Monday, October 26, 2020

Help Singapore save money by using Trace Together app instead of token if you can

This is not a post about personal finance. It is related to national finance.

Trace Together tokens were collected for my family yesterday. I never gave any thought as to why not. Government give free, I take. I am a cheapskate. It was a natural knee-jerk reaction.

Today, I realized I should have used the free Trace Together app instead of taking the token. I am writing this blog post to make amends. I will not collecting any more token when the existing token runs out of battery.

Let's do a worst-case scenario estimate of the cost of supplying every Singapore resident with a hardware token. 

Each Trace-Together token is estimated to cost SGD20. To supply entire 5.7m population of Singapore, the total cost will be around SGD114m. The battery life for each token is 6 months and the battery is non-rechargeable. So, every 6 months, Singapore will have to spend SGD114m to supply each resident with a token. We are looking at annual expense of SGD228m. 

Why waste money on a hardware token when the app is available for download free of charge?

Besides helping the country save money, there are other reasons to use the TraceTogether app instead of token. I do not like the inconvenience of carrying an extra dog tag. I also do not feel comfortable with a bluetooth token near my body that is forever emitting radiation. The phone allows me to disable bluetooth whenever convenient to reduce electronic radiation. Bluetooth radiation levels are low, so it is not a health concern but I am paranoid on such matters.

Some members of the public will always be skeptical of what Trace-Together app can do. What if this app uploads my private data to some government cloud data? Skepticism is a good habit when confronted with new information. If one is doubtful, then verify the claims. Trace-together app source code is open and available to public for download. The app operation can be verified by checking the source code. While most people do not have the expertise to do, there will be engineers who can independently warn the public through social media when something is wrong. I seriously doubt the team behind Trace-Together will risk that and lose the public's trust. 

There are some people who need the token for workplace convenience or do not own a smartphone. As for myself, I will be using the app from now on. When the battery of my existing token runs out, I will not be collecting any new token. I will persuade my family members to do the same.

Whether it is token or app, the savings is small compared to total cost incurred by Covid-19 so far. So, let's co-operate and run Trace-Together together to quickly contain this Covid virus so that Singapore can get on back to normal economic life as soon as possible. Thank you.

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