Establishment of full-time Government CIO in Taiwan is indispensable and urgent

A group of enterprise executives, legislators, scholars, professors and civil group representatives held a press conference in Taipei on June 9 to urg (By Taiwan News)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News)--A group of enterprise executives, legislators, scholars, professors and civil group representatives held a press conference in Taipei on June 9 to urge the government to speed up the passage of four bills related to the establishment of a Cabinet-level “Government Chief Information Officer (CIO)” position that will ensure that coordinated and inter-ministerial construction of information infrastructure will not be interrupted by personnel changes.     

The attendees of the press conference includes I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko (高志明), Legislator Karen Yu (余宛如) , members of more than 100 professors who signed a petition calling on passage of the bills, and members of a civil group whose mission is to promote legislation of information bills.    

In October 2012, a mission-oriented “Government CIO” position held concurrently by a deputy minister was established to serve many purposes pertaining to government information, including serving as the coordinator of the central government’s inter-ministerial information development, serving as the contact person regarding government information issues, formulating more clear-cut e-services directions for different ministries, and avoiding waste of resources by cutting down redundant information system establishments among ministries.

However, in the five years since the position was established, the public have not felt obvious improvement in government services and reduced government personnel expenditures brought about by deployment of digital information technology.

Many people have been critical of former Premier Simon Chang (張善政) for his role as the formulator of central government information policies, a very important role in a modernized country, because he flip-flopped the information policies as his positions in the government changed. This instance of the personnel changes inducing the information policy changes, though rarely seen in any democratic country, does highlight the fact that the government does not attach much importance to formulating “digital policies” and promoting “digital creativity,” which form important directions that private industries can follow in order to increase efficiency, reduce cost and become sustainable.           

However, a so-called Taiwanese senior media worker put out an article entitled “China is talking about big data while Taiwan is talking about braised pork rice,” in which the author highly praises China and belittles Taiwan. Some Taiwanese intellectuals chimed in with the argument.

The article’s choice of references and comparison is way off the mark, thus attracting rebuttals from many righteous people. Even though the article is derogatory, it did highlight the emergent needs for the government to set the stage for “digital governance,” “digital policies,” “digital vitality,” “digital intelligence,” and “digital innovation.”       

As early as in 2005, the United Kingdom set up the “Government CIO” within the Cabinet Office that supports the Prime Minister to lead the country towards transition to e-government. Countries such as the U.S., Canada, Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Korea have also set up a national-level and full-time Government CIO position.

Take Taiwan’s new five municipalities directly under the jurisdiction of the Central Government for example, as information technology has not been fully employed to run these cities, the number of employees in their personnel departments, auditing department and ethics departments have increased by more than 10-fold.

From the perspectives of people, even though the personnel expansion is legal, it was nevertheless unreasonable. In a time when everyone has a smartphone and computers are indispensable tools at work, the central government is still sticking to old practices and not thinking about adjusting the government structure in order to increase efficiency and save on personnel expenses for better use on providing services to its people and improving the economy. This is absolutely not the right performance that should be put up by a “government of total governance” under a premier who is dubbed “finance expert”.