Truth behind ID card row
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s idea about putting occupational and income information into ID cards was met with a public uproar — rightfully so considering its impracticality.However, there is a grain of truth in the hubbub on both sides. It is that a lot more should be done to make the ID card more useful to both its holders and policy makers.
The current version of the smart ID card was introduced in 2004 at a procurement cost of almost eight billion baht.
Back then, promises were abundant about the new card. It would pave the way for implementation of full-scale e-government, e-business and e-commerce, the authorities said.
All relevant information, whether it is about a citizen’s rights to state benefits, educational background, household registration or taxation, would be stored in the card’s database which would then be shared with all state agencies.
Ultimately, citizens would need just one card to access all kinds of state services and expedite other businesses that demand identification or personal data, the authorities said.
When the cards were introduced, the Ministry of Interior also ensured the public that they need not worry about security.
The smart card was equipped with seven anti-forgery features, the ministry said. Plus, it would have a double lock system requiring both a PIN code and fingerprint scan to prevent unauthorised use or access to the personal information.
Indeed, the smart ID card was advertised as being able to serve as a border pass and the equivalent of a passport within three years of its introduction.
It has been 11 years but none of the promises have been fulfilled.
Most citizens have no idea what information is stored in their ID card or how to access it. Few people, if any, have made use of the fingerprint scan or PIN code features.
What is most woeful is the smart ID card has not even fulfilled the simplest mission of replacing the use of photocopying when dealing with state agencies.
Even now, the Interior Ministry has not updated its regulation requiring a photocopy of an ID card or national household registration for state services.
This is not to say that electronic readers that are needed for the smart card to function as an identification solution have not been procured even now.
Interior Ministry officials blame implementation woes and bureaucratic red tape for delays in fully utilising the cards.
The same is true for the data system. Even the most basic of all databases, the national census, has not been updated. News reports about people who had to resort to protests because their citizenship status is not officially recognised still occasionally emerge.
Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd argued that the addition of a person’s income and occupation into the ID card database would help the government respond to needs of low-income earners more efficiently. The truth, however, is the government has been sitting on the data for years since former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra asked the poor to register themselves.
Gen Prayut’s effort to put more information into the card is a minuscule issue while the cards remain largely inefficient. Without a serious attempt to overhaul the smart ID card system, to upgrade both hardware and software requirements that will allow it to function effectively, there is no point in trying to add more information or features to a smart card of little use.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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