With the advent of universal public education, the ability to read and write is taken for granted in the developed world today. Yet in Singapore — one of the most educated societies on the planet — about 2.7% of the population above 15 years old was illiterate in 2018. Lest this seems like a small number, this represents 141,951 people, more than 100,000 of whom are elderly.

In a rapidly digitalising society like Singapore, many of these workers are increasingly at risk of being left behind. It is nearly impossible for such individuals to use modern technology, most of which demand at least a basic reading ability. Lacking such basic skills means that many such individuals are at risk of social exclusion, being unable to effectively participate in a tech-savvy society.

Local F&B firm Fei Siong finds itself in such a predicament, with illiterate workers among its 1,600-strong headcount, even as it embarks upon digital transformation. Moreover, even for its literate workers, who are largely older folk aged 40–60, cyberspace is an unfamiliar and even threatening new world.

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