• Let’s get started.

  • Perhaps I should tell a little bit why we are here.

  • We’re all interns at a Danish media. I don’t know if you know how to Google it.

  • A little bit, but I would prefer to hear from you.

  • Yeah, it’s like BBC. It’s a public station. We are independent, and we do radio, TV, online, social media, all different kinds of stuff, and we do different kinds of news. We are here in Taiwan as a part of our internship because our company wanted us to go out and explore, meet new cultures and media systems and so on.

  • We found Taiwan pretty interesting because you have this weird or different relationship to China…

  • Weird is a very good term.

  • Yeah, and a pretty interesting history, and you are pretty Western compared to other Asian countries.

  • Compared to every other Asian country. [laughs]

  • Yeah, exactly. We just want to learn about how you want to do things.

  • Cool. You collectively decide who go to Taiwan?

  • Ah, OK. That’s awesome.

  • (laughter)

  • We want to talk with you about also who you are and what you do. I’ve told the group why you are recording, but you could also tell yourself why you do it this way. Also this, about the digital democracy and where you think it’s strong, also the problems.

  • Also the problem, like where it’s weak.

  • (laughter)

  • OK, sure. Usually I can give some PowerPoint presentation, but since it’s a smaller group and we’re all young people anyway, we’ll just skip the presentation part…

  • (laughter)

  • …and just chat. If any of you have anything to say, just start saying. You don’t have to raise your hands, push to talk or anything like that. It’s just this very informal thing. I’m Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s digital minister in charge of open government, social innovation, youth engagement, which are three sides of the same coin. Anyway.

  • (laughter)

  • The point of social innovation is that people come up with ideas. The government may or may not join, but if the government joins, it’s better for everyone. The idea is to look at the newest ideas that’s already in place that’s happening in Taiwan, for example, the use of public ledgers, a blockchain, to track air quality and then water quality.

  • That’s a pretty good idea, so we get the president to run a Presidential Hackathon. Every year, we choose 5 of those ideas, and every year the top 20 is voted in using a new form of voting called quadratic voting that gains everybody legitimacy of those top 20 teams. Each one will form a data collaborative of all the three sectors.

  • The five winning team receive a trophy, which is a micro projector. If you turn it on, it shows the president handing the trophy to the team promising whatever they did in the past three months will become public policy within the next 12 months. That social innovation. It’s driven by the social sector, or by career public service masquerading as social sector.

  • It’s also very common [laughs] because they can’t get our ideas within the bureaucracy, so they work with their social sector partners. If it doesn’t pan out, then they just run a hackathon race, no harm done. If it works, then they can say, “Oh, it is my idea after all,” then their career changes. That is why they get all the personnel, all the budget, and all the regulation needs that they have.

  • On the flip side is open government. May this year we’ll roll our national action plan on open government which covers youth engagement, diversity and inclusion, transitional justice for indigenous people, and many other inclusion-based ideas in addition to the already very strong open data, and things like that.

  • This part is basically the government doing more of the same thing, but allowing for participation in a very early, like the drafting stage of things. That explains this recorder here. If we publish only the policy that’s already made, then for the people it’s like bike shedding, we’re already building this bike shed.

  • The only thing you can determine is whether it’s painted yellow or painted blue, which is I am sure a very interesting discussion, but it’s not really a signal for a government to change its ways. It’s much better if we for each emerging issue, be it from UberX from 2015 or e-scooters now, which is a hot topic. [laughs]

  • When the government has no idea what to do, we face the fact that we have no idea what to do, and just publish our internal conversations. Each of the internal conversations that I’m a chair, we publish the entire transcript also after 10 working days for the public. This has two benefits.

  • The first one is the public can, if they protest, protest only the latest version, not the version like two years ago, so everybody have a shared reality. The second is that even if our policy ideas don’t work out, it may be actually transferred to the social sector or the private sector to carry out those ideas. They can also look at a synergy.

  • For example, if we’re going to distribute mask using a rationing system, where everybody using their health card can get a pair of mask in a nearby pharmacy, that’s what we are already going to do anyway.

  • If we share the context of our policy-making and publish it as open data, the real-time stock of those pharmacies, then everybody in the private sector and social sector can make applications, like voice assistant Siri or whatever, that lets people even with blindness or other disabilities to get access to the nearest pharmacy that still has masks in stock in very easy terms.

  • This is much better and easier than if we have to build all the different language, all the different accessibility websites ourself. That’s why we have more than 100 applications now for mass distribution within the first couple days.

  • The whole point of open government, then, is to let people understand the why of policy-making and trusting the citizens without requiring citizen to trust back. We mean making ourself transparent to the citizens. That’s this very just two side of the same coin.

  • Now on youth engagement, it’s about young people. For all the 12 ministries related to social innovation, they have two people under 35 years old to serve as the reverse mentor to the minister. The minister, who is usually more than 35 years old, including myself…

  • (laughter)

  • …relies on people who are under 35, those two people, to point out the future direction for that ministry. For example, the reverse mentor for ministry of economy includes, for example, people that runs that Impact Hub Taipei.

  • Or the reverse mentor for the minister of labor, for example, is a social entrepreneur that invites the minister to Russia, where Taiwan placed third in the World Skills Competition. They proposed this idea that they run on the National Parade, just like Olympic athletes, those World Skills champions, so that people have something to look up to.

  • That’s reverse mentorship through the youth engagement. Yes.

  • How do you choose these reverse mentors?

  • Yeah. Basically, each minister can list a set of people that they have interacted positively with before, and added because it’s ultimately convened by the prime minister. The prime minister just look at this very long list of people and then choose two per ministry. That’s how it’s done.

  • The co-chair is a reverse mentor, as I mentioned, Rich Chen, who is a co-founder, Impact Hub Taipei – we run a kind of internal election to elect the co-chair. Each reverse mentor can actually summon me and all the 12 ministries involved to any of their vicinity into a kind of town hall where they run the agenda. They invite the participants and so on.

  • I see the point, and I think it’s very visionary. It’s a great vision. Isn’t there a flip side, that suddenly it’s somebody else than the politicians making the direction for Taiwan?

  • Oh, sure, but that’s the future, anyway. The future is already there. It’s just not distributed to the Cabinet, that that’s how it looks like. In addition to these reverse mentors, we also have people who use this online petition platform called join.gov.tw, which has 10 million users out of 23 million people in Taiwan.

  • Anyone can also collect 5,000 signatures there on a petition to, again, summon the minister into a point-by-point response. If it’s cross-ministerial, then we every month determine two such cross-ministerial cases to work together in a network basis. Basically, ideas such as banning plastic straw for national identity drinks like bubble tea [laughs] was very popular.

  • It gets 5,000 signatures in no time. It’s not until we meet face to face with the petitioner in face-to-face meeting do we see that she’s 16 years old and that was her civics class assignment. Her teacher just said, “Find something interesting to petition.” I guess it’s better, right? It’s better than going to a strike every Friday.

  • (laughter)

  • Basically, we get them and the people who make plastic straws around the same table and determining how to transition in a circular economic design way for carbon-neutral or even, climate-positive procedures to make such straws as a replacement.

  • What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t have to go through those filters of those reverse mentors. It’s just a fast way, but anyone who have social mobilization powers can do so through agenda-setting. We see the most active population is around 15 years old. The second most active is around 65 years old. Maybe they have more time on their hands.

  • (laughter)

  • Wow. How old are these digital ministry?

  • There’s no digital ministry, so it’s like negative one-year-old, I’m sure.

  • (laughter)

  • My office, which is very interesting, because I’m one of the nine horizontal minster. There’s 32 vertical ministers with ministries or councils, but each of them are like pillars. There’s a top-down commanding structure. Above the 32, or politically correctly in parallel with the 32, there’s 9 ministers that work on cross-ministerial issues alone.

  • The nine, I am one of the nine, have a office where they can get people from any ministry, because digital transformation concerns all ministries. My office doesn’t put a restriction of which ministry can send delegates to my office. Of course, for HR reasons we at one time only allow one person per ministry. Theoretically I can have 32 colleagues that are ministerial delegates.

  • In reality, I have 20 friends, but they still only report to their minister, and their minister pays them salary. The only requirement for working here is to work out loud. Meaning that whether they’re section chiefs, or whether they’re director generals, they need to share with other ministerial delegates what they’re working on, and co-create possible mechanisms.

  • The fact that there’s no 32 people but rather around 20, means some ministries never sent people here, like the Minister of Defense, so I know nothing about national defense. [laughs] Usually the ministries who do send people here have some part of their work that they wish are more widely known.

