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LCQ7: Functions of smart ID cards

    Following is a question by the Hon Wong Kwok-hing and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Frederick Ma, in the Legislative Council today (January 23):


     In 2003, the Government issued smart identity (ID) cards embedded with chips and introduced the concept of multi-function card, which enabled the public to use the card as a driving licence and a public library card. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that the government representatives who attended the meetings of the Council and of its Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting had time and again said that the Government was studying the replacement of driving licences with smart ID cards, of the latest progress of the study and the funding required, whether the study will be completed by the end of this year as scheduled, and whether a timetable will be set for the implementation of the project;

(b) of the current number of smart ID cards which are embedded with the public library card function and the number of person-times this function was used last year; and

(c) apart from adding to the smart ID cards the functions of booking sports and leisure facilities, checking driving licence data, e-Certs and public library cards, whether the authorities have conducted any studies on the use of smart ID cards to support other functions; if they have, of the details of the study (including details of the additional functions under consideration)?


Madam President,

     Regarding the question raised by the Hon Wong Kwok-hing, my reply is as follows:

(a) At the joint meeting of the Legislative Council Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting and the Legislative Council Panel on Security on December 20, 2001, the Administration briefed Members on the proposal of using smart identity cards as driving licences. We pointed out at the meeting that after detailed scrutiny of the original idea of engraving driving licence data on smart identity cards or incorporating the data into the chips, we found that the proposal had various operational constraints (e.g. there might be difficulty for the public and overseas authorities to access the data in the chip; there would be a need to re-issue smart identity cards with no driving licence data engraved on the card face to persons whose driving licence were temporarily suspended etc). Hence, we considered it not appropriate to include driving licence in the smart identity card. Instead, we proposed to consider allowing law enforcement agencies and the public to access driving licence data directly through the backend computer system and providing the public with an option of not carrying driving licence while driving.

     The driving licence data has now been stored in the backend computer system. The system enhancement and upgrade of the Vehicle and Driver Licensing Integrated Data System of the Transport Department and the Command and Control Communications System of the Hong Kong Police Force have been completed. Law enforcement agencies can access driving licence data directly from the backend computer system to facilitate traffic enforcement actions.

     As for the proposal of providing smart identity card holders with an option of not carrying driving licence while driving, the Transport Department is exploring the legal feasibility of the proposal with the Department of Justice and the legislative amendments involved. The study does not involve additional administrative expense. As the scope and details of the legislative amendments involved are very extensive and complex, we do not have a timetable for the completion of the study at this stage.

(b) As at December 31, 2007, the number of library patrons who have registered to use library services with smart identity cards is about 530 000. In 2007, there were over 1.89 million checkouts of library materials using smart identity cards.

(c) Besides adding to the smart identity cards the functions of booking sports facilities and recreation activities at the Leisure Link self-service kiosks of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, digital certificate and library card, we have reserved capacity in smart identity cards for the development of e-purse as an option in the light of public demand and preference. After consulting the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and having regard to the current market situation, we do not have the timetable for the implementation of e-purse in smart identity cards at this stage. We have committed to consulting the relevant panel of the Legislative Council on any new applications to be put on the smart identity card. At the same time, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer is implementing a pilot infrastructural authentication service using the secure personal identification number embodied in the smart identity cards and card face data for testing the authentication process of e-government services.

Ends/Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Issued at HKT 13:08


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