• Yes. Please do. I am Audrey, just call me Audrey. Should we just briefly introduce ourselves, and if there anything I can help with, or I can answer, feel free to ask.

  • Perhaps I introduce the group to you?

  • Yeah, of course, please do.

  • At first, thank you very much for spending your time this morning with us, to be here. We are a group from the Junge Union Deutschlands. They’re this youth organization of the CDU, the party of our chancellor, Angela Merkel.

  • We have around 106,000 members in Germany, so we have the biggest political youth organization in Germany. We have several members in our federal parliament and our regional and local parliaments. The persons who are here today are mainly members of the federal board of our organization.

  • This is Marian Bracht. He is the vice chairman of our Committee for Digital Affairs. Victoria Lehmann is Vice Chairman of our Committee for Agriculture and Environment. Eva Keldenich is Vce Chairman of our Committee for Culture and Media. Christian Kreiser is International Secretary at our office in Berlin.

  • Marius Maurer is Vice Chairman of our Committee for Interior and Law. Philipp Hoffmann is Vice Chairman of our Committee for Finance and Tax. Marius Keite is chairman of our Committee for Agriculture and Environment. I, Martin Plum, I am the Legal Adviser of the Junge Union Deutschlands.

  • Of course we are interested in the digital development of Taiwan. You are digital minister. We do not have a digital tool minister in Germany at the moment. Many parties say is the next government, which is not yet formed after our general elections, but we hope we will have one in several weeks.

  • Many people say we must have a digital minister, because it’s a topic which is now in many ministries and many offices. We need one person who has the competence to decide in this field of politics.

  • A brief introduction of my role. I’m called digital minister without portfolio, meaning that there is no digital ministry.

  • I’m the digital minister, but I work with all the different ministries. There is 32 -- recently 31, but very soon 32 -- of ministries here in Taiwan. The idea is very simple, because we see the digital development as an issue that requires...Here, this is the architecture. The plan that we have is called DIGI⁺ 2025.

  • The parts that the government can do is, of course, providing a stable infrastructure. Our current president ran with a platform of broadband Internet as human right, which is actually easier to achieve here in Taiwan because of the topology to the geographic connectivity.

  • We’re now down to the last three or four percent of population who doesn’t have broadband Internet access. We allocated a special budget to make that happen. About three years from now we aim to have 100 percent Internet accessibility for everybody, basically. That’s the "D"evelopment in DIGI of infrastructure part that will benefit everybody.

  • We’re also looking to modernize our own governmental methods to be, instead of discuss a bunch of people every four years, and give power to those people for four years, we aim to have a reasonable discussion on any and all policy issues.

  • We have one of the most advanced e-petition systems, where literally every other week we talk about any issue that was surfaced by more than 5,000 people. They may be a redesign of the tax filing system. They may be about fishing and marine park management.

  • They may be about local issue. They may be about national issue, like Uber. It doesn’t really matter. As long as 5,000 people want to talk about it, we talk about in a cross-ministerial way. That’s the governance part.

  • Also, because our legal system is similar to the German law system, it is a more fixed code system, so we’re now also trying to make room in our law for sandboxing.

  • One of the ideas is the FinTech sand box, where any blockchain or other inventors can say, "OK, we’re going to set up an operation that doesn’t quite look like a bank and doesn’t quite look like any other existing financial instrument."

  • Nevertheless, they would ask the FSC, the Financial Supervisory Commission, to say, "OK, we will not ban or regulate you for six months, or for a year or something, but in exchange you must protect, of course, still, privacy and consumer protection." You also release the experimental method of a limited trial for maybe 100 people or 200 people in a certain place for this new operation.

  • Once this experimentation period ends, the society, the sociologists, the local people doesn’t like it. It’s a failure, but at least it paid the tuition for everybody else, or it’s a good idea.

  • If it’s a good idea and passes the experimentation, then it’s up to the ministers. Now they have to adjust the regulation in order to make this kind of new operation a legal kind of operation to happen.

  • This is actually easier than if we start to allow them in the first place, because the society will already have had a dialogue on the digital economy and its impact on the new technology.

  • We try to make the innovation led by the private sector, instead of having the government dictating where to innovate and how to innovate, which is a lost cause, anyway.

  • On the inclusion part, we also rely on the local NGOs and local social enterprises, I’m also the minister in charge of social enterprise design. The idea is that many of those inventions, they’re not aimed just to earn or a profit, or not even chiefly earn to a profit, but to solve a sustainable development problem or to solve a local society problem.