  • At the very beginning, Foreign Service didn’t send people, because diplomacy, secrecy, right? Eventually they found that Twitter diplomacy is very useful, and public diplomacy by agenda setting with the other countries that’s very useful too, especially in Taiwan’s weird situation where multilateral associations don’t always work with us.

  • In this case, public diplomacy kind of become the main track, even though it’s theoretically called the second track. Then we have Foreign Service delegates, both are section chiefs now. The Foreign Service is a really good example because it basically charted out a part of their work that they wish is more widely known that is apart from the part that are more secret.

  • Then we help with this part that is public diplomacy.

  • Your work is to guide the other ministries?

  • To coach, facilitate, mentor, whatever, yeah.

  • Can you ask a ministry to send someone here, or is it the ministries that decides that they want to send someone? Like, can you say for example, of the Defense Ministry, “I think it would be great if you send a person to work with me?”

  • No, I don’t do that.

  • OK, so it’s more than…

  • It’s voluntary association. After they see quite a few successful cases, then they will learn by example. If they cannot clear their internal procedures, or if they think that I’m just an HR agency, I have nothing to talk with the common population because I’m working strictly as a supporting unit to other ministries, then they don’t probably bother to send people.

  • What other supportive ministries are there, because you said there was nine?

  • There’s nine supportive facilitative horizontal ministers. I’m the digital one, there’s also one, Minister Lo in charge of what we call legal coherence. He makes that all the ministries laws don’t contradict each other. That is also cross ministerial. There is one pertaining to public construction and procurement, which is again cross ministerial.

  • There’s one related to trade and negotiation, which is also cross-ministerial. There’s one related to research and development, and auditing which is cross-ministerial. There’s one related to the Board of Science and Technology which is cross-ministerial.

  • There’s one related to the land use planning and environmental planning, like Sustainable Development Goals in terms of the embodiment in the biodiversity and things like that, which is not just the Ministry of Environmental Protection, because it’s not about protection. This is about sustainability in general, and so that’s another minister.

  • I’m missing one. Oh, there’s one about renewable energy, which is strictly speaking part of Sustainable Development Goals, but because it’s a major policy, so sustainable energy has its own minister, horizontal minister, also in charge of entrepreneurship related to energy transition.

  • Actually is it possible to get a cup of coffee?

  • (laughter)

  • Anyone else want coffee?

  • Like everyone. Let’s take a break, and the coffee machine’s right there.

  • (audio skips)

  • The question was, I got into the Cabinet because I was a reverse mentor to a previous Cabinet, the one before Dr. Tsai Ing-wen became president. There was Ma Ying-jeou as the president at the time, which is 2014, we occupied the Parliament for three weeks in protest.

  • You were part of the student protest?

  • I am part of the movement. I supported their communication and to build such transparent walls, so that everybody who walked by the Occupy Parliament can see what’s going on in Occupied Parliament, with a real-time transcript of whatever happening within it. It makes facts spread faster than rumors.

  • That made Occupy, instead of diverging, actually converging. After three weeks of Occupy, people settled, people meaning half a million on the street and many more online settled on 40 demands, not one less. It’s headed by this Occupy movement of 20 different NGOs, each talking about one aspect of the Cross-Strait Service and Trade Agreement.

  • Those consensus was then agreed by the head of the Parliament, which is why the Occupy was a victory. After that Occupy, at the end of that year, every mayor candidate that didn’t support open government lost election, and every candidate that support win the election, sometimes without preparing inauguration speech. It’s a real change of attitude.

  • After that, I get recruited as a reverse mentor to a horizontal minister, Minister Jaclyn Tsai, who is using this office, actually.

  • (laughter)

  • Anyway, I worked with her for a couple years. Then the new Cabinet decided that somebody needed to occupy this office too. They asked me to find someone. I asked around, but everybody’s busy. I just stood in myself.

  • Because of that, I said I’m a appointee of an appointee, because in Taiwan, people elect the president that appoints the prime minister that appoints me. Yes. Question.

  • We were told that it was quite like the UK. Is that true, your Parliament? Do you know that?

  • Taiwan’s system is unlike any other system. There really is no…We call it…

  • …to understand that. We have…

  • We call it semi-presidential, but it’s not the same as the French.

  • [laughs] First, we have five branches. That’s two more than many people.

  • (laughter)

  • Even within the administration, the Cabinet is entirely appointed by the prime minister, who only reports to the president, and the president is popularly elected. There’s more ministers who are independent than ministers of any party. Especially in the nine horizontal, we are almost all independents, meaning that there’s no particular party.

  • I don’t believe to any particular party, and I only supported one particular party, the very happy party or, literally, the Can’t Stop This Party. That’s their English name. I sent them catnips when they got founded. They don’t have any legislative seats.

  • How does that work with the president then? Are you agreeing with her, or how do you…?

  • I’m working with her. I’m not working for her.

  • What if you got a new president? Would you still work for…?

  • Sure, sure, why not? Yeah. There’s many horizontal ministers that actually survive multiple cabinet changes. It’s a strange system, actually, a weird system, because it allows a sense of partisan neutrality within the administration.

  • I get you are a politician, so you can be political in your work…

  • I’m a poetician, by, yes.

  • (laughter)

  • It’s just strange, because you are political but you are not…

  • …partisan. I’m not partisan.

  • It’s funny. I understand.

  • It’s only if you very much disagree with the…

  • …president, would I quit? Yes.

  • You would quit, or the president would fire you?

  • Would fire, yeah. That’s right. Of course, all the horizontal ministers are there to further a agenda, a political agenda, even though it’s not partisan. If a president doesn’t want renewable energy, she would not need a horizontal minister in charge of renewable energy. If a president doesn’t want sustainability, wait. [laughs] They won’t happen, right?

  • (laughter)

  • Basically, if a president doesn’t want any horizontal minister’s mandate, that position gets canceled. It’s not about firing someone. It’s about no longer having this.

  • What about if the president wants renewable energy, but disagrees with…?

  • …with the horizontal minister in charge of that? Then she can of course replace them, but it’s rare. Horizontal ministers get replaced slower than prime ministers. Prime ministers on average gets replaced after a year and a half, but horizontal ministers usually stay for four or eight years.

  • Prime ministers get replaced a year and a half?

  • No, not the president, but the prime minister.

  • The president’s free to shuffle prime ministers. It’s a very weird system. It’s unlike any other country.

  • (laughter)

  • I’m not pretending it’s the same as other country. [laughs]

  • What is the Prime Minister’s role?

  • The Prime Minister heads the Cabinet, answers to the legislation and executes whatever legal requirements the legislation requires them to do. The President holds the ultimate power because they can change Prime Ministers at any given time. They don’t report to the legislative. This is a very constitutionally weird arrangement. It’s there for historical reasons.

  • I would simply say that this constitution was designed for a territory much larger than Taiwan. [laughs] That’s what we get from running a Unix system on a personal computer. [laughs]

  • Are you working on a mandate from the holders? Do you know what I mean?

  • Yes. The President of course has her campaign promises. If the campaign promise includes open government, then of course it’s the horizontal ministry in charge of open government that oversees the national action plan that deliver on those presidential promises. How exactly to deliver that is up to our purview.

  • In the recent election, every presidential candidate, and indeed every candidate in the primary, have open government in their campaign platform. That means that at least this position continue to exist no matter who wins the presidential election. It’s very weird. [laughs]

  • Is it a little bit like Russia just with democracy.

  • (laughter)

  • No, not at all. [laughs] Not at all. We don’t have Prime Ministers and President take turns. [laughs] It’s not like that. We do have meaningful opposition party. The acts that we present to the legislative do get into party politics. The party do fight a lot. It’s just the implementation of those laws that those parties determined is in a relatively neutral executive branch.

  • That’s about the executive branch being not held by the parliamentary politics. That’s the only difference.

  • We can make all the regulations we want, but we cannot introduce, for example, new penalties.

  • In the recent election, who is elected by the people? Is it only the president…?

  • It’s Dr. Tsai and everybody in the Parliament.

  • The Parliament has more than 40 percent women. There’s a at-large section and a constituency section. That part is more familiar to you. [laughs]

  • I’m sorry to ask you, but are you in the parliament?

  • So none of the ministers are in the parliament?

  • That’s right. None of the ministers have a constituency, but there are MPs that are then promoted or demoted, whatever, that are moved into the Cabinet but not the other way around.

  • It’s to be objective too, right?

  • Right. To be non-partisan when we implement the ideas that are brought forward by the Parliament.

  • Yeah, that’s interesting.

  • So I hope that still makes sense.

