SINGAPORE – In June 2020, when there was progress in the nation’s Covid-19 pandemic fight, more than 5,000 migrant workers from dormitories were allowed to resume work. To play it safe, they had to use mobile applications to report their temperatures and prove that they were not infected.
But the instructions in the apps are in English, which most migrant workers are not familiar with.
“We sprang into action,” said Mrs Pratibha Kurnool who rallied her colleagues to create videos in Bengali, Tamil and Hindi on how to use these apps.
The Asia-Pacific outreach lead at Cognizant, an information technology company, who was given a Star Smart Nation Ambassador award on Friday (Jan 28), added: “There are so many applications with protocols specific to migrant workers. We saw a huge opportunity for us to bridge this technology gap.”
Mrs Kurnool, 45, and her team, in collaboration with the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group, spent three hectic days putting the videos together on how to use the TraceTogether, FWMOMCare (which monitors health status) and SGWorkPass apps. They have accumulated about 50,000 views on YouTube.
“We worked over the weekend, so many applications were being launched and everything was happening so fast,” said Mrs Kurnool, whose team faced challenges such as ensuring translations were accurate and comprehensive.
The team of 12 conducted digital clinics with migrant workers who were identified to be more technologically savvy. The sessions aimed to ensure that they could pick up knowledge from the videos and relay it to their colleagues.
“It was really important that the migrant workers truly understood how to use the applications – the community needs to be safe, they need to be safe.”
For her efforts to improve lives with technology, Mrs Kurnool, who is from India, was among four people who were honoured as Star Smart Nation Ambassadors at an appreciation event on Friday.
Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said Smart Nation Ambassadors (SNAs) each bring specific skills, talents and expertise to bridge the community’s digital divide.
“Our SNAs play a role in helping to educate and inoculate our people from falling for scams. As we can see from the most recent episode involving OCBC, we must always find new ways to better equip the public to protect themselves and those around them,” she noted.
Nearly 470 OCBC customers lost at least $8.5 million to phishing scams last December, and the bank has said that all the victims will be receiving “full goodwill payouts”.
There are currently about 4,000 SNAs islandwide. Since they were enlisted last June, they have conducted 270 programmes to help Singaporeans learn about digital initiatives and emerging technologies.
Two programmes, SNA Citizen Co-creation Group and Smart Nation Builder, were launched on Friday.
The Co-creation Group brings together representatives from different communities to discuss solutions to address gaps in digital inclusion. Community groups such as the Disabled People’s Association Singapore and Association of Small and Medium Enterprises have signed up.
The Smart Nation Builder is a roving truck which transforms into a digital playground. From the second half of the year, it will visit the heartland to collect feedback on digital tools.
“Since Covid-19, the digital transformation across all industries is picking up drastically,” said Mrs Kurnool. “We need to get everyone onboard because technology is a great way to improve their livelihood.”
One of the volunteers she worked with to release the educational videos received gratitude from his cousin, a migrant worker.
“His cousin called him the day after the video was released, saying the videos were useful and extremely popular in the dormitories, and thanked him for it.
“You start with a big picture, but when it comes back to you in a very personal way, it makes the impact much more human,” Mrs Kurnool noted.