Since working as a Digital Ambassador in June, Latchothini Sivakumar, 19, has met many memorable seniors in the course of her work.
Said Latcho, “There was the 91-year-old lady who was all eager to learn about e-payment. She said to me that it’s not only youngsters who need to upgrade. Seniors need to be up-to-date too.”
Latcho has just graduated from the Institute of Technical Education where she studied infocomm technology.
She chose to become a Digital Ambassador because she has always volunteered to help and chat with seniors since her primary school days. “In a way, I specialise in engaging seniors and I have got the relevant experience,” she said.
Latcho also learns in the process. For instance, to help a senior use a NTUC Fairprice app, she downloaded it herself. While trying it out, she realized she could use the app to scan groceries at the supermarket and pay for it with her phone, without even having to queue.
“I’m not just teaching them, I learn with them in the process!” she said.
There are challenges. Sometimes, she encounters seniors who tell her the programme is useless, that her instructions are not good enough, or who insist that they are right and refuse to listen to her.
She mused: “I think patience is the topmost trait you need for this job. It is not easy teaching these seniors, you also need to have compassion for them and be loving. I just look at them as if they were my own grandfather or grandmother!”
In April this year, Sherance Chua, 29, was retrenched from her job as a sales co-ordinator at a business selling engineering spare parts.
She sent out her resume to over 50 companies. There were no replies.
Then someone told her about the new Digital Ambassador job, which is offered by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). She applied and was selected.
After a week of training in late June, she started work, which pays about 80 percent of her last-drawn salary.
What she does is to impart basic digital skills to seniors in one-to-one or small group settings, and coach hawkers in adopting e-payments for their businesses.
Clad in the Digital Ambassador uniform of a purple polo T-shirt and with her hair tied in a bun, Sherance revels in being able to chat to the seniors in Mandarin and English.
She said, “Unlike my sales job where I was very much facing a computer screen most of the time, I like being able to meet seniors, and I have met many new colleagues here.”
Joy Tan Xin Jie, 19, is a volunteer with Youth Corps Singapore.
She stumbled across the volunteer opportunity on the Youth Corps Singapore website, and decided to sign up.
“It aligns with what I do best, as using a phone can be considered my area of expertise!” said Joy, who is currently studying biotechnology at the Republic Polytechnic.
As a Digital Ambassador who often has to train seniors who do not speak English, Joy’s knowledge of Mandarin and dialects like Hokkien comes in handy.
To return to the home screen, for instance, she patiently tells them to “回家”, which means to “go home”.
Said Joy, who is clad in the red Youth Corps T-shirt rather than the purple Digital Ambassador uniform, “Some of the seniors who come here do not even know how to turn the phone on and off. It is cause for concern because we are living in a digital age. But their drive and spirit of learning is inspiring.”
In particular, she remembers a lady who even drew the icons on her notepad, so she would not forget which icon was for which function.
Helping seniors, providing opportunities for Singaporeans
Seniors Go Digital does not only benefit seniors, it has provided newly-created Digital Ambassador jobs to Singaporeans.
Since the job ads for digital ambassadors were run in late May, about 1,000 ambassadors have been recruited to teach digital skills to not only seniors, but also hawkers to adopt e-payment solutions under the Hawkers Go Digital programme.
Earning between $1,800 to $2,100, these ambassadors attend a week-long orientation programme before they start work.Youth volunteers from Youth Corps Singapore are supporting their efforts to upskill the seniors.