  • Yeah. Sorry for asking you that question.

  • It’s a weird political system.

  • It’s just very different.

  • It’s really different from Denmark.

  • Yeah, it’s really different from Europe and Denmark.

  • As I said, it allows a sense of political neutrality. It also makes it possible for us to implement our core visions, because then we mostly work with the career public service to save their time. We also work with the career public service to be innovative, like the Internal Innovation Agency.

  • Most importantly, we make sure that people feel that the career public service trust them. All of this is a purely career public service purview instead of a partisan purview. I would say that all the four parties currently in the Parliament support this vision, and it’s not anything that they fight about. Everybody agrees Taiwan needs to be more democratic and more internationally-known.

  • They disagree on everything else, but these are the two things that they do agree on.

  • You seem pretty international, at least to me with all the transportation and the way things work, how the city looks. We have talked about it earlier this week with other medias and they see…Also, the media seems pretty Western and international.

  • Yeah, it’s very international. In fact, since you have mentioned the media, it’s important to know that Taiwan, according to the CIVICUS Monitor, is the only country in Asia that has a completely free media environment, meaning that a journalist’s word is as a good as a minister’s word.

  • In every other Asian country, a minister can through some way to influence the journalist so that the minister’s words are somehow above a journalist’s word, that is to say freedom of the press violations.

  • Actually, in the entire APEC, only New Zealand and Taiwan is rated completely open.

  • But what about the Chinese infiltration? I read something about it…

  • Yeah, it’s everywhere.

  • …in the last election. There was a big thing about it.

  • Sure. They basically want to sow discord. And they also want to change the way words mean so that people don’t trust in democracy anymore. That’s the endgame. They care less about getting somebody elected, but rather about people not trust each other anymore and not trust democracy anymore because they have an alternate government system to sell.

  • It’s interesting because we use actually a lot of the same words. We say transparency, but we mean the state transparent to the people. They also say transparency, but they mean the citizen transparent to the state. And so, it’s a perversion of words. We say public/private partnership, by which we mean that the private sector can propose new regulations to run in a sandbox.

  • If it’s a good idea, the society accept it, then we take it as the regulation that’s a social innovation I just talked about. When they say public/private partnership, they mean that they install party branches into all the private-sector, large enterprises. Then the head of the party can replace, like Ma Yun, the leader of any private-sector enterprise at any given time.

  • It’s a public/private partnership. [laughs] Basically, it’s a really different model of governance. What we have seen is that they rely not only on disinformation but rather on just downright propaganda to share, for example, such disinformation on social media to alienate the Taiwan voting population against the Hong Kong demonstrators.

  • Actually, this is a really good example. They have a photo. That says, “This 13-year-old thug bought new iPhones and game consoles and brand-name sport shoes by murdering police. He is recruiting his brothers.” Actually, they’re reusing a Reuters photo for that. Reuters said nothing about [laughs] murdering police or getting paid for it.

  • It’s obviously a infiltration and malinformation campaign. It originates actually from [Mandarin] , the central political and legal unit of the PRC, its Weibo account. It’s still on their Weibo account. It’s just deliberate propaganda.

  • What we’ve done is to put it on public notice, meaning that a independent journalist check this, find the source, so that when everybody see this on Facebook, online, on other systems, they see a small footprint that says, “This is actually state propaganda by the PRC. Click here to learn more.”

  • Instead of by taking anything down, we make sure that there is a public notice attached to such social media activities. That is how we don’t encroach the media freedom but instead just expose the propaganda for what it is. We counter such rumor also with humor.

  • Each ministry has a team of comedians that can roll out within an hour funny memes, Internet memes I mean, whenever there is a trending rumor about their purview. For example, there was a rumor a few months ago that says, “Perming your hair will be subject to $1 million fine starting next week,” which is not true. Within a hour, the Prime Minister rolls out this memetic GEM.

  • A younger version of him says, “I may be bald now, but I will not punish people with hair.” Then a small friend says, “What we’ve done is introducing a labeling requirement for hair products starting 2021.” Then the Prime Minister as he looks now says, “However, if you keep perming your hair many time a week, it will not damage your pocket. It will damage your hair. It may look like this.”

  • (laughter)

  • It’s a good punchline. [laughs] It’s really humorous. It’s not making fun of other people. It’s making fun of himself. [laughs] This became viral. If you search for perming hair fine, you will find this picture and not the rumor. [laughs] Once you laughed about it, you cannot actually be susceptible to this provoking outrage from people who feel anger about an injustice.

  • Basically, once this helpless anger energy is channeled into humor, into laughter, they cannot channel it through pressing the share button into social outrage, revenge, and toxicity. Inoculation is what we use as a metaphor for these memetic payloads. The essence here is that you have to roll out really fast. The most they can take is two hour.

  • That ensures this virality of rumor above humor. I hope that answer your question a little bit.

  • I’m just a bit confused. This thing, the memes, is it you who came up with this idea?

  • I shared this idea, I think, March 2017, but the actual work is done by our spokesperson, Gulas Yudaka, all the spokespersons in the all the ministries and the comedians they hire.

  • Which ministry did you propose this to?

  • I proposed on the Cabinet meeting, and so whichever ministry that has something to say to the citizen eventually adopted it. Of course, with varying speed.

  • This idea, it came from your ministry?

  • It came from me in a Cabinet meeting, because I’ve been doing that for ages. This is essentially what I do. I’m not a very good comedian, but I respond within two hours.

  • (laughter)

  • How often do you see these rumors online? Is it happening often?

  • Oh, yeah, it’s happening very often. You can easily see it in the crowdsourced fact-checking system. It’s called CoFacts. Everybody who see this, because for encrypted channels like WhatsApp, or in Taiwan’s case, Line, there’s no way to use search engine to have an insight into it.

  • It relies on people voluntarily flagging email as spam. It’s like flagging your message as spam, as virus, or as phishing attacks to Trend Micro, which is a leading antivirus company here, or to this CoFacts, which is a civil society tool. On the CoFacts website, you can see a lot of what’s going on. Here are the literally most-trending rumors at the moment.

  • You can see how many has been reported, 150K, which is uniquely 35K messages, and 1.5K of which, mostly trending ones, have received a clarification that went back to the people who share it. There are literally bots that are made by antivirus company like Trend Micro that you can invite into your family chatroom.

  • Whenever anyone shares a disinformation, that bot will magically say that this has been clarified, and, “Here is a funny picture. Look at that.” It’s been adopted by Thailand as well.

  • It seems like the system of how people get their information is very sharable. You also talked with the University of Journalism about that the Line app was how people consume journalistic media. You probably have a, as not a minister…I don’t know, what is your proper title?

  • My proper title is the Digital Minister in Charge of Open Government, Social Innovation, and Youth Engagement.

  • (laughter)

  • OK, I’ll just call it Digital Minister.

  • Digital Minister is fine.

  • As Digital Minister, don’t you find it problematic that there can be a lot of bubble societies inside these? Then the families only share the stories that they agree…

  • That’s already the case before the Internet. It’s not like it’s not like that before the Internet. The only thing that’s different is that, with the Internet, it’s easier to feel the people who are the other side as non-people, because they don’t have a face, or maybe they have a static avatar attached to it. It’s very easy to dehumanize people who feel unlike you.

  • Again, it’s very easy to build a swift trust of people who share the same hashtag, even though you haven’t met them before. It’s two sides of the same coin. What we are now doing is basically ensuring that you can very easily get access to ministerial people. For example, this is my office, my real office. This is just a meeting place. This is the Social Innovation Lab in Taiwan.

  • Every Wednesday, I’m there from 10:00 AM to the evening. Anybody can come and talk to me. We tore down the walls. It used to be a headquarter of Air Force. We tore down the walls. People can just walk in from the street and talk to me 40 minutes at a time. I’m super accessible.

  • For the corona virus thing, every day, you can see this one-hour live stream from the Center of Disease Control, our Ministry of Health and Welfare, again, answering real-time questions about what people have to say. We also tour around Taiwan and hold meetings, with the 12 ministries telepresenting.

  • The questions and agenda are set by the local people, just as the ones convened by the reverse mentors. Basically, to increase the accessibility is the key to make people feel that we’re still in the same polity.

  • We also use AI-based conversation tools to gather people’s feelings about emerging issues, such as UberX back in 2015 so that everybody can see, after pressing agree or disagree a few times on each other’s sentiments, that we actually agree on most of the things with most of other people most of the time. There’s only this many divisive issues that tear the society apart.