  • For this kind of thing the national government is much too slow. We allocate budget every year, but new social problems arise every other week. It falls to the local NGOs and local social enterprises to surface the local issues and design innovative ways to address those issues.

  • Those may also run into existing regulations. They may also be in the grey area whether it’s OK to set up this or not. We promise to solve the problem for the local problem solvers.

  • Every Wednesday I work outside of the administration on a local Social Innovation Lab, here in Taipei. My office hour’s 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM.

  • Anyone can come to me and say, "We’re solving a local SDG issue. We’re running into this regulation problem." Within a week, because everything is transcribed, they will receive a written response from any ministries that’s related to their cause and try to solve the issues.

  • It’s easier for the ministers to work with social enterprises and NGOs, because their missions are aligned with the government in order to solve social issues. It’s much harder for any purely for-profit company to get treatment like this.

  • I also tour every two weeks to all the four different regional offices in Taiwan to have a high bandwidth -- and we’re setting up 360 and VR livestreaming -- connection to the Taipei Social Innovation Lab. All the ministry related to social enterprise, about eight of them, are sitting like this in a Taipei office while it’s connected to the four different regional cities.

  • The different regional cities’ social enterprises, the innovators, they gather around me. It’s just me that travels. Everybody else remains in Taipei, but we still have good videoconference and transcription that makes it very easy to see the local problems being surfaced and being resolved in a very quick fashion, because all the related eight or nine ministries are there.

  • Once the people solve it, everybody else, the other, unrelated ministries also understand, "OK, so this problem is to be resolved in this kind of way." For issues that related to digital economy, we usually make a mind map, which is coming up any moment now.

  • For example, when Facebook came to Taiwan a lot of people used Facebook, but in recent months there was an issue of Facebook having those scam accounts that purposely sell some goods. It’s a pay on delivery, but once you pay it on delivery, you find out that it’s actually not the thing that is advertised for.

  • For example, it sells a hard disk, but it actually corrupts after you write the first megabyte, or something, and then it gets very difficult to return this issue. All the customer service, the customer would discover that they are actually automated bots, or whatever.

  • This is a new kind of scam. The related ministries, there’s about seven of them. We get everybody in the same room, the NGOs, the social enterprise that purposely try to fix this problem, the local associations, and due the user journey that basically identifies all the touch points and what every ministry can do and should do in order to solve this issue.

  • We basically harness the protestors and invite them into the national government in order to make maps like this.

  • We also, then, identified two things that Facebook must do, they must improve their report mechanism for fake advertisements. They also must educate the users how to connect legitimate sellers into the advertisements. They must join the local business association in order to do a multi-stakeholder consultation with the business association.

  • Then I fly to Facebook and talk to their VP saying, "OK, everybody has done their job. It’s just you missing." Then they, after two weeks, agreed to join the local business association and basically play by this map. We used this for Uber, for Airbnb, for Facebook, for every other kind of issues that relates to digital economy.

  • That’s the five-minute version [laughs] of what I do on the governance issue. The innovation inclusion we basically let the private sector and the civil society, respectively, drive the agenda. I hope this makes some sense. [laughs]

  • Maybe one question. I have read about the concept or the idea of Asia Silicon Valley. Could you say some words about that?

  • Asia.SV. I put the dot in, so I always pronounce the dot. It used to be, during the campaign, the Asian Silicon Valley Plan, which for somebody who worked with Silicon Valley companies for six or eight years, it completely doesn’t make sense. [laughs]

  • It does face some backlash, because originally the popularly perceived idea, was that we’re going to select a place in Taoyuan and enlist the universities nearby to act like Stanford, and build a local copy of Silicon Valley.

  • First, it wouldn’t work. [laughs] Second, it doesn’t really improve the perception that Taiwan is actually different, but should be complement, not competing or trying to replace Silicon Valley.

  • What Taiwan’s best at is, of course, a very good integration on both the sensors, the semiconductor chips, the hardware part, as well as we have a lot of young user experience designers. There’s designers, the human related part, and the culture that could fuse the hardware and the service part. It’s pretty unique, actually, in Taiwan.

  • What we’re good at is being the connection between the traditional verticals in the Asia area and the innovators, the software-only companies like Google in Silicon Valley. Taiwan has traditionally always played the hub role that connects those two cultures.

