Older generation hawkers join the technology age
If food were a nationality, Singapore would have a sister nation such is the deep-rooted love for makan. Where else in the world can you find such a density of hawker stalls, Michelin restaurants and cafes.
But as COVID-19 continues to disrupt everyday life, reports emerged of older hawkers, for many of whom this is more than a job, being unable to take advantage of online platforms given their lack of digital savvy.
UNESCO which called Singapore’s hawker centres ’community dining rooms’ summed it well in saying, “Evolved from street food culture, hawker centres have become markers of Singapore as a multicultural city-state, comprising Chinese, Malay, Indian and other cultures. Hawkers take inspiration from the confluence of these cultures, adapting dishes to local tastes and contexts”.
So reading of their plight, no doubt, tugged at our collective heart strings. Which is why, like many, I was pleased to read about a pilot that the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) announced last month with delivery platforms. Under this scheme, hawkers will not be charged commission fees or onboarding fees. And, customers will get more options to mix and match from hawker stalls and order from all of them in one checkout.
Furthermore, NEA is developing a set of best practices that will be compiled into a step-by-step Digital Support Guide for Hawkers.
At a time when social interactions have been minimized, our neighbourhood kopitiams have provided respite for people from diverse backgrounds who gather and eat meals in shared camaraderie, even when not sharing a table.
As COVID-19 becomes endemic, we will all have to learn to live with it in our midst. Let us take the first steps towards this new normal, one meal at a time.
Contributed by Shruti Bose