How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

In an era where various technologies are prevalent, it is easy for us to overuse technology or digital tools. My job in Public Digital Innovation Space (PDIS) is to use various tools to practice the “human-centered“ policy making process. Taking the needs of users as the starting point, involving users in the process, and creating partnerships between government and citizens.

When the pandemic just broke out in Taiwan this May, in order to avoid the lack of public health supplies – masks, we first introduced a measurement to purchase masks at pharmacies with health insurance cards. Immediately we observed that people have a demand for “knowing where there are surplus masks to buy”. We shared open data and partnered with enthusiastic hacker communities to develop more than 100 digital mask maps.

Subsequently, an online mask reservation system was launched in a short period of time to allow people who don’t have time to line up to purchase masks conveniently online. The “human-centered” thinking led us to re-examine the implementation, and a few weeks later, we launched the direct pre-order masks at convenience stores (with the help of shop assistants if needed). This was convenient for the elderly or others who are not familiar with technology or digital tools.

After observing the needs of the people, we use various tools and technologies to assist us in designing policies. However, in order to take into account the habits of all groups and the ability to adapt to technology, we have also added more friendly choices in the process of policy introduction.

What was the most impactful project you worked on this year?

We have a project running every year, inviting young college students from design, research and information backgrounds to develop a website prototype over the summer to revamp what many would consider a “hostile” government digital service.

And this very year Taiwan had been hit by a surge of Covid-19 cases in May and physical meetings were still temporarily discouraged. These students, born in the Internet generation, were not new to digital tools such as Google Meet and Miro. PDIS designed a set of online ice-breaking activities and processes that allowed teammates who had never met each other to get acquainted and collaborate together.

Through the participation of young people and their expert knowledge to understand each other’s experiences and difficulties, the expectation that public services are “supplied by the government to the people” will be shifted to that “services can be created by the people and the government together”, thus forming an inclusive public service.

What is one unexpected learning from 2021?

“How to conduct an online workshop while parenting my 3 year old boy.” – I am sure I am not the only one who’s accommodating my working or living habits to the Covid-19 crisis. But I am very surprised to see the resilience from those who are not familiar with technology – elderly learning how to video chat their grandchildren, or civil servants signing their official documents online with a short adaptation.

What’s your favourite memory from the past year?

Seeing the government official sharing their experience working together with the young students. “On Double Seventh Day in 2021, also known as the Lunar Valentine’s Day, instead of going on a date, we were immersed in lively discussions on how to optimise the user experience on the Taiwan Forestry Recreation website,” he shared.

I was so touched to see we planted a seed between the government and the young people – and that it blooms – each of them dedicated their passion and profession to work together and make the government service better.

What’s a tool or technique you’re excited to explore in 2022?

Measure the impact of Open Government in Taiwan. And how much value design thinking brings to the government.

What are your priorities for 2022?

Helping the citizens and civil servants to co-create more policies – to nurture the trust among us, and to create a better and diverse partnership.

Who are the mentors and heroes that inspire you?

Forestry Bureau in Taiwan. It’s weird to name an organisation here. But we have worked with Forestry Bureau for many times with different civil servants. We are always impressed by their enthusiasm and the knowledge they knew in order to make a more inclusive policy. It’s not easy for an organisation in the government to cultivate such open minded and dedicated culture to their work. And it’s also what we believe in at PDIS — we have much to learn from them.

What gets you up in the morning?

Physically and mentally, my son. (And the young generation)

Every time I worked with those young professionals, their passion shines and lights up the dark corners. There are definitely challenges and problems that need to be solved. But with the young power we believe we walk towards a better future.