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ThinkPlace examined Singaporeans feelings about emerging technology

Fuelling the drive into the digital future with desire

Whether we like it or not, Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) play a leading role in how we work, live and play. Need proof? Jump on the MRT in Singapore and count the passengers that aren’t totally immersed in their smartphones. We bet there won’t be many. Frequency of use is one thing, but how savvy are Singaporeans online? Can they distinguish between ‘fake news’ and actual news? How secure is their personal data and information? These sort of questions help determine someone’s digital literacy.
Prompt cards used during interviews


The Singapore Government is looking to streamline its digital literacy initiatives across multiple agencies. Since data in this area is limited, ThinkPlace was engaged to lead an end-to-end project exploring adults’ digital experiences. We focused on uncovering insights into how adults use and think about technology compared to youth and seniors.



For some adults, moving to digital spaces or participating online is like migrating to a foreign country. It’s not surprising, with online language and norms constantly evolving.

We discovered adults are at all different stages of ‘immigrating’ to digital spaces. More importantly, how far someone immigrates depends on how digital technology can help them meet their larger life goals.



Some people are excited to go online. Ian, a blogger in his forties, has learnt firsthand how digital spaces can open up a world of possibility.

Ian considers himself a serious hobbyist who finds enrichment through his art and music. He’s never formally trained in ICT, but was empowered by emerging digital technologies and ‘how-to’ videos on YouTube that enabled him to experiment with different media.

As Ian began to share his art, his online audience grew. It expanded to a point where he could leave his job as a civil servant and make a career out of his passion.




Some see entering into the digital world as less of a choice. Saadiq, a cleaner in his fifties, has picked up on technology talk and trends around him. He worries that robots will take over cleaning roles, leaving him with manual skills in a digital world.

Saadiq believes that any upgrade in his skillset – like learning to use a computer – could mean a promotion, better pay or a stable job. Yet he’s unsure what to learn, where to learn it and who to learn it from, especially since his son is reluctant to teach him.




Others, like Wai Heng, prefer to keep their distance. He embraces ‘digital spaces’, but only in a professional context. A senior civil servant in his fifties, he sees himself as a ‘technology idiot’. He doesn’t fit in with those who like to share everything online, and doesn’t really like using gadgets that much.

He does, however, see the power of these tools to reach the younger generation. He’s passionate about environmental conservation, and believes awareness is essential. So he encourages his younger colleagues to harness the power of social media - and other tools, like anime and video games - to reach out to younger people.



Our research shows that adults today are primarily driven to use technology out of fear. Fear they’ll lose their jobs, or fear of disconnection with loved ones. And a fear-based mindset is consistently reinforced from an economic standpoint - digital skills are framed as a necessity to keep workers competitive in the labour market.

There is great potential here as digital technology has the power to impact lives outside of the workplace. It offers a number of different tools and services that can enrich one’s life – as Ian discovered with his art

Working with the government, we co-designed a series of concepts that would help them use a more desire-driven approach to engage adults. We looked at how we could leverage the power of influencers who are already actively engaging online to meet both work and personal goals. Users like these can be powerful role models to show how digital technology can enrich lives.

We’re confident that by using this desire-driven framing, the Government can help users cope with what feels like an endless learning and re-learning of new technologies. After all, in this age of disruption, it’s likely our smartphones today will be dumbphones tomorrow. 

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Singapore Government
Project Team
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