  • Now that we’re having Google basically setting up their largest hardware manufacture R&D center in Taiwan, and also Microsoft with their AI center, and maybe very soon Facebook, we’ll see, the idea is that Taiwan can connect the local talents to the Silicon Valley value chain.

  • It’s not like we’re replacing or Shenzhen in Silicon Valley. We’re playing a role that Silicon Valley doesn’t play.

  • We’re also, as you just saw with the automated scam on Facebook, solving the problem caused by Silicon Valley companies. That’s another thing that Taiwan can do, is that we connect much better to the regional user base and can provide a much more well-rounded way of how we expect of technology, instead of what technology dictates what the society to do.

  • That’s the connect part.

  • Is that what you’re bad at? Because you said you’re pretty good at being the hub. What are you bad at? Do you get my question?

  • No, because you just said an Asian Silicon Valley would not work because you guys are pretty good at being a hub and being a connector. What are you bad at? Why do you think it would not work? What is the part where it comes...?

  • Because the original public conception is that we can bootstrap a Silicon Valley ecosystem out of nowhere, without linking. I don’t think it would work anywhere else. It’s the idea that’s bad.

  • In Europe we have always discussion why we do not have a European Microsoft, a European Facebook, a European Apple, and so on, and so on.

  • It’s always a discussion, "Oh, let us try to establish something like that." Is it similar here, or is this more the approach to bring these global firms to your country and let them operate here?

  • First of all, I don’t think those companies consider themselves American, either. [laughs] They’re semi-sovereign now. It’s not like they’re loyal to any particular...maybe they’re more loyal to California. I don’t really know. [laughs]

  • The idea is that those, I would say, semi-sovereign entities, they may be borne out of a particular American culture in the Silicon Valley, but they’re something else now.

  • Basically, what I see is that they try to absorb innovations that happens anywhere. It could be in Estonia. It could be Israel. It could be in Taiwan, or whatever. It eventually get bought by Google, or Facebook, or Microsoft anyway.

  • They don’t really have a national preference. I don’t think they buy only US companies. It’s not like that. [laughs] It’s getting absorbed into this new world order.

  • My role here is also as a semi-diplomatic person to those semi-sovereign entities, and to recognize the fact that on the Internet, especially on digital economy, that a sovereign state is somewhat antique.

  • It’s easier for me to think that I’m just one of the operators in one of Asia’s largest non-profit organizations that calls itself the Executive Yuan, but it doesn’t really matter. We’re an NPO that try to safeguard privacy, consumer protection, or whatever.

  • In an Internet and multi-stakeholder dialogue forum we don’t even have more say than those semi-sovereign entities. We are peers, basically.

  • That’s the governance model that I’m looking at, because that’s the culture I was raised in. One of the Internet’s promises was that everybody on the Internet governance is equal with everybody else, whether they’re from the state or from any other sector.

  • Now we’re seeing more and more tilting to the private sector, the multinationals. At least we can get the nonprofits and the governmental delegates the same readiness to engage in dialogues, but we’re not thinking that they, in any sense, belong to any particular nation state.

  • In Germany we have another, also, critical view on the practices of those multinational companies, for example concerning data protection, intellectual property rights, but also tax paying, which doesn’t happen very much. Do you know what I mean?

  • I would be interested in how you and your government have had a view on these questions and how do you engage with these companies at this moment.

  • Basically, we try to make our PR better than their PR. [laughs] When Uber came to Taiwan we engaged using a gamified Internet game system, really, called Polis.

  • The Polis system allows everybody to express their opinions, but in a very structured way, instead of on Facebook, where people try to dominate the discussion with strange views.

  • In Polis we talk about any controversial issues, and you vote yes or no, each other’s feelings, sentiments. As you vote yes or no, your avatar moves toward people who are more like you.

  • The idea is that people compete to have consensus ideas that try to convince everybody else across the board, even if they’re disagreeing otherwise on fringe issues.

  • It has two effects. The first is that for the Uber discussion many people saw that there is a common ground.

  • There is about 80 percent resonance about requiring a professional driver’s license, about tax paying, about insurance, and safety. It often get lost in the sharing economy debates that try to frame the discussion in a more left versus right way, which doesn’t even work in Uber.

  • The second thing is that people see that their friends are all over the place. These are their Facebook and Twitter friends. No matter which side people are on, they are reasonable people that you already know, and you can have a discussion.