  • That picture, again, is to reflect into these echo chambers – as you mentioned, the bubbles – to let people see, even if those five ideological issues can create bubbles on its own, and one can belong to any of the 32 bubbles, you don’t have to look at it that way. You can look at these consensus statements. We hold ourselves to account to take only these as agenda to push things forward.

  • People can feel everybody, no matter whether you identify as Party A or Party B, agree that the arts are important in the science, technology, engineering, and math education. Who would have disagreed with that? We can just implement the consensus parts without getting swamped into those filter bubbles.

  • Who are the voters, people voters?

  • Anyone who cares about this issue can vote for this. In total, there’s 10 million people in the Join platform who are visitors. Of course, no one participate in each and every vote. They only care about the things they care about. Yes?

  • I was just wondering, because a lot of your work depends on people interacting with you, your platforms, reporting and…

  • Having fun. Yes, exactly.

  • Aren’t you afraid that you’re missing out a group who aren’t as digital as the youth?

  • We go to people. We’re not asking people to come to us. The whole point is that we cultivate the CSOs by raising awareness. It’s not like they have to come to our platform. Rather, we make sure that, if they run a local meeting, a local town hall, they just show up to whichever places they already show up. It’s just me joining them. With me, the 12 ministries through telepresence.

  • It’s augmenting existing local policy-making and local consensus-making, or in terms of indigenous lens, their local tribal assembly, indigenous national assembly. That is important, because then they won’t be limited by distance or by digital literacy. It’s literally just a face-to-face meeting. It’s just with me joining them.

  • Can I just ask one more question?

  • It seems, really, really open compared also to Denmark and things. It’s much more open. We have local politicians instead of the prime, the Digital Minister, not come visit a small town.

  • Aren’t you afraid that maybe it will be too open, that there is so much information coming from the digital ministry, and there are so many comics and so on, that people will just in the end be like, “I don’t care. I won’t even recognize that it is coming from the ministry,” or?

  • Not really, because the reason why they can get 5,000 signatures is that there are CSOs that are really good at mobilization. There was 8,000 people that petitioned for changing Taiwan’s time zone to plus nine. I’m sure they have some may to mobilize people. I have no idea what these people are. There’s, again, 8,000 people petitioning for keeping Taiwan’s time zone at plus eight.

  • My office is just convening a meeting to get those two together into the same room to talk about time zones, [laughs] of all things. Get all the ministries to reply with facts, like how it will not save energy, how it will not increase tourism, unless we break labor laws, and so on.

  • Finally, getting people’s common feelings, despite of different positions, which is what they want, to make Taiwan seen as more unique. They want people traveling from Shanghai to have to change their watch. That was the original motivation. Then we’re like, “No, smartwatches correct themselves, so they won’t be aware of it.

  • If we’re going to spend this much budget anyway, there must be better ways to do it.” We then settled on a set of rough consensus around, for example, making films about Taiwan’s marriage equality, about advocating our human right status of open government partnership, and things like that.

  • Everybody get what they want, and this is as compared to the old, bad ways, in which the most compromise we can make it 8.5 hours GMT, which pleases nobody. [laughs] This is more about sharing feelings and less about we having thousand of things for people to participate.

  • It’s just people organizing themselves, but we make sure they talk to the right people and with the right context, instead of with ancient and dated information. Sorry, you had a question?

  • Yeah, I totally forgot it.

  • (laughter)

  • Oh, sorry. It will come back.

  • I have another question. All the things you do, all the work, do you sometimes record it or analyze it so you know what works and what don’t, and which groups, and so on?

  • Yeah, there’s impact measurement. Yes, definitely. We have plenty of impact measurement. First of all, I would say that we share the raw materials for researchers. You don’t have to believe me. There are independent researchers looking into all my 1,000 meetings with 5,000 people, with 200,000 speeches.

  • It’s important to note that this is not only about internal meetings. This is also about lobbyists’ and journalists’ visits. This is important, because without radical transparency, the lobbyists tend to argue for their own benefit, sometime at expense of other groups of people.

  • With radical transparency and independent auditing, all the lobbyists talk only about the global goals, because they know that if they don’t make a public benefit argument, they will be subject to social sanction very easily.

  • For example, when David Plouffe, speaking for Uber at the time, all the argument he makes is around Climate Change mitigation, more effective allocation of transportation resources, instead of other bottom line. That’s the first thing. It’s about independent auditing. The second, sorry, you had a follow-up?

  • No, I will ask afterwards.

  • We look at a few things. We look at how many people are actually participating. That’s where the 10 million visitors figure out. We look at the age groups, like that’s how the 15 and 65 years old being the most active come out.

  • We look at the participation ideas from the Presidential Hackathon, whether there’s more groups joining every year, and the implementation quality of these people’s ideas.

  • We look at the quadratic voting, which is a new voting method that we invite everybody with a join.gov.tw account, authenticated by their SMS numbers, to spend 99 tokens to vote on more than 100 Presidential Hackathon ideas, to select the top 20.

  • We look at their voting records to see, for example, if they really like the idea of water resource management through automated boxes that are very cheap – less than €100 – that can report water pollution if you just install it in the pathways, and that’s a really good idea.

  • Maybe you want to vote it one vote, which will cost you one point, or you vote two votes, costs you four points. Three costs nine. Basically, with 99 points, you can only vote 9, not 10, votes, because it’s quadratic.

  • After voting 9, you have 18 points left. Nobody want to squander their resources, so maybe they look to the side and see using computer vision and drones to combat marine debris, so that we get them while they’re still on the sea, instead of when they hit our shores.

  • That’s a good idea. Maybe they vote 4, which costs 16 points. They have two points left then. Then maybe they look at two other ideas, such as using machine learning from the publicly listed companies to detect fraud and show company like Panama Papers.

  • This is obviously worth more than one vote, so maybe they take some back and do a seven and seven. The point here is that the priority selection of the implementation of those key performance indexes is by itself crowdsourced. It’s not like my idea, and I implement to some percent. It is people’s ideas to form the data collaboratives. They themselves vote for the individual priorities.

  • Unlike traditional NPMV voting, which leaves everybody feel they have a strategic voting motive to only support the one candidate that they want, this way of voting ensure that everybody votes for five or seven different ideas. Each one is indexed by the SDGs. The idea here is that when you announce the top 20, most people feel they have won, unlike traditional strategy voting.

  • When we announce that top 20, most people will feel they have lost. Or in case of certain referendums, everybody will feel they have lost. The idea of quadratic voting, again, improves the social legitimacy and make the accountability mutual accountability, meaning that the social sector hold the private sector, who join the data collaborative, to account.

  • It’s just like disinformation. The dashboard I showed you is built by the private sector and by the social sector. They hold themselves to account. All I do is serve as the channel so that all those accountability records are published in a way that is easily accessible by everybody. There’s no policy and my implementation rate. It is entirely crowdsourced.

  • What I think I mean is this digital solution you’ve come up with, does it actually work? Do people read all these meetings? Do they see the YouTube videos? Do they go to the meetings? Do people use it, actually?

  • Sure. We have analytics to show that, for each innovation, for example, for the mask distribution, we know who are using the mask distribution system, how many people have access to masks, thanks to this online, real-time map and capacity. We also know whether it successfully combats speculation. You can see the supply and demand curve for surgical masks over time.

  • Where did you share this? Was it on Facebook or your…?

  • This is open data. All the visualizations here is done by the social sector. We didn’t do anything. We just published the raw numbers.

  • As a civilian, you have to know where to find this. Where do you find this?

  • It’s all in our website.

  • OK, it’s on your website.

  • If you go to the website on my name card, you will see, for each area of my work, the open collaboration meetings, the digital administration, participatory governance, there is dashboards and like this nice, accessible videos that talks about the key metrics of air quality participation, earthquake measurement, water, disaster prevention, and things like that.

  • Each ministry has their own way to display such dashboards. I don’t personally build such dashboards, just like the corona virus thing is the Ministry of Health and Welfare building such dashboards. My work just to make sure that people are aware of these dashboards as much as possible. Also, if they want to improve upon it, they don’t have to jump through hurdles to do so.

  • It’s not me implementing these, but these are measured. It’s linked mostly from my website.

  • Anyone with an SMS number.

  • What is an SMS number?

  • It’s a cellphone number.

  • SMS. [non-English speech]

  • Wait, then another question. Aren’t it very dangerous to ask the public about stuff they have no idea about?

  • If you don’t have any idea about certain sustainable goals, you just don’t vote for them.

  • Yeah, sure, because there’s other things you care more about. There’s only 99 tokens.

  • We have had problems in Denmark with open vote, where people have no idea what to vote. That was one question, “Should we be a part of the European Court?”

