Shuyang Lin, Co-Founder, Public Digital Innovation Space, Taiwan

By Medha Basu

Women in GovTech Special Report 2019.

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

My role the re:architect in PDIS in central government of Taiwan has constantly reminded me to keep working on crafting government citizen interaction. PDIS was founded in 2016 by the digital minister’s office, and since then we have been working on open government and social innovation initiatives leveraging open space technology, adapting open source culture and using machine learning power.

We have been using Polis, a conversational tool embedded with a machine learning algorithm that helps visualise large numbers of options. Polis’ interface also helps participants to contribute with constructive opinions while understanding different point of views.

We also collaborate with vTaiwan, a regular open space and time where everyone can participate and take part in digital regulatory reform. vTaiwan realises weekly opinion level participation with the principle of maximise for fun. vTaiwan runs open space technology, meaning there is no fix agenda when meet-ups are held.

Participants can feel free to come late or leave early. Tasks and ways to contribute are made clear and transparent. All participants can join offline and online while picking up tasks – ranging from ordering a pizza to drafting a bill. Works are done collaboratively. In this way, participants feel at home and want to contribute to this community.

What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019?

In 2019 I have been focusing on two tracks. The first track is about sharing the making of vTaiwan and help other interested organisations and governments launch ML-powered government citizen conversation channels. The second track is about designing channels for everyday participation, which I use 20 percent of my time for.

I believe participation can be made more accessible for citizens so that participation can be easy and fun, and therefore can be realised everyday. Everyday participation is not special participation. Reading an article, sharing opinions with families and friends, casting a vote, making a video about interesting facts of upcoming election etc. can all be meaningful ways of participation. Expanding the impression of participation has been the most exciting thing that I worked on this year.

What is the best thing you have experienced in your career?

Through working on open government and designing channels for everyday participation, I have been working with the kindest and smartest team I could ever imagine. I am truly grateful to get to work with my team and get to know some inspiring figures in the world.

If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2019, what would it be?

Listen, and listen carefully. It’s extremely important to listen and listen carefully to people around you. Then, the next thing is to go ahead to build, test and repeat. Let the work, the idea, or the prototype carry out conversation. Let the work talk.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2020?

VR headsets. I think the emerging gadgets unlock the physical constraints we had, and can bring us to another level of large group interactive environment.

What are your priorities for 2020?

Social innovation for the 17 global goals. This is important because, as a government, we can really only change our direction once every year, because of budget cycles. But there’s so many emergent issues nowadays — we know that the people on the field are actually the best people to bring about innovative solutions.

What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2020?

Grow 500 trees. Before climate change and global warming reach an irreversible tipping point, everyone should think about what actions they can take to realise net zero CO2 emissions (anthropogenic CO2 emissions balanced globally by anthropogenic CO2 removals).

What has been your fondest memory from the past year?

Virtual reality. The overview effect that VR brings amazes me. This year I tried meeting with a few remote friends in VR, the experience was amazingly convincing, natural and creative.