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Taiwan’s Digital Democracy Successes

Taiwan encouraged other nations to consider Taiwan’s example of open digital development and privacy safeguards in countering digital authoritarianism and affirming democratic values. To elaborate on the tools Taiwan has used to foster transparency and public trust, the key is to work not only for the people but with the people.

“The decade between the end of martial law and Taiwan’s first direct presidential election, democracy and the internet, had developed side by side. Democracy is like a social technology for the Taiwanese.

Audrey Tang, Digital Minister of Taiwan

Taiwan’s widely praised private sector-developed, SMS-based contact tracing system has allowed the government to limit the spread of COVID-19 without infringing on private information. All location-related data is purged from the database after 28 days. A judge had denied a polaice request for a warrant to access the data, on the grounds it does not constitute information, which speaks to how seriously the government has taken privacy.

As further examples of public-government collaboration on digital solutions to issues of the day, The Digital Minister cited the pollution monitoring system and the Civil IOT Taiwan program. They use the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI tech to provide the public with real-time data on air, water, and earthquakes, and disaster prevention.

Moreover, a recent report by a human rights organisation showed Taiwan as the sole Asian green light this year. Taiwan was rated as having the only truly open civic space from the region. Other democratic countries should adopt digital innovation and invest in civic technologies. To give no trust is to get no trust.

Taiwan has put online collaboration at the core of its governance. The idea is to bring technology into the spaces where citizens live, rather than expect citizens to enter the space of technology. The premise is this: the government must first trust the people with agenda-setting power; then the people can make democracy work.

Taiwan’s national platform for online participation is called “Join” and the Taipei City government have adopted the gov system for projects to include the public in budget matters. Data visualisation tools help people to understand what is allocated where. The “Join” platform, with over 4m participants, extends beyond budget matters. Anyone can begin an e-petition on the platform. Once a case has 5,000 signatures, the relevant ministries must respond in public.

The Digital Minister has established a network of Participation Officers in each ministry. They serve as the links between the general public and the public sectors, and as channels for inter-agency collaboration. Whenever a proposal is raised, a collaborative meeting can be held, with participants from government departments and the public invited to join the discussion and to jointly create new policies.

The adoption of civic innovations in the public sector requires an established system for regulation, maintenance and accountability. Thus, it is imperative that the government, the tech community and companies come together to form a collaborative ecosystem to amplify the impact of civic technology: code can support democratic values in a way that was not previously possible.

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 offices.

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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