  • That was just one bit of information. That’s the problem. It’s not because they don’t know about it. It’s just the upload rate is too low. If you have 99 tokens that you can spend every which way, if you have a Pol.is conversation, where you can press yes or no to every other statement that every citizen have, everybody can upload as much as hundreds of bits of information.

  • It’s just like Netflix recommendation. Everybody is unique. We can build useful data models out of people’s social preferences, but if you only allow one or two bits of information, like whether you prefer drama, or whether you prefer tragedy, or whether you prefer sci-fi, of course, that is not a very good signal. That’s why Netflix won over Blockbusters. Yes, you had a question? [laughs]

  • I really like your system, but I really would like it to work in Denmark. It’s just really hard for us to understand, because it’s really different in Denmark. I think, if we implemented this in Denmark, it will be much more confusing than actually constructive. We would feel like we were getting overwhelmed with data.

  • I don’t believe that everybody would actually look at all this data.

  • No, of course. It’s not about everybody looking at everything.

  • Maybe I’m being a bit critical, but is it even possible to think that people actually have a choice in this?

  • There’s no decisional power in any of this. All we do is to set the agenda. In terms of Brexit, which you just mentioned, it’s here. It’s fast-tracking into the end of the delivery stage, which is to do it.

  • (laughter)

  • It’s not even building, testing, and iterating. It’s short cutting this whole design thinking process. What we are doing here is essentially just automating this discovery stage. If we introduce voting, this is just to make the insights converge a little bit.

  • Everything from the themes and opportunity areas to the how might we questions, these are still handled by face-to-face meetings that are just live streamed. Everything after this is the normal regulatory process, or even involving the parliament if it’s a budget or a law change.

  • We’re not taking any decision-making power away from traditional representative democratic system, which is the second diamond. What we’re saying is that, through digital means, we can set on a how might we question that reflects better on the shared value, despite different positions, and this is entirely in the first diamond.

  • How long have this been working, the system?

  • Since we occupied the Parliament? That’s almost six years. Five years.

  • When you go to the second phase, the normal political…

  • …system, do you ever take something back and put it into the first phase again?

  • Yeah, of course. Of course. As I said, there’s bound to be consensus parts, which we just implement, and divisive parts where we don’t yet implement. For example, a classic case is marriage equality, where we legalized the bylaws but not the in-laws.

  • Everybody who are same-sex couples in Taiwan enjoy the same bylaw rights and obligations just as heterosexual couples through what we call the Hyperlink Act. Then this part of the Civil Code that talks mother-in-law and father-in-law and aunts and uncles, of which there’s 10 different words in Taiwan to describe aunts and uncles, it’s important to know that.

  • (laughter)

  • Instead of inventing 10 other words, [laughs] to describe same-sex marriages, we simply say these Hyperlink Act doesn’t hyperlink to the part of Civil Code that talk about the family relationships and in-laws. When the two same-sex couples wed, their families don’t wed. That is a classical eclectic solution that can come out through this process.

  • If people want to talk about the in-laws anyway, it will have to go through the same process, going back to the drawing board.

  • You were talking about this occupation for five years ago. Can you tell us a little bit about your way to politics?

  • Sure. I am a junior high-school dropout. I dropped out of junior high in 1996 when I was 15 years old. That’s when I discovered this pre-print server called arXiv.org, which is still around, and A-R-X-I-V. It’s from Cornell University. I just started writing random emails to random people there and they don’t know I’m just 14. They just wrote back and we started publishing together.

  • I talked to my teachers and saying, “I’m creating knowledge and these are 10 years ahead of the textbooks,” and they’re like, “Sure. You don’t have to go to school anymore. We’ll cover for you.”

  • (laughter)

  • That’s great, and I just participated in the Internet governance community, the IETF, the W3C, the Free Software Movement. It’s still not known as open source at that time. This kind of environment is classical multistakeholderism.

  • In the Internet, people join the Internet not because the Internet somehow has a Army or a Navy, it’s because it’s good for every network operator that joins. This constant threat of balkanization also keeps everybody honest in maintaining the core of the Internet. All you have to take to vote or to participate in the working group is to have a email address.

  • That is my native political system. I run with that system for six years, before I even have the right to vote. [laughs] To me, when I vote, it’s a pale comparison [laughs] to the Internet governance world that I’m more familiar with. My first vote was voting for the district, precinct leader. The candidate I voted win by one vote, so I still have some faith…

  • (laughter)

  • …in the democratic system. Basically, my work has been just projecting what I have learned as a 15-year-old, radical transparency, rough consensus, and so on, which is native in Internet governance into everyday politics.

  • Internet government, was that what you called…Governance.

  • Governance. There’s no Internet government, right?

  • Yeah, but can you explain what that is?

  • Sure. Internet governance is a very simple idea, and it’s captured very well in a document called “The Tao of IETF,” which I strongly recommend you to read. It’s a long thing, so I will not go into details.

  • The idea is that how the Internet is put together is just by people who care about the Internet proposing legislations, which they call request for comments, that invite other innovators to copy, because Internet is permissionless innovation.

  • If you invent a better web browser, and you invent a better web server, you don’t need to get any operator’s permission before rolling this out to the Internet community. That’s how Bitcoin and Ethereum appears. They don’t have to ask the Internet government for a seal of approval. They just start running by themselves and wasting a lot of energy. In any case…

  • (laughter)

  • …the point here is that we do our decisions in the IETF by humming. The rough consensus means that it varies from working group to working group, but if people agree with a proposal, they hum, like literally hum, when prompted by the chair. This is just like Pol.is.

  • You get a feeling that something captures most people’s approval, but this is not a fine consensus where people have to sign their name on to something that they will not work to oppose like, “We can live with it.” This is a different sense of consensus than traditional political consensus, which is more about bargaining and very firm boundaries.

  • With rough consensus, then everybody go off and implement whatever based on the rough consensus. If their work conflict with each other, then the working group reconvene, solve out those tensions, and so on. This is a very Taoist way of running things in rough consensus, which is why it’s called the Tao of IETF.

  • You’re running everything both open and digital, aren’t you afraid, because you said everybody can vote if they have a SMS number? Aren’t you afraid of fake voters?

  • If you want to get 5,000 SMS numbers, like 5,000 SIM cards, the KYC unit of the anti-money laundering task force will be after you. In Taiwan, you do need a photo ID, actually, two photo IDs, in order to get a SIM card. Ultimately, somebody does the authentication.

  • It’s difficult to cheat?

  • (laughter)

  • It’s very difficult to cheat. It’s easy to cheat if you have two SIM cards. 2,000, very hard. [laughs]

  • Sorry. What were you…?

  • I’m not sure what. I know it’s not directly implementing a law, it’s more like setting the agenda.

  • No, it’s just setting the agenda.

  • For example now, we just had a thing in Denmark. We had the Scandinavian Airlines, they just published new commercial which a lot of trolls on the Internet got very offended about. It actually caused the Scandinavian Airline to take it down and revise it, cut something out.

  • I’m just thinking, if some Internet trolls suddenly decided to, now we have to do something, vote, everyone votes for something a bit crazy or something a bit weird, how would you handle that? How can you tell if it’s actually people wanting not plastic straws?

  • Back when we do the time zone plus nine, many people feel it was trolling. We treat it as an objective thing and do actually get consensus on how to make Taiwan more unique. As facilitators, we can still abstract out the conversation so that it talks about one of the universal needs rather than any specifics of how to implement that. That’s called nonviolent communication.

  • There’s this whole literature of how to do this.

  • Like they vote about the board in London?

  • The point is to not be captured by the initial proposal, which tend to be very on the fringe. Through multi-stakeholder they’re a rolling process of clustering topics and so on. You can also invite people who are strongly against it and everybody in between. That gets a more eclectic base.

  • What is the demographic of people that vote online?

  • As I said, 15 years old, most active, 65 years old. There’s no rural municipal differences. Reason why is that we have very high Internet penetration rate. Broadband is a human right, so even if you’re on the top of the Yushan Mountain, almost 4,000-meter-high, you are guaranteed to have 10 megabits per second at 15 euros per month unlimited data. If not, it’s my fault.

  • (laughter)

  • Basically, with that configuration, we don’t have concentrating only to municipalities problem. Of course, people who are of working, from 20-to-60 age group, they mostly just look at the proposals and maybe do a few yes or no. They maybe don’t have time to write an entirely new proposal. That’s mostly people who are very young or very old.

  • What about rich, poor, urban, rural areas…?

  • It’s almost proportionate to population.

