Issuing a Taiwan eID is not what the Lai Cabinet should be doing now

Taiwan's eID (image courtesy of the NDC).

Taiwan's eID (image courtesy of the NDC).

The Ministry of Interior is considering the introduction of an electronic identity card, the eID.

Its proponents say the eID will help Taiwan move toward digital government, but that should not depend on just one eID, since many advanced countries might have a digital government, even without having issued nationwide electronic identity documents.

A digital government needs to complete a significant number of important measures first, such as the integration of the process of how to digitalize the organization structure of civil servants and the provision of services to the public, which after so many years have still not been done well. The budget and resources reserved for the eID program should be devoted to those reforms which move the country toward a digital government putting efficacy first.

Which one should the government choose first, efficacy or effectiveness? Efficacy is about doing the right thing, effectiveness is doing things right.

At present, the Taiwan government budgets only for less than 1 percent civil servants specialized in information technology, and inside the massive household registration department, only a minority of IT personnel is managing information safety issues. Many IT-related tasks inside government are handed over to outside subcontractors, a significant number of who are either invested in by China or difficult for the government to investigate.

Issuing eID cards can boost some sectors of the economy, but they are not irreplaceable. Until national security issues for the digital government such as the just deployment of IT personnel, the safe management of staff related to the eID, human rights and privacy have become possible to resolve, the government should not issue electronic identity cards.

Do those countries which have already launched eID have as many domestic and external enemies or conspirators against the national identity as Taiwan?

Looking at the issue in general, as long as the Taiwanese government in the current phase and the environment in Taiwan do not fulfill preconditions to safeguard “information safety,” then it should not be issuing electronic identity cards to be used by the public.

(Luis Ko is the chairman of the Digital Taiwan Roundtable and of Openfind Information Technology Inc.)