Staying Connected To Singapore While Overseas

We catch up with three Singaporeans who share their gratitude for home, and how they stay connected while living abroad.

By GovTech Singapore | 3 August 2021

National Day is traditionally marked by parades, fireworks, and crowds dressed in red and white. The global pandemic and its ensuing restriction measures have undeniably put a dampener on the celebratory spirit, especially with this year’s National Day Parade postponed to August 21.

Singaporean Away from Home

For Emily Teng, founder of the non-profit Blessings in a Bag, National Day is a nostalgic affair with her parents as they would brave the heat and humidity to join the parade. However, she has not been able to travel home to see her loved ones and friends in Singapore since the start of the pandemic, while trying to navigate a new way of living and working in San Francisco, where she is currently based.

“It’s a culture shock, but it’s also recognising that wherever there is a group of Singaporeans, even a small number, we will find ways to bring the ‘Singaporean-ness’ out of one another and to look out for one another,”

She is part of a WhatsApp group chat to keep in touch with fellow overseas Singaporeans. She adds, “it’s been so encouraging to see members supporting one another with questions related to where we live or back home in Singapore. Of course, there’s always plenty of note swaps of where to go for authentic Singaporean food!”

Emily Teng misses home and has not been able to visit her family and friends in Singapore since the start of the pandemic. (Image credit: Nigel Lau)

Being part of the chat group has also helped Tara Hirebet, a fellow overseas Singaporean, gain a sense of community and feel less homesick. She has lived in various countries since 2008, and has developed an appreciation for the multicultural environment she grew up in.

“In Singapore, we see couples and families from mixed backgrounds and ethnicities from everywhere, not just Asia. You realise how rare this is when you move elsewhere and I love this about Singapore.”

It’s been nearly two years since Tara (right) visited her mother to celebrate Christmas at home – her yearly tradition before the pandemic hit.

Elisha Tan, who moved overseas three months ago when most of the world was still sheltering in place, found herself leaning on her community back home. While she doesn’t usually partake in the festivities, she joined in last year when Singaporeans stood at their windows and recited the pledge together.

“In times of crisis, you start to understand what you’ve taken for granted and appreciate it more.”

Elisha, who recently relocated to San Francisco, is grateful for the good governance in Singapore and is proud of the way Singapore has handled the pandemic.

Away but still connected

Emily has been managing her organisation from halfway around the world and when asked about her experience, she comments, “I’m grateful for the support provided to Singaporeans and businesses during the pandemic.” In addition, being able to tap on Singpass and Corppass* has helped her manage the organisation’s administrative matters remotely. She appreciates the ability to do things efficiently online with a simple login and a few clicks or taps.

Singpass app users can choose to scan a QR code for quicker access to government digital services instead of keying in their user ID, password and SMS-One Time Password.

Echoing Emily’s positive experience, Tara shares, “I am bad with passwords and what used to drive me insane was forgetting them and having to place my Singapore SIM card in my phone to receive messages! The Singpass app is perfect – you can just register and you’re good to go.”

Singpass app users can choose to use a simple face scan to set up their app or opt for a PIN mailer to arrive at their registered address.

Launched in October 2018 as an alternative Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) method, the Singpass app solves an immediate problem – Users can skip the pesky password process and simply scan or tap a QR code to log in instead. For overseas Singaporeans, this means smoother transactions with no need to wait for an SMS-One Time Password (OTP) or PIN mailer to arrive.

“Overseas Singaporeans typically have to access government services when there is an urgent need, so it is crucial that Singpass is readily available for them – regardless of the time zone or location – and to help them complete their tasks easily,” says Tay Li Soon, Senior Product Manager of the National Digital Identity programme at Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech).”

Tara likes that it is easy to use, making it less stressful when she has to deal with any government-related transactions virtually. “It also enables me to manage my admin matters without panicking or worrying that I have to troubleshoot with physical or other forms of documentation,” she says.

The Singpass app is also not tied to a user’s mobile number – a feature that Elisha finds particularly useful when she got a US-based number. “I can continue using the Singpass app and just scan the QR code to log in, and it’s business as usual as if I’m in Singapore.”

Besides providing more convenience to transact with government digital services, the Singpass app has also made it easier for users to access their personal information, such as family records or information from their Central Provident Fund (CPF) accounts. It also has an Inbox feature, where users receive direct and timely notifications from Government agencies, including reminders for NRIC renewals.

Screenshot of a user’s profile page, with the Digital IC.

On future improvements to the Singpass app, Li Soon shares, “The next phase of the app is building it around the concept of an identity and document wallet that allows overseas Singaporeans quick access to information to prove their identity, qualifications, and even to present documents that may be needed for travel. We are excited to share more about these enhancements soon!”

*Corppass is an authorisation system for entities to manage digital service access of employees who need to perform corporate transactions

Watch to find out how Singpass simplifies everyday transactions and see how the accessibility features in Singpass make it easy for everyone to use.

This article is written in collaboration with GovTech to celebrate Singapore’s National Day. GovTech is the lead agency driving Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative and public sector digital transformation. Other notable products from GovTech include TraceTogether, Notarise and LifeSG. Learn more about GovTech here and follow them on their social media channels.  

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