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Digital Solutions to Mitigate COVID-19 Pandemic in Taiwan

As the COVID-19 pandemic caused enormous numbers of infections and deaths, as well as economic recessions worldwide, many countries took a series of actions to contain the spread of coronavirus. Taiwan managed the pandemic largely by harnessing the national digital power, including the flexible and meaningful employment of technologies, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in governance, and supporting this with comprehensive policy planning for the whole society.

Over the past few decades, the Taiwanese government has developed policies to promote digitalisation in the healthcare industry. One of the most renowned actions was developing the National Health Insurance (NHI) system which has accumulated a comprehensive database and allows for further innovative applications, such as the NHI MediCloud system, “My Health Bank” service, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) analysis of NHI.  This digitised healthcare system, therefore, formed the basis for Taiwan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the face mask distribution, the Taiwanese government promptly organised the National Face Mask Production Team to address the shortage of face masks. The government utilised the national digital power to enhance the production capacity of face masks and distribute them to people.

Moreover, the Name-Based Mask Distribution System was also developed by collecting data from the manufacturing industry and employing the database of local pharmacies to display the location of pharmacies and stock of face masks, allowing people to locate and purchase, or pre-purchase, face masks efficiently. The government then released data publicly, which allowed the creative industries to further develop the GIS by integrating an online information platform and databases provided by the government.

Data governance in addressing new challenges

To contain COVID-19 infections, Taiwan implemented a series of measures to limit gatherings and to test, trace and isolate those who tested positive and their close contacts. Hence, Taiwan used its integrated digital power again. The Taiwan government considered the public concerns on issues such as infection prevention, digital divide, and data privacy.

Taiwan also developed the QR code registration system to track the footprint of people in the public health system.  The QR code system allows businesses, public agencies, public transportations, and individuals to register their locations simply by scanning the QR code and sending the text to the telecommunication companies.

In the QR code registration system, people provide location information to the government. The data then will be integrated into a GIS system to track the people who tested positive and their potential contact people and disinfect the areas as soon as possible. People are aware of how the system functions and what happens to their data. Therefore they are willing to provide their location information through the system.

The Face Mask Distribution System and QR code registration system both demonstrate how Taiwan harnessed its strong national digital power through effective data governance in pandemic prevention and addressing the new challenges. Digital technologies allow the shareholders to work together and helps to promote public-private partnerships and diversified public engagement.

Digital health has been growing significantly in Taiwan, including the adoption of AI in the medical sector. As reported by OpenGov Asia, healthcare is the ideal field to expand the use of AI given the technology’s ability to quickly conduct big data analyses and modelling. Taiwan’s National Health Insurance (NHI) Research Database contains over two decades worth of data and images to assist in this process.

Taiwan focuses on integrating advanced technologies with the latest medical applications to enable connected and smart healthcare. This development is expected to have a synergistic impact on Taiwan’s emerging advanced tech industries. As digital information is the bedrock of high-quality patient healthcare, Taiwan has long developed a comprehensive health information technology system to improve and monitor the financing and delivery of healthcare services.

Beyond the digitalisation in the healthcare industry, these technologies can also be integrated into different industries and government agencies comprehensively, supporting digital transformation across various sectors. The development and strengthening of the national digital power are the keys to address future challenges and implement sustainable development towards shaping a smart and sustainable future.

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