Dear A.S.S. Editors,

All about the craze of becoming a Smart Nation is making me mad.

Well not entirely. But a facet of it. Which is – cashless top up machines for train rides.

Yeah, you may say that we have three years’ time to adapt and learn how to up our fare cards cashless-ly, but have you ever think more in depth?

Well I’m not here to condemn the Smart Nation plan. It’s good generally, catching up with the times and all that. I read in the newspapers that via scanning QR codes is commonplace in China, be it for food or for
services. But really, that doesn’t mean that we have to emulate them. That doesn’t mean China is ahead of us and we are lagging behind.

The technology is here already. In the App store. All it takes is a download and setting up a bill account. So we must understand first – why aren’t Singaporeans as acute as the Chinese in embracing this kind of cashless ideology?

Look into our schools. Students pay their food during recess time with cash. Hard cash. Not via Nets Flashpay or mobile apps (except for those with financial assistance because they are given pocket money in their concession cards by the school). And polytechnics.

Also, children are taught in school about the concept of money. About calculating change, about how to convert dollars to cents and vice versa, about expressing, say, $5 into other denominations. There’s even a PSLE maths question about the weight of 50-cents coins.

And now, a Smart Nation. It becomes a hot topic after the National Day rally. It’s so ironic. Are we implying to our children that cash is going to be archaic soon? Then why the heck are schools teaching them how to solve maths questions involving money? Really, what’s the point when they will be using apps to pay? Will the Ministry of Education tweak the stodgy curriculum?

Back to China. Does China have an ageing population like Singapore? Get the facts right. China is not equal to Singapore. China is kind of boastful. They may know how to utilise technology more than us but are they first-class in everything? Singapore in many ways is better than China. Lower crime rates. Lesser air pollution.

Ultimately, a Smart Nation must be smart in both its ‘hardware’ and ‘software’. A Smart Nation isn’t smart when you still see adults hogging the seats, staring at their phones, refusing to give up seats to the needy. A Smart Nation isn’t smart when there is still kiasu-ism, people queueing up so early to get freebies, and parents sending their children to tuition centres.

Re-define what a Smart Nation is. Make it uniquely Singaporean. Stop comparing us to China. Stop commenting in the news how China is doing this, doing that. It’s like a lion being jealous of a dragon. True, a dragon is way bigger than a lion. But the lion is the king of the jungle.

A.S.S. Contributor

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