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In cybersecurity, we have white hat hackers, who will get into the vulnerabilities and security flaws of the system, and tell you how to repair it.
or there are black hat hackers that use those flaws for personal gain and benefits.
"We're white hat civic hackers, we're not exploiting those loopholes in democracy for personal gain."
Rather, we're about building new tools in democracy that can better reflect the collective will and rough consensus of the entire citizenship and entire society.
At any given time, there are 100 small experiments running all across Taiwan.
Whenever there is a really good idea accepted by society emerging out of a sandbox, we then agree within a year to adopt their idea as our new regulation.
In all the 12 ministries related to social innovation, each minister has two social innovators who are always under 35 years old that lead the direction for that particular ministry.
We call them reverse mentors because in a sense, they're mentoring the ministers and educating them, whether their policies are having a positive effect on all of the population.
On the other hand, it's in reverse because they were not trained in public policy.
"Having a good bi-direction or omni-directional listening experience is really important."
If people want to make sure that all the citizens benefit, rather than just a few people who have a good connection to the ministries.
My first foray into the World Web was actually campaigning for the first presidential election in Taiwan.
That was in 1996. So basically, direct election for the president, and the World Wide Web's mass adoption was in the same year.
In Taiwan, people who innovate with technology and people who innovate with bureaucracy are the same people.
That gives a civic spirit so that people feel that we own democracy, because it is relatively new to us, it's only 30 years old.
I think this drive of inspiration and innovation is what led Taiwan to be one of the most radically transparent, and also the most progressive country in the whole of Asia.
There's two key lessons.
"The government should trust citizens without requiring the citizens to trust back."
The other lesson I would like to share in any place in Taiwan, more than 98 percent of our territory, you have 10 megabits per second at 15 Euros, unlimited connections, and if you don't, it's my fault.
This way, people are getting more included into the democratic process, instead of just forcing people to speak the language of bureaucracy, or maybe traveling to Taipei to deliver a five minute speech in a public hearing.
Back in 2016, people were talking about the weaponization of social media everywhere around the world, including certain elections in 2016.
People discovered that it is actually possible to use precision targeting and the same technologies that people develop for advertisement purposes, for political campaigning.
Even more worrying, it can spread intentional harmful information to parts of the electorate, so that the citizens who are affected with such disinformation will stop recognizing, other political ideas as valid or even other groups as people.
"Disinformation will drive people to be much more polarised and violent towards each other"
so that it becomes an antisocial media and not a social media.
For the past couple of years, what we've been doing is researching vaccines and inoculations against such a toxic virus of the mind.
We develop it through humor, through rapid responses, through collaborative journalism and fact-checking and so on.
During our past presidential election, we saw that less than 16 minutes after each harmful misinformation was spread, instead of going to censorship or being taken down or encroaching on the media platform,
we do none of these things.
"Citizens organised themselves to put out clarifications in real time."
Attaching it to the public notice, attributing the sources of such interferences.
The ministries in charge rolled out hilarious funny mimetic pictures within an hour for people to get into a more humorous mindset.
"A more humorous mindset is a natural inoculation against hate."
Just recently, early February this year in Taiwan, there is massive speculation on the price of surgical masks.
We're not alone. Everywhere in East Asia from Hong Kong, through Singapore, through Japan,
There is a social norm where people, because they don't want to infect their community, put on surgical masks just on the slightest flu-like symptoms.
It's a different social norm compared to European cities, but it is true in Asian society.
In Taiwan, there's a lot of uncertainty and doubt about the accessibility of the surgical mask.
Within 48 hours, our team of national health insurers designed – and I personally coded – a mask map.
Everybody can see where the nearby pharmacies are or the stock level is, and refresh every 30 seconds, so that you can go into a pharmacy, present your NHI card, and get a pair of masks immediately.
You trust the pharmacists more, because you know that they're tapping into the right shared open data pool.
The pharmacists trust the government more, because they know that the distribution is fair and equal.
The government trusts the citizens more, because then there is no way to speculate.
If you know that there is going to be more masks supplied at lower prices as the days goes on.
"This is just one example of how social fear can be mitigated through radical transparency and open data."
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The civic hacker that became Digital Minister of Taiwan: interview with Audrey Tang

474 Folder Collection
Yuka Ito published on June 12, 2020
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