  • Can I ask you about something completely…

  • (laughter)

  • In Europe, we’re pretty concerned about China because we’re pretty US-friendly also in terms of our relations with them. We are talking about China invading or outdoing the US and also a lot about surveillance, about…

  • You mean 5G network.

  • Yeah, exactly. Are you afraid that China are looking into your work?

  • Not really. When we did the Occupy, 1 of the 20 NGOs was specifically talking about whether we allow PRC components in the 4G network that was still being procure and not really built.

  • Sorry. What’s that?

  • The fourth generational. That was 2014.

  • The PRC, the People’s Republic of China government.

  • We say China when we talk about Chinese people. We say PRC specifically when we talk about the state. PRC components are, at that time, there’s people who think, “These are not really PRC components. They’re international companies that has a Chinese origin components. They are just market players.”

  • There are people who feel like, “No, the PRC can replace their leadership anytime. It is actually PRC-controlled components.” We had a large debate back in 2014. When we occupied the parliament, the consensus was the risk is too high.

  • The PRC, because they claim Taiwan as part of their territory and in fact have a set of people representing the Taiwan province in their central meetings. It’s one Taiwan, two interpretations. It’s too large a risk. The systemic risk was assessed then by the people who occupy.

  • Because it’s one of the demands agreed by the National Security Council and National Communication Commission, so at that time we banned PRC components from our 4G network. We’ve been living for six years now without PRC components. I understand PRC is not making a territorial claim on Denmark, so you may have a different assessment.

  • (laughter)

  • That’s why we don’t have a debate. We already know that these are persistent adversaries in terms of cybersecurity. We built a large cybersecurity sector by allocating five to seven percent of budget of all new government initiatives just on cybersecurity and to have a white hat industry. That is the same as Israel. You had a question?

  • Yeah. Where do you as digital minister stand on the face recognition cameras?

  • In Taiwan, because, as I said, the social sector has higher legitimacy then the public sector, so the social sector are very friendly.

  • For example, when the Taiwan Railroad Corporation tried to use facial recognition to detect people who step too close to the track, which is a noble cause, I’m sure, then everybody did a social sanction [laughs] against that and advocates instead that they use infrared or some other non-face-recognizing technologies.

  • Although we have a pretty good data protection act and its getting GDPR adequacy in a year or so, there’s still no good use case of facial recognition aside from one very specific case, which is the e-Gate when you get into the airport and out of the airport. The biometric is stored in your passport. It’s not stored on the cloud.

  • That camera only takes your picture and not everybody else because that’s how e-Gate is designed. That specific case, we have a law authorizing that use of facial recognition. Everybody think it’s a pretty good deal, actually. If you don’t opt in, you can just go into the human inspection. We’re not forcing you to do biometrics when it goes to e-Gate.

  • Aside from that particular one, which has a legal mandate, every other case actually face social sanction when people try to introduce that. I think we’re pretty safe in terms of facial recognition.

  • You said that you had a very good industry for white hat hackers.

  • Oh yes, like Trend Micro.

  • I know that Iran does not, but the US was inside their nuclear facilities four years before anyone ever noticed.

  • Yes. Offensive cybersecurity.

  • You aren’t afraid that China can come in anyways?

  • Well, or the other way around. You never know.

  • (laughter)

  • As I said, I don’t have a delegate from the Ministry of Defense. The Special Forces on cybersecurity, I am not in touch with the military side, and that’s a military question. I’m sure that there’s teams somewhere that take care of that, but I take care of civilian policy.

  • I rest on the assumption that the military people have things figured out, but I don’t have any common relationship with them until they send the people to my office, but they haven’t.

  • Do you wish to work with them? It seems pretty, I would say, obvious, but it could be a good match, for example, with all this China infiltration.

  • Sure, sure, but on the other hand, then, I wouldn’t be able to publish all my meeting transcripts. There’s got to be a tradeoff, because the national security law everywhere says that if one of your inputs to your system is national security, the entire output become tainted, become national security, like confidential memos.

  • Basically, by voluntary association, I make sure that each ministry’s delegate to me talk about the part of their ministry that’s not national security. That’s how we can work out loud. There’s got to be a tradeoff. If I join the special forces on cybersecurity, somebody else need to take care of open government.

  • I can’t have the same person taking care of open government and radical transparency and have that person essentially be working for the intelligence community. There’s got to be a tradeoff.

  • What is your goal as a digital minister? Is there something you really want Taiwan to solve?

  • That’s my job description. I can read you my job description. In SDG terms, that’s just those three SDGs, reliable data, effective partnership, and open innovation. When I presented this to our HR department in 2016, they’re like, “Minister, nobody memorized SDG in their head. [laughs] It doesn’t make sense for you to say, ‘My job is 17-18, 17-17, and 17-6.’”

  • I wrote some plain text language to explain my job, which goes like this.

  • “When we see the Internet of Things, let’s make it a Internet of beings. When we see virtual reality, let’s make it a shared reality. When we see machine learning, let’s make it collaborative learning. When we see user experience, let’s make it about human experience. Whenever we hear that the singularity is near, let us always remember the plurality is here.”

  • It’s digital transformation, but bringing tech to people, not asking people to adapt to tech. That is the core of the vision. Sorry.

  • I want to talk about transparency, but earlier you talked about radical transparency.

  • Transparency, like at the root. Things are transparent by default, but if there are parts, for example, if you start talking about an anecdote that involves your friend, and that friend’s name, which is not authorized to be released to the public, because you never checked with your friend about it, then in the next 10 days, you can actually edit and pseudonymize your friend.

  • It takes effort to be non-transparent. It’s transparent by default. That’s what radical means. It means at the root.

  • Maybe this is a really hard question, but the future of Taiwan, for me, the country seems so international, and you have freedom of expressions and all that kind of stuff and some pretty nice medias as well.

  • China is also pretty big…

  • (laughter)

  • …to say the least. What are your concerns about the future of Taiwan? What is the goal? What are your concerns as well?

  • It’s easy to answer. Taiwan is raising itself two centimeter every year, literally. The Yushan Mountain is growing two centimeter every year. That’s the future, toward the sky.

  • (laughter)

  • That’s because the tectonic plates.

  • (laughter)

  • That’s why we get earthquakes every once in a while. There’s the future of Taiwan. It’s rising skyward. [laughs] I actually wrote a small poem about it. It’s called “Sprawling Ocean, Beautiful Islands – A Transcultural Republic of Citizens.” The point here is transcultural, because Taiwan now have more than 20 national languages, each representing one more culture.

  • Previously, in the name of progress, there are certain dominant cultures that in the name of progress decimated, literally, other cultures. That, we’re not doing anymore. That’s what transitional justice means. In Taiwan, we’re taking a very transcultural view. Actually, Switzerland is somewhat like that. You have places that support different football game teams.

  • They agree on democracy and they agree on this now admittedly somewhat analog process that gets pre/post-consensus every now and then. That’s what transcultural means. Meaning that you can look at your own personal history from the perspective of another culture and still resemble a polity by the process, by civic participation and not by ethnicity or language, of which there’s 20 national languages.

  • That’s what we mean by a republic of citizens as well. It’s basically saying that direct democracy is woven into the constitution of this country, because that’s what [non-English speech] or citizens’ republic means. The same idea has also in 1913 been adopted by some Korean revolutionaries.

  • That’s why the [non-English speech] , the South Korea, also calls themself a republic of citizens, because they’re not satisfied with representative democracy. They really want to use whatever tool available to build a participatory and eventually direct democracy. That’s also one of this constitutional vision.

  • Internationally, then, because we do take care of our ocean and islands and act as stewards for, I’m sure, the next intelligent life form to emerge. [laughs] Whatever solutions that we discovered through the social innovation, circular economy, Presidential Hackathon, we’re happy to share. That’s what social innovation means.

  • We work with New Zealand people to solve their water leakage by getting the three most Presidential Hackathon team to go there for three more months. We don’t ask for anything in return. This is pure co-creation. We’re not saying that you must pay us a large sum.

  • If you cannot do so, you must have to have a harbor allocated to us, some port allocated to us, which is what PRC have done. We’re not a colonizing power. [laughs] Because of that, the slogan here is, “Taiwan can help,” meaning that when we’re solving our own socioeconomic problems, we don’t externalize them to other environments.

  • When we do circular economy and other sustainable goals, we help everybody on the planet, including people in the PRC actually. That is the main vision. It is Taiwan as a innovation hub that is good for everyone, including people in the PRC, instead of directly competing with the PRC on any political agenda in terms of social innovation.

