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For five months now, people in Hong Kong have been protesting for democracy and against
what they perceive as a growing influence by the mainland government from China.
As an official from Taiwan -- an island which Beijing considers a "breakaway territory"
-- how do you view these protests?
The breakaway was at the Neolithic Age, I believe.
I think in Taiwan, when we're looking at Hong Kong, we're seeing the beginning of a new
way of demonstration for liberal democracies that are what they call "be water" or "leaderless"
In our own Sunflower movement which I have participated, where we occupy the parliament
for 21 days back in 2014, we started this way of coordinating a leaderless movement.
By that time, it was more like 20 leaders but in Hong Kong is now like 2000 leaders.
The protests there have grown more violent in the last period of time and there's is
the chance that at some point Beijing says "we've had enough, we're going to intervene
with force."
How do you view this?
I don't think that will happen on a international watch, when all around the world, liberal
democracies are looking at it as something that must not happen.
For our part, the Taiwan universities have been offering a lot of exchange programs to
give the students there a safe space to have a conversation with international media, precisely
for this.
Now you've started writing computer code when you were a kid; you've been active as a hacker,
as a computer hacker; now you're the Digital Minister of Taiwan, and you're calling for
the reinvention of democracy.
How's it supposed to look like and how do you perceive your own role in it?
As a digital minister, my workspace is totally, radically transparent.
All the meetings that I chair, the full transcript can be found on the Internet; it's entirely
By radically trusting people and making the state -- and how the state works -- transparent
to the people, everybody can understand not only the why of policies, but also the why
of policymaking: the context of policymaking.
This is as opposed to other jurisdictions which make the citizen transparent to the
But is there more to it when it comes to digital reinvention of democracy than just providing
a bunch of papers for that matter?
In Taiwan, what we're doing is we're bringing technologies to where people are, instead
of asking people to come to technology.
We have universal broadband as a human right: anywhere in Taiwan even on top of the mountain
of Yushan -- 4000 meters -- you have 10 megabits per second and if you don't, it's my fault.
It's very affordable, 15 euros per month, so everybody can be their own press, their
own youtuber everybody can just voice your opinions.
That's the foundation of liberal democracy.
Because of universal broadband as a human right, we’re also opening up the entire participatory
budget; participatory regulation; everything is on a single participation platform called
"join.gov.tw" that has more than 10 million active users, out of 23 million active residents
in Taiwan.
Big tech companies have played a questionable role sometimes when it comes to democracy,
being a platform where fake news can be spread, or where voters could be influenced.
What sort of role do they need to play when it comes to reinventing democracy?
First of all, just like in the additional counter-spam issue 20 years ago, we need to
establish a norm where people can very easily voluntarily participate in the fact-checking
community, and this is what the large platform has done.
But more importantly, in each of our ministries there's a team of at least five people that
can roll out funny memetic-engineered jokes as clarifications, one hour
after each disinformation gets spread, so that when people look at this clarification,
this is just they'd think as something that's funny.
Instead of turning anger into outrage, it will become something that people can more
act in a pro-social manner, and this is way that we don't take down anything by the journalists
-- our minister's words are not higher than a journalist's words -- but we contribute
into fact-checking and journalism by providing real-time clarifications very quickly and
also in a very funny way.
Taiwan is also aiming to transform its economy from a manufacturing hub towards a
more digitalized economy, it's been difficult to do that.
What are the stumbling blocks, what are the roadblocks you're encountering there?
Well, we’re doing pretty well actually. Our AI strategy -- which is based on the idea of
AI as Assistive Intelligence, not artificial intelligence -- enables our medium and small
enterprises to automate part of the work that they consider a chore to do, without replacing
anyone’s job. This kind of co-evolution, this kind of social norm based AI development,
is very attractive to like-minded economies and countries, so that our unicorns don’t generate
negative externalities on the society or on the environment. For example,
Gogoro is at once a unicorn for sharing rides on the scooters but also energy management and also
the green energy.
Right. Audrey Tang, thank you.
Thank you, Audrey Tang.
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2019-11-22 DW Business Interview

368 Folder Collection
小林友里 published on March 7, 2020
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