragmented e-payment systems need to be streamlined, given that there are too many different e-payment options available that do not work together. While various e-payment vendors such as Singtel/Razer, GrabPay, DBS PayLah!, Apple Pay offer consumers a variety of cashless options, it is a double-edged sword.
Not surprisingly, e-payments can be a victim of its own early success, with consumers increasingly finding themselves spoilt for choice. Confused with the variety of e-payment options, many revert to the most familiar form of payment – cash. In order to drive the push towards digital payments, vendors need to steer their innovation towards addressing the end goal of achieving a cashless society in unison, rather than trying to outdo their competitors. A unified, ubiquitous e-payment network is thus needed, along with a framework for implementation and greater governance.
Beyond this, a renewed effort to shift mindsets around cashless payments is essential if we are to fully realise the goal of a cashless society. While incentives such as discounts and cash rebates can help entice vendors and consumers to adopt cashless payments, greater education is needed to raise awareness among consumers on the benefits of e-payments and to boost adoption among citizens, young and old, through a unified e-payment system.
While cash is still largely king, its position will become increasingly displaced as the e-payments ecosystem continues to converge. For this to happen, the key question for e-payments should not be a matter of “who”, but “how”.
The writer is Victor Wong, Project Director, ConnecTechAsia2018, UBM.
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