  • That’s why we’re going skyward instead of any other direction. That’s the basic idea. If PRC can learn from our governance ideas, after the Hong Kong election, a lot of just elected city councilors and their staff did visit us and want to learn about participatory budgeting and everyday democracy that they really want to roll out now that they have won the local election in Hong Kong.

  • We’re constantly in touch with them to further this governance system. That’s also one of the SDG, is SDG 16. At some point, I think PRC also wants to get there, at least, that was the promise back in 2015. They are really learning too, thanks to their promises on the rule of law and things like that.

  • Everybody in the PRC, at least from a public information, are reflecting about the lack of journalism and lack of government accountability when it comes to the Wuhan incident, because everybody can see, those two weeks of delay cost lives.

  • They are now also thinking about whether they should have more transparency, accountability, and meaningful journalism input to not have something like Wuhan happen again. In that, we can help also.

  • We recognize, maybe it’s a problem, but I guess it’s a problem for some Taiwanese people that the payment is pretty low even though the country is getting richer and richer.

  • The Taiwan new dollar is very cheap, yes. [laughs]

  • Isn’t that a problem that a lot of people…We talked with several journalists saying that you can’t be a journalist having a family and living in Taipei at the same time. How about that? Is the people not rich enough, or pretty rich…?

  • Yeah. The land price speculation, especially in Taipei, is a real problem. We do this regional revitalization and teleworking initiative, especially to get people to go to, I don’t know, Tainan, or even Hualien. [laughs] They don’t have that problem there.

  • (laughter)

  • This over-concentration in Taipei is a real problem. It’s part of the president’s campaign promise for the second term, to basically build a larger south and based on 5G technology, also high-speed rails and things like that to essentially build very reasonable…

  • Actually, from Taipei to Kaohsiung through high-speed rails is just 93 minutes. You can think of Taiwan as a larger municipality, just with a lot of people. There is nothing, theoretically, blocking people from distributing away from Taipei City. It’s just we need a truly circular line of transportation and things like that for the eastern side to absorb more population.

  • That’s the real problem. We’re looking into that. For Taipei City and New Taipei, the social housing is just short-term solution. In the long term, we really need distribute away from Taipei because that’s a unique problem for Taipei and New Taipei.

  • Because the housing here is so expensive or because everything is more expensive?

  • Housing is more expensive. Also, the population density is just too high. It taxes everywhere. Most of these people, they don’t register their household in Taipei anyway. They’re just in Taipei renting for work and things. It’s over-concentration. You see it in other international capitals as well, these cosmopolitan places, it’s almost always like that.

  • That’s why we learn from Japan the regional revitalization plan. Essentially, they want people to get out of Tokyo. If they stay in Tokyo, they don’t contribute back to their community. They don’t raise families. It’s just too expensive to raise a family. That contributes more to the aging society and so on. They run into that problem four years before we did. [laughs]

  • They have this comprehensive plan. We just shamelessly copy that. [laughs] That’s the focus of Tsai’s second term. That’s a real problem that we’re tackling.

  • The price of the housing is one problem. As well, the salary is low.

  • In terms of PPP, is actually quite high, very high. It’s just the NT dollar is kept strategically cheap. If you come from an international standard, you see the salary is low, but you see the food even lower. [laughs]

  • I hear you, but when we are talking to people living here, I get a feeling that the PPP is rather low.

  • If you talk to people in Taipei or New Taipei City.

  • In Taipei, yeah. Exactly.

  • That’s a unique problem to Taipei. Everything is priced on international levels, but the salary is priced in domestic levels. You don’t get that in Hualien. You can try talking to people in Hualien.

  • We’ll have a cheap trip there.

  • (laughter)

  • It’s cheaper in Hualien?

  • (laughter)

  • Of course. That’s actually the defining characteristics of many municipal campaigns, including everywhere from Taoyuan to Taichung to Tainan to Kaohsiung. They all want to be the second capital. They know that they can attract talent. Their living expense is just one half or less than in Taipei City. There’s no reason why they can’t be alternate capitals. We’re working on that.

  • We have the same. I guess it’s the same problem.

  • It’s a problem everywhere.

  • We have that in Denmark too.

  • Can I ask you something completely else? [laughs]

  • How much do you collaborate with other countries? If you see a problem, for example, you mentioned Australia, and you already have a solution, do you then collaborate?

  • Yeah, we do. The International Presidential Hackathon is, as its name implied, international. We do have a international track. We work with everybody who is interested in the sustainable goals. For example, we partner with the Open Contracting Partnership to run this Presidential Hackathon. They have over 40 countries and cities participating.

  • For example, last year the winner goes to Malaysia and to Honduras. We’re very active in APEC also, of which we’re a full member, to share such solutions. We are running a set of GCTF, or Global Cooperation and Training Framework, which is co-hosted by Japan, US, and Taiwan and a rotating fourth chair depending on the topic.

  • This year alone, we’ll have 11 of those mini-lateral meetings. The fourth chair, for example, for marine debris for circular economy is Netherlands. We will have these four chairs sharing the best practices around circular economy for marine debris reduction from Japan, US, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

  • That’s how we instead of getting into multilateral large organizations, which is getting easier using teleconference. In any case [laughs] , it’s traditionally hard. We instead just go to places and have a rotating chair. If you search for Global Cooperation and Training Framework or GCTF, you’ll see plenty of such activities going on.

  • When you say we, it’s Taiwan?

  • Yeah, It’s Taiwan, in general.

  • What about this hackathon?

  • Yeah, the hackathon too. The hackathon has a international party in which that we invite the global teams in. It’s open for registration soon, so you can spread the idea. [laughs]

  • What exactly is a hackathon?

  • A hackathon is a large marathon of hackers. People look at the sustainable goals and choose the parts that they care about and brainstorm a solution. For domestic teams, as I mentioned, five winning teams per year get a trophy from the president promising whatever you did will become public policy.

  • Oh, what we talked about earlier.

  • The presidential one, yeah. For the international teams, of course, we can’t force other people’s presidents [laughs] , but we will make sure to do our best in implementing it not only locally but also work with your team to implement that in your country as well.

  • We give out such international awards, again, from a jury that is from not only Taiwan, but also from a partner organization, for example, the Open Contracting Partnership.

  • When you say hackathon, you say we, you’re a part of hackathon?

  • Yeah, I’m head of the jury.

  • You’re head of the jury. That is not a problem when you’re part of this democracy?

  • I’m not the problem because I don’t vote. I’m merely a convener, so I don’t attribute scores. I’m just making sure that that everybody is on the same table. I’m like the chattering moderator. You can see me in this role in every mechanism. I’m there to ensure the mechanism runs, but I don’t really vote in such mechanisms.

  • Can I take a picture of your office?

  • Whatever, yeah. Sure, including the Post-It notes and everything. So you can go there physically. It’s open until 11:00 every day. It’s just the Social Innovation Lab at Ren’ai Road.

  • We’d also like to have a picture with you. As a part of this trip, we’re doing a report.

  • It’s not something that will be published or anything. It’s just for our files.

  • You can publish it on social media. Yeah, I don’t care.

  • Yeah, we can get our colleague to take a picture at the end of this meeting.

  • Yeah, that’d be cool. Thank you. How much do you actually use social media as a part of your, I won’t say politics because it isn’t politics.

  • And Facebook, Snapchat…

  • I’m not a good comedian so I don’t quite do Snapchat or TikTok for that matter which has additional problems, but I do Twitter. Twitter is, I think, very, very powerful in the sense that we can communicate across different jurisdictions very easily. It’s great for diplomacy is what I’m saying.

  • You can see a lot of my Twitter game basically talking about not only poetry, which I just shared with you, which is my job description that is pinned onto here, but actually a lot of interactions, for example, with a certain Pirate, Zdeněk Hřib, mayor of Prague city. He visited the Social Innovation Lab and really likes it. His city is now a sister city with Taipei city.

  • You can see some back and forth about me praising pangolins, which is his favorite animal. Also interacting with prominent journalists like “The Financial Times” journalist Rana Foroohar, which covered our work, and also showcased my DC trip. Also, a very interesting video that I shared in the CSIS which is interesting. Maybe I can play the video. It’s very short. It’s in Twitter-land anyway.

  • I shared something about Taiwan in contrast with Hong Kong when it comes to democracy. It’s meant to say how we inoculate against the devices of anti-democratic propaganda from the PRC.

  • (plays video)

  • (background music)

  • Authoritarians have been making a lot of noise. But this year, democracies have come together to make noise too.

  • We stood by Taiwan.

  • We will not bow to this pressure, not on my watch.

