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Taiwan Leverages Technology to Foster Democracy

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, the Taiwanese government utilised techniques that blended technology with democratic decentralisation to mitigate the crisis. The latest advances in technology, enabled Taiwan to reinvent its governmental institutions and overall strategic posture in preventing the further spread of the virus infections.

Taiwan was one of the first countries in the world to detect and respond to the burgeoning pandemic. Citizens quickly build technological tools in collaboration with the government to help people avoid infection and prepare for the pandemic, such as live infection maps and bots to combat misinformation about the virus.

With the informed and enthusiastic participation of a digitally active public, both existing centralised efforts and quickly developed new ones proved to be efficient in mitigating the pandemic. The efforts include integration of national health insurance data with customs and immigration institutions, online reporting of personal data, and the establishment of a national Command Center for disease control, cell phone tracking, ramping up mask production, and quarantine procedures

The government’s integration of information technology into its functioning proved decisive in Taiwan’s COVID response, the Taiwanese government has similarly thoroughly integrated information technologies into the day-to-day business of government for officials and citizens alike. Through digital government or e-government strategy, ordinary citizens in Taiwan can largely and productively interact with government bureaucracies with not just a web browser, but on a single website.

Taiwanese citizens who log on to this central web portal can quickly find links to government services from birth certificates to registering deaths and every other service that might be useful at any stage of life from birth, to education, work, and then retirement and death. Searching the site directory yields information and forms covering everything from military service to registering candidacies for elections, from both the national government as well as city and county governments.

The government wanted to design a system where citizens would enjoy online ease of access to any conceivable government service. Another government-operated web service allows citizens to inquire about and discuss legislation and policy issues as they are being drafted and implemented, including a feature for citizens to send emails directly to the heads of government agencies.

The Taiwanese government has not only long spearheaded and integrated innovations in digital government, but is itself responsible for spearheading the development of Taiwan’s technology industry as part of its overall strategy for economic development and national sovereignty. Taiwan seeks to build an entire rationalised institutional system that is geared to produce stable democracy by utilising advanced technology.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, digitalisation is no longer an option, but it is a necessity in Taiwan. As face-to-face contact is limited, digitalisation has become crucial not only for businesses but also for schools. Local corporations were prudent about revamping older information technology infrastructure to keep up with the global digitalisation trend, but most office employees still worked in front of desktop computers at their office.

Taiwan’s small businesses were slow to transform digitally, giving the nation a lower ranking in the “digital observer” category than other Asian countries, according to the Small Business Digitalisation and COVID-19 survey released. Most countries fell in the “digital observer” category, the second of the survey’s four categories. Asia-Pacific small businesses mostly lagged behind those from the U.S. and Europe.

Taiwan’s government agencies and private businesses should keep progressing to address the increasing needs of their citizens and customers.

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