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Smart Nation through Cashless Public Transport: convenience or increased dependency?

Opinion Singapore News /August 2017

With the announcement by Land Transport Authority (LTA) on August 11 on cashless public transportation payment system, Singapore is well on its way to building a smart nation. LTA announced that by 2020, all train and bus rides in Singapore will be paid for with cashless method for travel cards top-ups or through Account Based Ticketing (ABT).


In order to kickstart the transition, LTA and Transitlink are working together with rail operator to phase out top-up services at passager service centers starting in September 2017.The move is made to encourage using General Ticketing Machines (GMT) that has been installed with the credit card and mobile payment platforms. However, the move towards a smarter nation has raised several questions concerning the elderly, children and the less digital savvy. 


Regarding this matter, LTA ensured commuters that they would be implementing a progressive approach towards a cashless public transportation systems. To ensure a smooth transition, LTA and Transitlink will work together to station service agents around the train station on the 11 stations where the changes would be rolled out in September 2017.


Another underlying concern regarding the elderly and young-uns is related to increased dependency to the working population. For one, the elderlies that are less tech-savvy requires great help to actualize the benefit of a cashless payment system. At the same time, banks do not allow children under the age of 15 to open accounts. 


To maintain independence, LTA has promised to make cash options still available in convenience stores and other transport nodes. Additionally, LTA and TransitLink are working with agencies and grassroots organization to improve assistance in acquiring banking facilities where necessary. As for children, despite the age limitation, banks in Singapore are looking into allowing parents to open shared accounts with the children. Through this initiative, parents could track children expenses and conveniently manage allowance money.


To improve convenience for the young-uns, banks are staying relevant and innovative by looking into converting wearable smart devices (i.e. smart watches) to allow contactless payment system. This initiative is being rolled out in 19 primary schools and at selected retailers such as Cheers and Popular. With this initiative that was rolled out in February 2017, students can pay for canteen foods and books using their smartwatches. 


The question is not if the mobile transaction is implemented in gantries of public transport but when. When LTA and TransitLink further improve the integration of mobile payment system into gantries, concerns on increased dependency on parents is a minuscule problem compared to the increased convenience.


Thus, the initiative of a cashless public transportation system may receive initial reservations. However, in addressing these concerns, LTA and TransitLink have ensured an assisted progressive transition.

Additionally, with the increasing integration between technologies, new banking products, and innovation from the finance industries and technologies, a cashless public transportation is a step towards the right direction. The operational cost savings and manpower resources reallocation would contribute significantly to Singapore's growth in the future.


Source: Straits Times, Land Transport Authority, Channel News Asia