Back when I was a student in the UK (this was in 2012 – feels like a lifetime ago, lol), I remember walking into a Sainsbury and seeing self-checkout counters for the first time. I was absolutely mindblown. “Whoever invented this is a freaking genius,” I thought in glee, as I scanned my items, bagged them, paid with my debit and left the store, without so much as a hello to another human. This, my introverted self thought, was the pinnacle of technology.
Fast forward eight years later, and this tech is finally picking up in Malaysia, as people opt for cashless, contactless transactions (accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic). Digitalisation has been on the country’s agenda for some time now, and while we’ve been slower to adopt it compared to countries in the West, or places like Singapore and China things are slowly but surely changing. Menus at restaurants are digital: you scan a QR code on your mobile, and order through the intranet. Delivery apps make it convenient to have food delivered right to your doorstep. You go to the movies, you order your tickets through a touch screen and pay through cards or mobile wallets. At airports, you check-in on a machine, get your baggage tags printed out and attach them on your own before sending them to the conveyor, without having to deal with the airport staff.
But technology is changing at such a rapid pace that it can be intimidating, even for millennials like me who are quite comfortable around machines and the digital space. I was at an autopay machine today and spent a good minute looking for an opening to insert my parking card – before realising that the instructions were to ‘scan the barcode’, and to pay via debit card. In time, I’m sure all of the machines will be replaced with this new mode of payment, and cash will be obsolete.
When I go out with my parents, they usually rely on me (because my brother is an airhead) to figure out anything to do with tech. My dad is good with gadgets, but my mom isn’t very literate in technology. She uses her phone to surf the net but does not know the difference between a Facebook account and a Facebook page. We were chatting earlier about Youtube, and I was explaining to her about subscriptions and the concept of ‘going live’. “Oooh,” she said, nodding after my third explanation. “I see. But I’ll probably forget it in a couple of hours.”
When we went to Yogyakarta a couple of years ago, AirAsia had just implemented a new contactless check-in system at KLIA2, and my mom was absolutely lost. She simply could not wrap her head around the fact that she now had to deal with a machine rather than a human. “You do it,” she said. “I’m not good with these things”. Leaving me to lug our suitcases alone to the self-check-in counter, tag them and send them on their merry way to the conveyor belt.
“What would you do if you’re travelling without me?” I asked half-jokingly, to which she replied in the utmost seriousness, “I wouldn’t be travelling. I’d be lost.”
It’s a little sad whenever I hear these things as it conveys a sense of helplessness; not just from my mom, but from some people from the older generation (this does not include aunties who spread gossip and unverified info via Whatsapp – those people are experts) when it comes to adapting to the rapid technological changes that are being implemented in our everyday lives. It feels as if rather than providing convenience, tech limits some people from doing things, like the aforementioned travel. With my mom, there is also a certain degree of resistance – like how she still refuses to open an online bank account lol.
But then again, there’s one thing she has taken to like a fish to water: Online shopping. I currently have five or six orders pending on the Lazada account, from water bottles to cutlery and home decor items.
Maybe it’s all about the incentives?