File photo at 2015
File photo at 2015

PM calls for urgency in digital services

national August 24, 2018 01:00

By The Nation

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THE prime minister yesterday told the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) and other top officials to quickly implement a policy to provide more digital government services to the public, noting that results have so far not met his expectations.

The Digital Economy and Society minister and secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Board will lead a new committee overseeing the task in keeping with the instructions from premier Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Meanwhile, a technology and legal expert said yesterday that the government needs to issue new legislation and standardise the databases of state agencies to deliver more digital services to the public.

Paiboon Amonpinyokeat of the P&P law firm said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s call for full-fledged digital government services offering better public convenience, is still not widely feasible due to legal and technological constraints. 

With the exception of the Foreign Ministry’s passport-issuing service, most government agencies still require people to provide a photocopy their ID card for various services, largely due to the inability to link the databases of all agencies in the public sector.

Paiboon said the country has no legislation similar to the US e-government and paper elimination laws, which requires all state agencies to comply with a policy governing electronic services. However, Thailand’s prime minister may exercise his power under an existing law to require all ministries to convert their databases into electronic portals, so digital services can be provided to the public soon. 

However, Paiboon said, measures are necessary to prevent and manage data abuse and data leaks, adding that related legislation on data privacy must also be implemented to ensure that personal data is properly protected.

According to Paiboon, there are also technical issues hindering the creation of a policy to deliver e-government services. For example, different government agencies use different data-storage software. This would have to be resolved before inter-governmental agencies can jointly create so-called big data to deliver seamless digital services to the public.

File photo at 2015

Regarding ID card data, Paiboon said fingerprint and facial recognition software are needed to update the national database for paperless e-government services. The government would also need to set up an Office of Data Privacy as part of any data privacy bill. This bill is expected to be enacted by the National Legislative Assembly later this year.

Data protection is very important because personal data is also shared by the private sector, including banks, said Paiboon.

The MDES is supposed to play a leading role in implementing the e-government policy and upgrading the databases into cloud computing and storage facilities, he said. The current Electronic Government Agency (EGA) lacks sufficient legal powers to carry out its task, he added.

He said most government agency databases were stand-alone systems that could not be synchronised with other systems. Also, there is no law allowing the Interior Ministry’s population and ID-card database to be used by other agencies. Any existing inter-agency database linkage is on a case-by-case basis. For instance, a link between the Interior and Commerce ministries allows the use of an ID card to register the creation of a new firm. 

However, he said, it is easier to connect with the private sector’s databases such as those used by commercial banks, due to their standardisation under the supervision of the Bank of Thailand which has launched the PromptPay e-payment platform.


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