AI and the National ID Law

AI and the National ID Law

In this opinion piece, Oscar Franklin Tan explains the benefits of the National ID system.

Cover Image by Tweetams

Today we shall talk about a current issue in the Philippines: the National ID System.

Tan says that the national ID system will enable the government to have access to data that can help improve public service delivery. He says that a change in mindset is needed in order for the National ID system to be widely accepted.

Lawyers must shift data privacy’s imagery away from militants seeking to enter towns using aliases, to brilliant Filipino mathematicians, engineers and developers keen to keep us in step with the future.

Why It Matters

While I believe that having quality data is important for appropriate decision-making and policy implementation, we must realize that compiling a database of information concerning Filipinos has its risks. Does our government have the capacity to prevent data breaches? Just two years ago, more than 60 government websites were hacked. How sure are we that it won’t happen again?

Besides, local governments are required to monitor data on infrastructure, health, education, and other public welfare concerns. If such a directive is not being followed currently, how can we be sure that the National ID system will accomplish it? Won’t this system actually just be another major national expense? Aren’t any of our ID systems (voter’s ID, UMID ID, etc.) enough for this purpose?

Perhaps we are romanticizing the benefits of artificial intelligence for the Philippines. For one, our own AI capacity is far behind that of other countries. Will we be borrowing systems developed by the US or China? How sure are we that our citizen’s data are not being fed into their own database? France, for one, has made it a point to do their own research on machine learning because they  wanted to stay independent as a country. French president Emmanuel Marcon said:

If we want to defend our way to deal with privacy, our collective preference for individual freedom versus technological progress, integrity of human beings and human DNA, if you want to manage your own choice of society, your choice of civilization, you have to be able to be an acting part of this AI revolution.

France made the decision to join the race to make a transparent, and neutral AI whose data is not controlled by the US and China. Does the Philippines have the capacity to act in the same way? Do we have the resources and the political will to be independent in this undertaking? Or will we be better off allotting the funds for other projects?

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