Better.SG wins Mobile - Telecommunications Award at SBR TEA

Its Call Home app helps connect migrant workers with their families.

Recognising the contribution of a company’s innovative systems in the field of mobile telecommunications, Singapore Business Review’s judges have awarded the Mobile Award for Telecommunications to Better.SG. This was for their Call Home app, a cost-effective 3G solution that allows migrant workers to call their families’ landline phones in their home country.

Better.SG is a non-profit volunteer-run organisation that drives techforgood in Singapore by building and supercharging innovative digital tools to address societal issues. Their goal is to empower and engage the multidisciplinary techforgood community in Singapore and help organisations do more social good using technology.

Call Home was created by four people brought together by Better.SG. Many people in Singapore have adapted to the new social distancing rules by relying on digital connectivity to connect with their loved ones. However, one group was left behind in the mix: migrant workers.

Working and living away from home can be challenging even in the best of times. And with the global pandemic happening worldwide—and the fear and uncertainty that comes along with it—these overseas workers were struggling to afford calling cards after losing their jobs or getting pay cuts.

In most cases, their families lack stable internet connections at home or don’t have access to Wi-Fi. Some couldn’t afford data plans that will allow them to make calls with WhatsApp or Viber. With a landline being the only option, their one challenge is how to get prepaid calling cards at local stores during quarantine.

An unlikely solution came by way of a Facebook and TikTok Hackathon; a group of acquaintances entered together and originally developed an app that helps isolated seniors with 3G smartphones communicate with loved ones. When they became aware of the predicament facing Singapore’s migrant worker population, they quickly pivoted their focus to address that need.

This led to the creation of Call Home. The team partnered with Twilio to create a programmable voice solution that was easy to use and quick to launch. The solution enables low latency and clear audio capabilities, and the migrant community was able to successfully call home, just as they would with prepaid cards. In addition to Twilio’s Programmable Voice solution, the Call Home team leverages Twilio’s Programmable SMS as an internal solution to help verify and onboard migrant workers to the app. Workers are sent an OTP when they sign up, to verify their Singapore mobile number.

To ensure the calls were cost-effective for the migrant workers, Twillio.org, the social impact arm of Twilio, provided a discounted rate that led to an overall 40-55 percent decrease in calling costs.

Since the launch in September, Call Home is already hearing from migrant workers, about how they’re less worried about being able to speak with their families because they’re now able to do so for free. Especially considering the challenges isolation can bring, these calls help keep the migrant workers feeling happier and less alone.

The team also partnered with the non-profit Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), to help support the most vulnerable migrant workers in Singapore. TWC2 provided the contact details of a few hundred workers who were seeking case work with the organization and the app was advertised to them to enable them to retain more of their savings. The app is now used by over first 1,000 workers and aims to reach ten thousand by the end of 2022

As demand increases, Call Home might expand to other countries such as India or Myanmar, the team said, where a majority of the migrant workers’ families reside. And, they’re exploring using programmable SMS to automate and offer migrant workers tech support via chat. Twilio’s portfolio of solutions have given Call Home’s team the ability to create an ideal, seamless, and simple experience for all levels of communications—including for those who need it most.

The Technology Excellence Awards, presented by Singapore Business Review, was held via studio award presentations and video conferencing sessions throughout the second and third week of April.

This year’s nominations were judged by a panel consisting of Daryl Pereira, Head of Cyber at KPMG; Cheang Wai Keat, Partner, Consulting at Ernst & Young Advisory Pte. Ltd.; Henry Tan, Group Chief Executive Officer and Chief Innovation Officer at Nexia TS; Sivakumar Saravan, Senior Partner at Crowe Singapore; Cecil Su, Director, Head of Cybersecurity of BDO Singapore.

If you would like to join the 2022 awards and be acclaimed for your company’s exceptional technological innovations, please email Jane Patiag at [email protected].

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