  • Over three weeks we have discovered the consensus items that manage to convince everybody. People literally from the fringes converged to the middle, visualized, we gamified the feelings around Uber.

  • Then, after we get the consensus, we get Uber, and Association of Drivers, and local taxi companies, and co-ops, and whatever on a live-streamed meeting that was watched by these people and check with them the consensus items one by one, saying, "These are the people’s will. Why are you resisting? If you do not resist, does this translation into legalese make sense?"

  • In many other Asian countries Uber doesn’t even show up, but in this kind of setting if anyone doesn’t show up they’ll be villains in the stories, basically, because people have already had a wide discussion and converged on something. They had to show up and agree with those consensus items, and then we translate that into legalese.

  • We now make a template of so-called platform economy principles, so that any other platform economy comes, they must go through the same checklist. The people doesn’t have to go through the same process for every new platform economy things because now, based on the Uber experience, we made a template.

  • Uber, when it initially tried to evade one of the key clauses, the professional driver’s license, we fined them extremely highly. They basically had to play by the rules. Now they play by rule. They are a legal company now. The consumer protection invoice, insurance, taxes, it’s all taken care of.

  • Is it still working out this way? We had the issue going on, but our taxi lobby’s pretty strong, that this steam machine called Uber was flooding the market.

  • It was a small group of taxi drivers, a small group of the population that was not benefiting from that system. They were pretty much successful in stopping that development.

  • If you think about it, it’s a small part of the population stopping the evolution that’s happening. How have you...?

  • It’s not a Taiwan problem. I call it the epidemic of the mind. It’s a virus of the mind. It’s the meme that says, "OK, just because algorithm dispatch cars better than the current regulations do, we need to obey algorithms instead of regulations."

  • This meme is actually very powerful and it spreads just like a common flu, from drivers to passengers, to driver to passengers. If the government doesn’t come up with a regulation that actually makes more sense than what Uber proposes, then of course it’s a lost cause. It’s like negotiating with a virus, negotiating with a common flu.

  • It doesn’t even make sense. It’s not in the same category, because it’s in the people’s minds. It’s in the legitimacy of rule.

  • What we think is that deliberation is a vaccine against this kind of virus of the mind. The facts, the feelings, the ideas, and the decisions need to happen, each taken with the previous stage in mind.

  • The best ideas, as we mentioned, it has to take care of everybody’s feelings, not just 90 percent of people’s feelings, everybody’s feelings, and now those ideas has a chance to be Pareto improvements, that doesn’t sacrifice anyone in order to move to the same state.

  • In order to create this kind of win-win idea, it actually requires all the stakeholders to agree with this process, otherwise it become ideologies, and you can’t really talk about this sensibly.

  • This brewing period, this three weeks or four weeks is to get all the stakeholders in. The consensus, it isn’t unique, but the process is unique. The process says the taxi companies and everybody who participate in the process implicitly give their assent to whatever the resonating consensus finally agreed with.

  • Once we have that, we run a live consultation. It reestablishes the legitimacy.

  • Now the taxi companies, they used to have to be painted yellow, but now if they are be called by apps, they don’t have to be painted yellow anymore. If they use e-payment, then it doesn’t have to go by the meter anymore. They can go above the meter, and so on. They basically now enjoy Uber-like protections, while still being taxi company.

  • That solution was discussed through this kind of method. If we just say, "OK, we’re going to solve it this way," without involving the taxi drivers, they would, of course, revolt. That’s because now they are a part of this discussion and they see, "OK, I can also get something from this," and so they don’t revolt. That’s the basic idea.

  • In the last years we noticed that, for example, Russia is trying to influence western society through social media, for example, Facebook, perhaps successfully, in the presidential elections in the States.

  • Do you have similar problems with Mainland China?

  • Of course. It’s way before Snowden. [laughs] When Mainland started developing the Golden Shield Program, that was in the early 2000s. It was way before the Snowden revelations. We’re intimately aware that Internet is not just a force of good, like last century. [laughs]

  • In Taiwan I was, personally, one of the developers of the local free-net community that tried to circumvent the Golden Shield, way back. That’s one of the first P2P. Now they use Tor, or whatever other technologies.

  • The idea is always the same. If we see the social media as something that engages people just for their initial response that’s two seconds or three seconds, their gut feelings through pictures, or whatever, and they click share without even reading through it, then it becomes viral. That’s what virality means.

