While the Singapore Government aims to have a 70 per cent take-up rate of the TraceTogether (TT) programme among the nation’s 5.7 million population before moving on to Phase Three of its post-circuit breaker reopening plan by the end of the year, netizens appear to be less optimistic about achieving the target, in their criticism of the Government’s planning and management of the contact tracing system.
Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the COVID-19 taskforce, said in October that having 70 per cent of Singapore’s population adopt the TT app or token is one of the conditions that must be met for the nation to enter Phase Three.
The other two conditions that have to be met for entering Phase Three are safe management compliance and sufficient testing capabilities.
However, The Straits Times (ST) on Monday (7 December) reported experts as saying that Singapore is unlikely to move to Phase Three by end of this year due to the low take-up rate of TT thus far.
According to the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, only about 2.9 million people — just a little over 50 per cent of the population — have downloaded the app or collected the token so far.
Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, told ST: “One of the targets set has been for sufficient numbers of people to have TraceTogether as more effective contact tracing will counter the relaxation in rules. I think we’re not yet at that target, and that may hold us back from advancing a phase.”
Concurring with Assoc Prof Cook’s statement, Teo Yik Ying — dean of the school — said that adoption of the app or token is still lagging.
“At present, it appears we will not be moving to Phase Three by the end of the year as it appears that token distribution has not achieved a complete coverage of the entire population,” Prof Teo remarked.
The tokens — which the government had started distributing in September — were meant to be given to those who do not have a smartphone to install the app, particularly children and the elderly.
Following the mandatory use of TT for entry at public venues, there was a high demand and long queues for tokens at certain Community Centres (CCs), which caused the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group to temporarily suspend token distributions before resuming on 29 October, one constituency at a time to “better match demand”.
Vivian Balakrishnan — Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation initiative — assured that there would be more than enough tokens to be distributed, as the current target number of tokens — to be produced about 2.7 million — can be adjusted in accordance with demand.
As for its mobile app, it has received unfavourable feedback from users since its launch in March this year with concerns related to its battery consumption, data-privacy as well as its functionality.
Despite that, it was also reported that TraceTogether was awarded as the Asia-Pacific winner of market research firm Gartner’s 2020 Government Eye on Innovation Award, beating two finalists from Taiwan and one from India.
Netizens frustrated by Govt’s poor management of TraceTogether, saying they should not blame users for low adoption rate
Netizens, in light of the news, expressed dissatisfaction toward the Government’s purported poor management of TT.
They opined that the Government should not lay blame on users for not collecting tokens or downloading the app.
Penning their comments on the Facebook page of Mothership.sg, netizens said that the low take-up rate is not because people are not using it, but that the tokens are “not even available for collection”.
Other than distribution, some netizens also complained about the functionality and design of the tokens, saying that the tokens can only be used at certain places and that many places do not have devices to scan the QR code on the tokens.
Other netizens however pointed out that entering Phase Three of post-circuit breaker would make no difference, as “the numbers of crowds in the public spaces are already like in Phase Three”.