Imagine going to the hospital with no national health insurance card, having to fill out forms so that the staff can look for your paper-based medical records. If you’re lucky, they might find them in an hour or so, enabling you to complete the process of signing in. If you’re unlucky, the hospital might have lost your records, requiring you to redo all of the forms from your first visit.
Those of us in Taiwan are accustomed to the convenience of electronic records, but this convenience didn’t emerge from the void. Instead, it is the result of a government computerization initiative that began in the 1980s. Yen Ming-hong, director of TaiwanICDF’s Technical Cooperation Department, says that there are basically four stages on the road to e-government. It begins with the conversion of paper records to electronic records, followed by data sharing between government departments. It then moves on to the making of government services available online, and finally arrives at the implementation of “smart” government. This fourth stage, which Taiwan is now entering, involves making large amounts of data available for value-added public use, which can lead to services such as texts warning of earthquakes.
Prior to the introduction of TaiwanICDF’s Information and Communications Technology Program to the Caribbean, Taiwan’s allies in the region, which include Belize, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, conducted all their government business on paper.