Digital Ambassadors: The Right Way and the Wrong Way
What Singapore is doing and What Italy is not
To ensure no one gets left behind as Singapore becomes more digitally connected, the government will be setting up a new digitalization office to double down on outreach efforts to the hardest-to-reach segments of society and encourage them to adopt digital tools. The digital ambassadors will start their efforts by covering all 112 hawker centers and wet markets with a one-year temporary contract.
The aim is to intensify outreach efforts and encourage stallholders to adopt e-payment and avoid having to handle cash. By March next year, they should have reached out to 100,000 seniors, teaching them basic digital skills like how to buy things online and how to use smartphone apps to communicate with their friends and family.
The 1,000 digital ambassadors that will be hired this month to help stallholders and seniors learn digital skills will be paid between $1,800 and $2,100, according to multiple job listings for the role seen by Straits Times Singapore.
These ambassadors, who will come under a new office to drive digitalization nationwide and reach out to senior hawkers will be hired under this contract as indicated on the government’s Careers @ Gov website.
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Ministry of Communications and Information said that these digital ambassadors will consist of a mix of volunteers as well as staff who will be hired for this role.
The Singapore SG Digital Office (SDO) will prioritize their recruitment from graduating cohorts of institutes of higher learning in Singapore, who have been reported to be having trouble finding jobs in the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A comparison with a similar but negative Italian version
This amazing article (for its social value) written by H. Baharudin and published by the Singapore Straits Times has been compared to an initiative taken by the Italian government on a different basis and has been bitterly criticized and foreseen to be a failure.
The decree: A proposal by the Minister for Autonomies, Francesco Boccia, announced the recruitment of 60,000 Civic Assistants (CA). It should concern unemployed people or those who are granted a citizenship income.
This is voluntary work coordinated by the civil protection or the State, says the decree, directed to “flow controllers” on buses and subways in large Italian cities where high coordination may be required to avoid chaos at bus stops or metro stations. It is thought to gather 60,000 available volunteers in the national territory.
It is assumed that the civic assistants may get an expenses refund, but modalities and the amount is not clear yet. News about it will come soon, even if the date regarding the release is not certain.
The negative reactions
The new decree generated a negative reaction considered absurd and reminiscent of fascist times in Italy.
One of the sharpest criticisms on the role of civic assistants came from Mr. Vincenzo De Luca, President of the Campania region (chief town Naples) intervening in RaiTre (a TV state channel) program “Waiting for the Words.”
He remarked sarcastically: “Civic assistants will do spiritual exercises! The government opens our hearts to hopes and in fact has decided on an extraordinary mystical operation counting on 60.000 volunteer assistants. We can console ourselves.”
De Luca asked the government about the hiring project of 60,000 unemployed: What should they do? Can they fine those who do not wear the mandatory mask? The reply was “no.” Fine those who do not keep the tables spaced out at restaurants? “No.” Can they control the nightlife or regulate the traffic? “No.” So, we ask ourselves: What should they do? We have been told that they can do “moral suasion.” That is, the C.A. will practice “spiritual exercises.”
“We will, therefore, see 60,000 people walking around the alleys, in the markets, among the fruit vendor stands wearing the habit with the words ‘repent, it is your fault.’
“We,” continued De Luca, “also asked if the C.A. have been trained to do the moral suasion? “No.” De Luca concluded: They (C.A.) have been trained in the nothing school and will be called to do nothing.
After 8 centuries, the disciples of Ubertino da Casale and Jacopone da Todi (The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Christian Mysticism) will go around our historical centers to bring the good news and to do moral suasion.
I only hope that they don’t knock on our doors at 3 p.m. when some of us are having a half-hour nap to refresh the many tensions that come to us from Rome. The President concluded: “Sometimes we wander if the only serious thing in this country (Italy) is the cabaret.”