  • To counter this kind of virality it’s essential to have facts spread faster than the rumors, to have facts be more attractive than rumors, and to have what we call the co-fact system. This is developed by the g0v community, which I’m still part of.

  • As you can see, the domain is called g0v.tw. That’s basically any government website that a civil society that think they can do better. They use the same website address, but change the O to a zero. You can discover the shadow government website very easily without remembering any new domain names.

  • There’s a shadow part of the Taiwan government website on a lot of things. If the civil society thinks that the government should have a collaborative fact-checking facility, but the government cannot do it for various constitutional reasons, then the civil society go ahead and create one themselves.

  • This is a bot that lets anyone add them to their line. It’s like WhatsApp groups. Once you see a rumor, you can very easily tell the bot whether this is a rumor or not by sharing it to the bot. The bot will come back saying, "OK, this is a rumor," or "This is not."

  • This is collaboratively checked by a lot of volunteer journalists and a lot of people working on the co-facts program. The idea is that once we invite this bot into your family chat channel, they would fact check the rumors that’s spreading there, because it’s much harder if it’s in a private channel.

  • We do have a lot of ways if it’s in a public channel, but in the private channel it’s very difficult. This is one of the very few tools that actually gets a lot of adoption on the private channels, and things like that.

  • Eventually this kind of immunization process is just like the original spam wars that already happened everywhere on the world. It’s important for the government to make sure everybody knows what everybody else is doing without going into censorship ourselves.

  • That’s the role that we play. This civil society effort, of course, is working in tandem with fact checkers everywhere in the world on AI and on other technologies related to it.

  • We’re acutely aware of the threat to common sense. The response that we have is to get everybody back into a dialogue and try to use those automated fact-checking services to make sure that people have media literacy.

  • Those are, to be honest, superficial solutions. The real solution, I believe, is in our K-12 curriculum, which is going to take effect about a year from now.

  • I was part of the design team. We put -- I think the first in Asia -- ICT and media literacy as one of the core characters in the new curriculum.

  • We’re shifting from a sore and skill based into a character-based education system. One of the key characters is that the teachers are now, instead of lecturers, a co-learner with the student.

  • They, together, find those information from all over the Internet, and the teacher demonstrate how to do fact checking, critical thinking, and fact finding, and whatever. This is not just a two-hour class that everybody must use. It’s all the different classes, all the different fields are now required to be educated like this.

  • Of course, this implies that even primary schools have broadband Internet, have projectors, have those equipments, which now we ensure using special budget. We’re trying not to recreate a digital divide, but upgrade all the teachers, so that the new generation will be growing up with critical thinking and media literacy in mind.

  • Do you have any schools of some special subject focusing on digital questions?

  • Yeah, sure. One of the other K-12 innovations that we do is that every senior high school now are basically universities. Now they can design their own special classes, their own special programs, and then also allow their students to have different combinations.

  • Yeah, we already have schools specializing in using e-sport, [laughs] and recruit those e-sport athletes to educate people in digital literacy, digital rules, ethics, and whatever. It’s working pretty well. People actually flock to those schools that has the star e-sport athletes. It also gives them something to do after their peak, so I think it’s a win-win solution. [laughs]

  • We also have schools specializing in philosophy and whatever. Yeah, there are different ways to tackle this.

  • You told us about the open governance, that everybody can see everything and hear everything. As we look at this now, how did the other 32 ministries...Are they open for that idea? Or, do they have to be open for that? [laughs]

  • In order to have me as the chair in any internal meeting, they have to agree with this. Otherwise, they just find some other chair, right? [laughs] That’s my working condition. Of course, in exchange, I’m not involved in any top secret or national confidential discussions.

  • That’s the requirement. Otherwise, it’s arbitrary then, so I just exclude myself. When there is a military drill, I just take a day off. I don’t even know where the bunkers are, [laughs] things like that.

  • The other ministries, they essentially see it first as a risk-prevention method. The risk for career public servants is usually that the top minister make the decision on behalf of people who attend the meeting. On the meeting record, you will just see everybody agree with what the minister has finally decided.

  • They actually disagreed or they have better ideas, but those were often masked if you don’t do a radical transparent meeting record, where everybody see what everybody else is saying. For the career public servants, this reduces their risk, because they will not be seen as backing a bad idea.

