Mon, Apr 03, 2017 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Minister says role is to be ‘trailblazer’ for technology

Minister of Technology and Science Chen Liang-gee said in an interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) staff reporters Jennifer Huang and Wu Po-wei that his ministry supports helping Taiwan to achieve its potential by relaxing regulations, better rewarding practical research and providing viable investment metrics to avoid risky investments

Minister of Technology and Science Chen Liang-gee speaks during an interview with the Liberty Times in Taipei on Sunday last week.

Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT): The government has recently earmarked railways, “green” energy, water resources and digital technology as the main targets of the NT$880 billion [US$29.01 billion] “Forward-looking Infrastructure Construction Project.” What is the ministry’s role in the project? Which items will have priority funding?

Chen Liang-gee (陳良基): The ministry’s role is to be a trailblazer and scout for technology, particularly for digital infrastructure.

The ubiquity of digital technology in everyday appliances, such as TVs and cell phones, is evidence of the broad range of applications for digital technology, as well as the inevitability of its rise.

However, Taiwan’s technology infrastructure is stuck in the analog age; there is a severe lack of digital technology equipment in elementary and high schools and no funds earmarked to upgrade from analog to digital.

Therefore, I have gone out of my way to suggest to the Cabinet and the president that funding should be allocated to improve the situation.

I have allotted NT$46 billion for the improvement of schools’ digital facilities. Many may question the necessity of such a large figure, as well as the inclusion of the funds in the “special budget” category.

Scientific development in Taiwan has lacked direction and leadership since the turn of the millennium. Since the bursting of the dotcom bubble, some nations have advanced swiftly into the domain of digital technology, but Taiwan is not among them.

There is too little innovation in Taiwan and its industries have not upgraded; Taiwan is behind the times.

The magnitude of the proposed spending, and its allocation as a special budget, is to make up for the drop-off in digital technology infrastructure in the nation; inclusion of such budgets in annual budgets would take far too long, and would cause the nation to fall further behind, due to the speed of development of digital technology.

I have stressed that artificial intelligence (AI) is an important trend that would help Taiwanese society progress over the coming one or two decades, but in the process, Taiwan needs to develop platforms with high-speed computing capability.

The nation must possess machines capable of performing at least at petaflop level, which is currently 1 trillion times the computing power of Taiwan’s fastest machine.

One such machine would cost NT$700 million to NT$800 million, and Taiwan, for academic research and industrial use, would require six or more such machine clusters to enable the development of an AI platform.

I have allotted NT$5 billion to establish the AI platform. This would provide young people a niche to shine, and would allow Taiwan to once again become internationally competitive.

The key question of the upgrades planned for Taiwan’s digital technology infrastructure is the matter of power sources. Taiwanese society has achieved a consensus to reduce its reliance on nuclear power, and as such, it must quickly find an alternative source of “renewable” energy.

The ministry has devoted nine years of research and planning into the National Energy Program, and has referenced the “green” energy approaches of many European nations, but has not acted yet.

If the digital technology infrastructure plan is to be a success, both green energy and water resources, two other staples of the infrastructure project with a combined budget of NT$330 billion, need urgent attention.

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