Taiwan should form a cross-ministerial digital committee: I-Mei CEO

I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko.

I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko. (Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan should form a cross-ministerial digital committee to integrate the government’s digital capabilities, I-Mei Foods Co. CEO Luis Ko (高志明) told Business Today in an interview Thursday (May 7).

Mentioning the recent hacking attacks on CPC Corp., Taiwan, Formosa Petrochemical Corp. and chip tester and packager Powertech Technology Co., Ko wonders why the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau has to set up a case after the facts, but before the facts it was unclear who should prevent such attacks and manage cyber security. As the country and businesses face cyber security threats, the absence of a responsible digital affairs department monitoring such cases in advance and bearing responsibility will not prevent such events from occurring again.

Within the government structure, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics and the Directorate-General of Personnel Administration are responsible for planning and supervising the government’s human resources and budgets, but while each ministry under the Executive Yuan includes an information department, the flow of information between those ministries is inadequate, with separate types of software and hardware. The civil service organization also counts too few information technology specialists, forming a barrier in the way of the government’s digital development.

Taiwan’s information software production and information services sectors have not been well developed, but those industries possess a high market value on a global scale, forming the largest business. Taiwan frequently mentions AI and Big Data, but it needs a specialized organization even more, with the aim of developing a digital nation and linking up with business development as the foundation for national development, Ko says.

Therefore, no matter whether a sound information foundation and cyber security system have been positioned, and a digital connection between the ministries has been laid, on the one hand we still need “technological prevention” against the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, but we also need a comprehensive approach to the attacks by hackers against Taiwan, which makes this the best time to form a digital department, Ko says.

It’s an expectation but also a concern, but President Tsai Ing-wen mentioned last December at a future technology expo that as digital technology was completely changing everybody’s daily life and would also change the business environment in a significant way, Taiwan needed to consider the formation of a digital development department to achieve a breakthrough in the integration of government information, internet and communication departments in order to help Taiwan realize its digital transformation.

President Tsai Ing-wen is determined to do this, and the Digital Taiwan Roundtable wants to achieve this aim. The project needs to integrate the relevant units and departments under the Executive Yuan, the National Development Council, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Transportation, and form a committee which can negotiate and integrate functions across those ministries. Only if such a body is headed by a professional, can it have the right to assign and review budgets for relevant plans involving government departments and digital technology.
Asked whether he could name someone in the private or government sector suitable to lead such a body, Ko only mentioned that such a person should not only have a full understanding of digital information development, but also possess a sound knowledge of government administration and good communication skills, as he will be responsible for cross-ministerial negotiations. The person also needs grassroots understanding in order to widen the dialogue between the public and government departments, and give direction to the forward-looking development of digital technology.

As President Tsai Ing-wen is preparing the inauguration for her second term, bearing in mind the achievements of “technological virus prevention,” Taiwan has already proven itself to be a “technological island nation,” but the public is watching whether it can advance further, injecting “software thinking” into the government organization, and seizing the opportunity of digital development.