  • After I run this idea for three or four months, they discovered something else. They discovered that journalists will go back and check those transcripts and find who was the career public servant that proposed those awesome idea in the first place. Instead of a minister getting all the credit, the even low-level career public servants who proposed the idea now get the credit.

  • I’m very eager to share credits, anyway. Basically, instead of the traditional politician who are usually credit-seeking and blame-avoiding, what I’m engaging in is essentially blame-absorbing and credit-sharing way of doing politics. I think they love that now.

  • The idea is that, because it’s an experimental method, if anything goes wrong, it’s always Audrey’s fault, but if anything goes right, the credit goes to the career public servants that propose it on a meeting in the first place. The journalists do go back and check, so I think they now love the idea.

  • We make sure to reflect that in our presentations. For example, one of the cases where the people petitioned, saying the tax reporting system using Java applet is broken on Mac and on Linux, so we have a petitioner.

  • Then what we did was, we have a participation officer by regulation now in every ministry. They have their own teams, so they’re like their ministry’s Audrey. They have to assemble their...It’s like a fractal. They then have a participation officer in all the third level and the fourth level of the government also.

  • This tree of participation offices is responsible to respond to any random stakeholders that just petitioned on the Internet. Instead of just the media and the parliament, now we have officers that take care of this kind of explosive new things, like the e-petition, so we invite it in.

  • The Ministry of Finance PO, Yang Ching Hun, then raised this within the 48 hours, and just went on the Internet to respond personally, saying, "OK, we’re now inviting everyone who complain about the tax reporting system into our collaborative workshops next week."

  • Now people become very interested. They were UX enthusiasts, so they can actually bring something to the table. They’ve just never been invited into co-creation on the national level before. We just did a standard service design, a user journey, whatever.

  • We ran five workshops and basically identified...In order to talk with the contractors, the civil service, and whatever, we just invited everybody in, and it’s all radically transparent, anyway. After those five meetings, the tax reporting system goes from this into that. It used to be Java applet, now it’s HTML5, and whatever.

  • It’s actually very easy for people to get angry about the government, but mostly it’s about frustration. If we have participation officers that engage within the first 48 hours, usually those anger goes into productivity. They essentially work for free, [laughs] so why not?

  • In Germany, the question of digital infrastructure is also a big topic. In our cities, it’s not a big problem, but in the countryside we often have parts of our country where we have only a very low digital infrastructure. Do you have the same problems or face the same problem in Taiwan?

  • [laughs] That’s because, for the past 20 year or so, digital equality has always been the platform, no matter which party was in place. That’s because Taiwan constitutionally protects education with a fixed-size budget, and it’s kind of rare.

  • We also constitutionally protect gender equality in the parliament and in all levels of...Because that’s a constitutional value, whenever people see that there is some digital infrastructure that only benefits schools in the cities, they will say it’s unconstitutional.

  • All those digital developments are mostly required, even for the largest telecoms. In order to get a spectrum or whatever, they have to agree to go to those remote places and operate on a loss, essentially, in order to bridge the digital divide. We don’t have that much of a problem.

  • The problem we identified a year ago was mostly that the lower-level governments and the schools doesn’t have the hardware. They’re still running Windows XP on old computers and whatever. Then we used a special budget to upgrade them to the latest hardware, for cybersecurity reasons, of course, but it also incidentally gave everybody the same starting place, hardware-wise.

  • Perhaps looking forward to the development in the next 10, 20, 30 years, what do you see are the main challenges and the main changes we will have in our societies through the digital change?

  • As an anarchist, [laughs] I of course look forward to have everyone see that this kind of multi-stakeholder government system doesn’t take a government to run. The ideal way, in my mind, would be that all the communities, be they are distributed communities over the world or just special interest groups in a city, learns that it’s easy to self-govern using this kind of tool.

  • It’s like DIY governance for everyone. I think this will lead to a much better dialogue, both cross-generationally and cross-culturally. The idea of a hub or a linking that’s of benefit of everybody, or at least doesn’t harm anybody, is only possible because of the communication infrastructure that lets everybody talk to everybody without an intermediary.

  • That’s a relatively new development. The idea is just -- I call this scalable listening process -- to develop the technology that enable people to listen to each other, at scale. Then maybe people will realize that they don’t require a government to do it, which is always why I will say I work with the Taiwan administration, instead of for the Taiwan administration.

  • It’s essentially just one of the first pilot projects that I think can demonstrate that this model actually has some sense.

