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Southeast Asian countries leverage digital ID and IT infrastructure for cashless aid during pandemic

Southeast Asian countries leverage digital ID and IT infrastructure for cashless aid during pandemic

Efforts by Singapore’s government to prepare the island nation’s digital infrastructure, including its national digital identity system, helped it cope with a range of COVID-related challenges such as going cashless, according to a survey reported by The Straits Times.

The Deep Knowledge Group, based in Hong Kong, ranked Singapore the fourth safest place to live during the pandemic out of 200.

Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister in charge of Singapore’s Smart Nation Initiative, described a stable of 950 engineers, data scientists and programmers enabling the government to perform tasks it would previously have had to outsource. One example is a website launched February 1 to inform citizens where the nearest distribution point for government-provided masks is located.

Singapore’s TraceTogether contact tracing app has also received a lot of attention, though its uptake has been described as “not enough” by the Smart Nation Office. Instant fund transfer service PayNow, on the other hand, has enabled widespread cashless payments.

The importance of digital transformation to countries in the Asean region is examined meanwhile by the Bangkok Post.

The Post reports Monetary Authority of Singapore Chief Fintech Officer Sopnendu Mohanty suggests that maintaining the flow of cash, customers and capital is necessary to survive and even thrive during the pandemic’s economic fallout. Former Thai Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij, like Mohanty speaking at the Techsauce Virtual Summit, said the pandemic is forcing governments to be more flexible, agile and resilient.

The Thai government’s efforts include a contact tracing app and enabling people to purchase government bonds through the mobile channel. Going forward, Chatikavanij says the government needs to follow Singapore’s lead in issuing digital banking licenses.

Effective and wide-reaching cash transfers are one of the main reasons the World Bank gave when making its case for importance of digital ID in a recent blog post. Thailand is one of the three countries whose financial aid distribution systems are considered as examples.

Philippines prioritizes national ID and as biometrics contracts advance

Philippine Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles emphasized the importance of that country’s incoming national ID system, known as PhilSys.

PTV News reports that while addressing the Tapatan sa Aristocrat virtual forum, Nograles notes that “The challenges the government faced in the distribution of the social amelioration program (SAP) cash subsidies highlight the need for a National ID system.”

Reaching the most vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, the elderly and children, indigenous people and others is one of the main challenges to the implementation of effective social protection. The country’s Zero Hunger Task Force, also headed by Nograles, wants to build up a registry of vulnerable persons and groups with data from the PhilSys, the National Househod Targeting System for Poverty Reduction, Community-Based Monitoring System, Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture, and another government social assistance registry.

The Philippine Statistics Authority also says the registration kits and the automated biometric system for PhilSys have been procured, and the service provider is currently working on the authentication system.

The system integrator contract will be awarded in July.

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