Audrey Tang, Digital Minister, Taiwan

Women in GovTech Special Report 2019.

How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation. As part of the government’s open mountains initiative, we deployed the system to perform public consultations on the national participation platform (JOIN), targeting five policy areas to open up mountainous and forested areas, ensure information transparency, serve public convenience, educate the public, and delineate responsibilities. The system not only enabled the cabinet to widely collect public opinions but also allowed different participants to see their relative positions on the opinion spectrum and evaluate the gap with different opinion groups, to consider how to listen to each other and find areas of intersection. In addition, at the end of October, our cabinet Secretary-General held face-to-face deliberations with relevant ministries and the public. Combining online agenda-setting and offline interactions made the discussion much more focused, strengthening the mutual trust between the government and people through a collaborative experience. What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019? The most exciting initiative was cooperating with the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, again using the system to create a series of Digital Dialogues. This is the first time the US has publicly solicited suggestions from the world via online brainstorming to explore enriching the substance of diplomatic work, as well as to comprehensively enhance exchanges and cooperation with specific allies on various issues. Serving as a platform for interested individuals to express their views and have discussions with other participants, Digital Dialogues focused on four major topics: “Promoting Taiwan’s Role in the Global Community,” “Promoting the U.S.-Taiwan Economic and Commercial Relationship,” “Promoting U.S.-Taiwan Security Cooperation,” and “Promoting People-to-People Ties.” Subsequently, the same principles and technologies were adopted and used in public consultation by the Talent Circulation Alliance, co-founded by AIT, the Industrial Bureau of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and the Institute for Information Industry. What is the best thing you have experienced in your career this year? During preparation for the second Presidential Hackathon, we institutionalised the best practices into a regulation to ensure its future existence. Furthermore, we added an International Track, setting a precedent for elite teams to travel abroad and collaborate on enabling sustainable infrastructure. This not only created more opportunities for Taiwan’s social innovation ecosystem to perform international exchanges, but also energised the international community to have more ways to amplify the potential of “Taiwan Can Help.” If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2019, what would it be? Quadratic Voting (QV) works really well. In this year’s Presidential Hackathon, we introduced QV: Each participant received 99 points, and voting for proposals required 1 point for 1 vote, 4 points for 2 votes, 9 points for 3 votes, and so on. Thus, the points spent are equal to the square of the total votes. The traditional one-person-one-vote design often fails to effectively reflect the strength of opinions. In QV, the more concentrated the votes, the more points must be spent, so that the effect caused by each vote is proportional to the cost for each additional vote. This avoids vote rigging, voiding, or other behavior that hides a genuine intention. What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2020? Co-presence as enabled by 5G. Once this technology is widely adopted and applied in society, the distance between two parties’ geographical locations will be replaced by topological relations. In the past 4G era, bandwidth restriction has meant some parts of the experience inevitably had to be sacrificed. However, 5G provides a bandwidth very close to a live experience, so people can easily feel present at the scene. This is not only a virtual reality (VR) experience but also an immersive XR experience. For example, if an excavator controller wants to remotely operate an excavator for engineering, the low latency of 5G transmission is quite important. The operator sitting in the control centre must clearly perceive all excavator-reported information at the scene. Furthermore, instead of physically traveling to another location, the operator can directly switch to the next excavator, which cannot be achieved via 4G. With 5G, the society will evolve into an interaction based on common interests, missions, or community activities between people, and the interaction will become increasingly familiar. Whether people are on a mountain top, midair, or roaming Taiwan by drone, everything they encounter can be shared and experienced with anyone else. Indeed, the co-presence enabled by 5G will far surpass the current online experience together. What are your priorities for 2020? At the 2019 Open Government Partnership Annual Conference, Taiwan announced it will launch a National Action Plan. In 2020, an extremely important task will be determining how to work with Taiwan’s civil society to decide on projects and content, to complete Taiwan’s first national action plan under international consultant guidance. Recently, President Tsai declared that government’s information, network, and communications departments must integrate further to assist all sectors of Taiwanese society to implement digital transformation. I will also help in the design of a dedicated organisation in our national government to further this mission. What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2020? On the one hand, one challenge is determining how to create more comprehensive effects through specific policies or activities between open government, social innovation, and youth participation. Examples include more youth engagement in the national action plan; promoting the youth advisory committee to enable further implementation of an open government concept in various ministries and local governments; and supporting legal innovation through social innovation. The process of formulating such policies will allow public service colleagues more opportunities to practice the four elements of open government: transparency, participation, accountability, and inclusion. On the other hand, ensuring Taiwan’s experience and progress in the above three areas creates more opportunities to be visible and make exchanges with the international community. For example, opportunities include the Asia-Pacific Social Innovation Summit, expanding the Presidential Hackathon’s international track size, deepening cooperation with other international counterparts, and sharing experiences on more international occasions through workshops and other ways, and ensuring that “Taiwan Can Help” will make more specific contributions toward the SDGs. What has been your fondest memory from the past year? My fondest memory was serving as a non-paid board member of two international nonprofit organisations — RadicalxChange in the United States and Digital Future Society in Spain. These two positions were not only unpaid but also helped our effort to promote social innovation and open government, as approved by the Premier. Most importantly, this matter is not a special case — As of 2019, every civil servant can apply to work in such international positions. Image by Medialab PradoCC BY 2.0