  • Do you think that people maybe 10 or 20 years ago are not connected with digital subjects, so somebody who have no cell phone and no...

  • Yeah, that’s a very good question, and we have a ready answer. During the Occupy, [laughs] the idea is not that the occupiers need to bring with them cell phones or whatever. The idea is what we call "assistive civic technology."

  • People just be themselves. They just show up in the street. They just start a discussion. They just have those town hall meetings. It’s our job, the technologist’s job, to make sure that what they say is carried in a binding fashion, in a consensus-making fashion, to tomorrow’s discussion.

  • Instead of everybody just randomly talk to each other, we try to design a process where people, just being themselves, talk in the gathering places that they gather. For example, in Taipei City, they experiments with this method to have the socially disadvantaged people to decide on how social housing need to be distributed together.

  • We have aborigines, we have Singaporeans, we have HIV positives, we have a lot of people who try to decide how is it fair to distribute their housing allocations together. There are even paralyzed people.

  • Without technology, there is no way for these people to talk face to face for an extended period until they come up with a consensus. It’s unfair if we just set up a website and expect those people to go to this website to do their, I don’t know, delegative, liquid voting or whatever. It doesn’t even make sense.

  • They just be themselves, and the Taipei City work with social workers to bring the equipment to those gathering places, to bring the sign language translators, captions, and whatever to the gathering places, the community that they’re gathering.

  • They do ethnographic interviews and try to carry those things into the administration’s discussion period. The idea is that the socially disadvantaged people, they’re not represented by anyone they voted for, but they are represented by having a thorough video capture, an interview, or any kind of live streaming.

  • Their lives are represented to the deliberations and conversations that pertain to them. The idea is multi-stakeholder consultation. The idea is not forcing everyone to use digital technology. Digital technology is just there so their voices can be carried into the discussions that goes afterwards. It’s called assistive-civic tech.

  • Do you think, in general, politics can be a relevant and active factor in digital change, or can it only react to the digital change, so can’t actively make decisions what should happen, or can only passively make regulations or react to it?

  • The political system, if you are talking about the current representative republic democratic system, I think it has both roles. It, of course, must react to the fact that the stakeholders now communicate among themselves much more effectively [laughs] than through intermediaries.

  • In order to do so -- I think this goes back to the DIGI⁺ Plan -- the governance part is that what we’re trying to do is that we’re using free software, we’re using cybersecurity-hardened software, to do our own businesses, to manage my team, basically.

  • I don’t have to work here in the administration, mostly because I just use all those free software tools. It’s called Sandstorm, and it’s cybersecurity...We hired white hat hackers, making sure it’s secure. Everybody can know what my team is doing at any time, at any point. We have chat rooms, shared comment boards, and we even order lunch boxes using this system.

  • (laughter)

  • It’s written by young public servants, because the underlying sandbox system, Sandstorm, is cybersecurity-hardened. You don’t have to worry about security when you write for this system. They just concentrate on getting the lunch boxes represented correctly, and it automatically tallies what we order for lunch. [laughs]

  • The idea is that the government, the political system, we can also change internally to use this kind of cross-ministry, collaborative, highly interactive way of interacting with each other. Once we do that, we’re basically on the same terms, where we’ll be speaking the same protocol with the other multinationals or internationally recognized, like IETF. They’re not even belonging to any state, either.

  • Once our protocols, our language, are the same, then we can both act and react bidirectionally, but until we transform digitally ourselves, internally, we can always only react, because the iteration is much faster on the other side and much slower on this side.

  • We here also run a weekly sprint. We also run a weekly iteration so we can react, and we can also act by proactively talking to Uber, talking to Facebook, and talking to these kind of multinationals. Yes?

  • I think you guys are pretty good at...I don’t know. It seems to me like you know when, in Germany, a snake is appearing somewhere in the country, everybody’s trying to chop off the head of the snake.

  • Here it’s more like you try to paint it, make the people aware of it, and show them how things work, like, "Hey, there is a snake there. Look, we painted it, whatever, white so that people can see it." How does this work on an international level? I think most of the countries are more into chopping the head off than your approach.

  • We do need more communicators on parseltongue. I think that’s the Harry Potter term, people who talk to snakes. [laughs] I think the idea is that this method, to be honest, is easier on the city level, on the township level, than on a national level.

  • On a national level, we’re less connected to the actual snakes. We’re connected to the taxonomy of reptiles or whatever. [laughs] We do work closely. Our architect, Julianne, just came back from Tokyo, and she also visited Madrid.

  • Madrid is experimenting. Actually, a lot of our tools came from Madrid, and also Barcelona. I visited there using VR, a hologram, also, London, in some sense, and New York City, Ontario, and, of course, Estonia, and also Iceland. They’re all looking into, one part or another, these "people talking to the snakes, snake are also people" kind of methodologies.

  • It’s easier on a local level to have a shared GitHub, and share tools. It’s much harder for a national government. It is true. Taiwan is somewhere in between. We’re very large population-wise, but very small, like city scale, geographic-wise.

  • We have more population density to try to reach a critical mass for things like that but, in the end, traffic-wise or geographically, we’re just a larger city, really.

  • In Germany, we had a big discussion about hate speech...

  • ...in social media, especially on Facebook. I would say that the political discussion is perhaps also a bit more rough since we have social media, because people express opinion perhaps more rude on the Facebook. We have now also a law saying that Facebook has to react on this hate speech...

  • (laughter)

  • We have it for some months, but I can’t really say if it works or not.

  • I would say it has not really changed some things.

  • They build some centers for deleting comments that are too hard. I don’t know which it is, but I don’t think that it’s working.

  • The trolls just move on to use some other words. [laughs]

  • Yeah, there’s people that are getting...I think they get paid €12 per hour. They don’t just do it for Facebook. They also do it for MacDonald’s because you can design your own burgers, and people are giving them weird names. They’re writing down racist stuff for burgers.

  • There’s people getting paid 12 bucks, and they go through the names. If they find something like a pork burger which is called Mohamed’s Revenge, they delete it. It’s exactly the same system. It’s chopping the snake’s head off.

  • I’m sure it’s a useful service to society. It’s not very systematic, though.

  • Do you have similar problems so that you notice that political discussions, or you have also problems with hate speech on Facebook?

  • Actually no, because Taiwan...I’m 36 now. I’m the last generation that remembers the martial law. People younger than me doesn’t remember the martial law anymore. During the martial law, there’s a lot of this kind...

  • Just look at the PRC at the moment. You have an idea of the keyword banning that was active, and it was very active during the White Terror, martial law era in Taiwan, also. The people older than me all remember that era.

  • We fought very hard, not we, but my parents’, my grandparents’ generation, they fought very hard, during democratization to basically make Taiwan a place where places freedom of speech as the core value.

  • We don’t see any constitutional disputes around the importance of freedom. I think the only two things that can be penalized using our current criminal code related to speech inaccurate or whatever speech are two things. One is that during presidential or other high-level elections trying to libel somebody into not being elected, and that’s punishable.

  • The other thing is we’re in a large epidemic, then spreading rumors about the epidemic is punishable. Everything else is safe space. Everything else is free speech.

  • I think Taiwan, maybe alone in Asia, is having this as a core value, so we don’t even have a discussion. It’s kind of the other way around, on whether the government can set up a fact checking, or whatever, centers like this.

  • Everybody says, "OK, the government should just make frequently asked questions that clears rumors pertaining to government itself, and the government should not lie, but everything else is not the government’s business."

  • The civil society was very clear around that, and we are also very clear on that. The government isn’t even thinking to censor speech in any way, so the co-facts and other related efforts, basically, needs to be more transparent, more accountable than government and then any other media they’re trying to make clarification of, and the extent they’re doing is also still just to make clarifications.

  • They’re not making those words go away. We’re not trying to make any words go away. That’s the Taiwan stance on this matter, and it’s not because of any particular politician being an anarchist, but because of the recent 30 years, everybody focused on free speech as the fundamental right, so even hate speech.

  • Now with that constraint, it’s like one hand tied behind our back. [laughs] We need to then work on interventions that are not censorship -- on media literacy classes, on those innovative discussion forums that doesn’t really let people reply directly to each other, but rather compete for resonance.

  • We had to innovate in those senses instead of on the censorship part.

  • Anyone else has questions? Thank you very for spending your time with us and for discussing with us today. We have a little gift for you.

  • A simple present to me. It’s a scarf, handmade from a tailor in Berlin. It will always remember you to a wizard because you can see this little symbol because it’s a symbol of our organization.

  • Right. That’s your symbol. Do you want a picture?

  • Awesome. Thank you so much.

  • Thank you very much again.