  • This year, we saw the face of dictatorship and we heard the roar of democracy. This year, we understood for the first time that no matter how different we might be, we all love our peaceful life here, and we all cherish this free democratic country.

  • Now it’s time for us to speak. The world is watching. What will Taiwan say? Please take another look at the peaceful life around you. Why do we deserve democracy and freedom? Please take another look at our children. The answer is in their eyes. Without hesitation, Taiwan will proclaim, we choose to stand with democracy.

  • We choose to stand with freedom and we choose to stand with the world. On January 11, let us find honor in our solidarity.

  • (video stops)

  • That’s the kind of video, not very comedic or humorous but somewhat inspirational I guess. [laughs] That’s the kind of social media messages that I send.

  • Do you only tweet in English?

  • Yeah, like 90 percent.

  • Which countries do Taiwan aspire to?

  • You mean, other than the republic of citizens, which is in our constitution as an ideal form? We do consider Switzerland an important inspiration especially now that we are redesigning our referenda system. We see ourselves as a direct democracy reimagined. Switzerland has a lot to offer in terms of what didn’t work. Also, the kind of clockwork they have across different cultural groups.

  • The e-petition system, we took from [non-English speech] , that’s Iceland, the participatory budget system from [Spanish] from Madrid and [Spanish] from Barcelona. The US digital service, of course, is a huge influence on the digital service part.

  • There’s a lot of cooperation with the Canadian government in terms of this multilingualism because the Pol.is software, they took it and made it English/French. That really helped our English/Mandarin consultations. There’s many others. New Zealand sent people here and we sent people there. We have this bilateral called n’Stack.

  • Really, any country that has a high number on the civic space because Monitor is our natural partner. Even in countries that are not very high in score, maybe some states are in good standing and we partnered directly with the state, New York City and New Jersey, in particular. That’s how it looks like. Everywhere that is green or light green is our natural ally.

  • Of course. That’s why you’re here.

  • (laughter)

  • As the Digital Minister, how much do you go abroad?

  • Like half my time. I just returned from Barcelona from the Digital Future Society and the MWC that didn’t happen. It got canceled. We’re going back to Barcelona for the Digital Future Society summit later this year.

  • When you come to Denmark, send us an email.

  • (laughter)

  • Of course, will do. Late March, I’ll be in Berlin and early April, likely, Amsterdam. It’s pretty close.

  • Are you concerned about the corona then?

  • Do you do anything for…?

  • I’ll just send a robot.

  • (laughter)

  • Do you do anything on social media or digitally in any way to prevent people from freaking out about corona or prevent people from…?

  • Yeah, that’s what the mask distribution system does. That’s why the CDC dashboard that I just showed you, it’s all there to quench people’s desire of the latest information because if you don’t give them in 30-second updates, people fabricate it anyway.

  • (laughter)

  • What about posting something on Twitter or…

  • Facebook or whatever.

  • …online telling people…

  • Yeah, that’s what the CDC, the Central Disease Control committee does. They’re very good with that. If you look at our Ministry of Health, MOHW, let’s see if I can get you the Facebook page of the MOHW, which is quite something to behold. MOHW.

  • It’s not only very anime manga-based, but it is also very doga-based. Their spokes-dog is very talented. [laughs] They speak in English. They speak in Vietnamese, in Indonesian, in dog language.

  • (laughter)

  • That’s very viral actually. [laughs] More viral than the virus.

  • (laughter)

  • In terms of their visual communication efforts, you can also see…

  • They invented a dog language?

  • Yeah, it’s either their minister or the dog. Both are very famous now.

  • (laughter)

  • That’s the minister with the dog, [laughs] and that talks about that we’re not yet having a widespread community infection and things like that. This dog, by the way, is a real dog, who is a companion animal of the person who is the participation officer of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the PO network, and also that person is in charge of setting the social media strategy.

  • Instead of paying a Shutterstock or some other picture library, as other coastal guard or whatever other ministries did, they just take pictures of the dog in various positions. [laughs] They serve as very viral ways of disseminating healthcare information. The dog is like, “Don’t do this!”

  • (laughter)

  • What is the dog doing?

  • The dog is putting their hand to their mouth and eyes. That is something you don’t do, after washing your hand. “Don’t do this.”

  • (laughter)

  • I really want to copy this.

  • When we arrived here, went and opened our Facebook apps on our telephones, we saw that you have these small things saying something about the virus. Do you have anything to do with that, or is it…?

  • Yeah, click at.cdc.tw for more.

  • Yes, something like that.

  • I didn’t do that. The Twitter people in charge of that did talk to me, but the CDC is very much in power now, so they can just set up their own domain and work with social media company…

  • But it’s the Taiwan…

  • Yeah, it’s the Taiwan administration doing this.

  • There seems to be like a very clear communication about the virus here. I’m just curious. Is it about 30 or something that got the virus here?

  • When they get this clear communication, how the people react to the communication? Do you they like, “We’re gonna follow this. That’s how we do it here.”?

  • There’s nobody who’s saying like, “No, I’m not that,” because some people are wearing the mask and some are not?

  • That’s right, that’s right. People who go into close quarters do wear the mask. That’s what the dog tells them to do. [laughs] The dog also shows you how to wash hands, anyway. [laughs]

  • The minister, also very important, not just the dog, and is currently enjoying almost 90 percent approval rate, and the Cabinet around almost 70 percent, which is unheard of in Taiwan’s history of democracy, meaning that they must be doing something right in terms of communication. Minister Chen has a name, Shih-chung, which in Mandarin means a clock.

  • People said that, “We need to follow Minister Shih-chung like clockwise.” People who violate such recommendations are said to be counterclockwise.

  • (laughter)

  • The Mayor of Taipei, for example, say, “No, we will all move clockwise and never counterclockwise.” [laughs]

  • Do you have numbers on how many inhabitants in Taiwan who’s got the message?

  • Yeah, we of course do. There was a cruise ship that visited Taiwan a few weeks ago, and there was an SMS, actually, [laughs] a cell broadcast that shows a map of where they have been to, and asking people who have been there to watch themselves for 14 days. We know it reached 20 million or something cellphones because it’s broadcast.

  • As long as your phone is turned on, no matter if you are on a mobile roaming network, or whether you’re on whatever network, you are guaranteed to get this cell broadcast.

  • Would we also get it even though we are Danish from…

  • If you are connected to any of the towers unless you are using a satellite phone.

  • (laughter)

  • If you’re using a normal cell phone, then you are guaranteed to get this broadcast. That’s what we do when we have cases where we don’t know yet which specific people are at risk, then we just do this broadcasting. I think in the cruise ship case, everybody in the two Taipei cities and in Keelung, in north Taiwan.

  • Do you do both in Mandarin and in English or only in Mandarin?

  • Yeah, that’s a great question. People have raised that question, which is why MOHW, as of last week, started to have the dog speak English but previously, they only speak Mandarin.

  • (laughter)

  • When you’re in a country where you’re, literally understand nothing and something is happening, I think Korea has something similar with broadcasting messages. I went there and every time I got the message completely in Korean, I freaked out because my phone said [sound effects] and you looked at it and you’re like, I don’t know what’s going on.

  • It could be dangerous. I have no idea.

  • Of the 20 national languages, English is not one of it.

  • We’re quickly moving toward a bilingual nation but it’s not yet an official language. Everybody agrees we should move there as quickly as possible.

  • Do you know what your approval ratings are?

  • No. We are appointees, so we support the Cabinet and support the Prime Minister. People have the approval rating of the entire Cabinet, which is, as I said, 69 percent. Not bad.

  • When you are saying that you are going to move to become more English speaking, are you looking at places like Singapore, with a lot of international coming in?

  • That’s right. We are. We also have, for example, English immersive classes starting in kindergarten or things like that. It’s very recent that we got 20 national languages anyway. It was just two years ago and one year ago if you really count the implementation. It’s really new. It used to be Mandarin is the one only language. It takes time to get bilingual.

  • Before the sustainable goals are reached, in this decade, sometime, we will move toward a bilingual state.

  • The next generation of Japanese will be…

  • Will speak English.

  • Can I just ask you one question, the last?

  • In Denmark, you would never see things like this.

  • The dog on the Minister’s Facebook page.

  • It’s very cute. I’m sorry.

  • (laughter)

  • It’s cute, fun and all, but aren’t you afraid that people won’t take it serious?

  • This is very serious.

  • Yeah, but it’s a dog.

  • It’s a dog but that’s why you share it. It’s fun. It’s memetic. We want them to be more viral than rumor and disinformation. This humor over rumor strategy is necessary. It’s almost a survival skill for us because there’s just so many rumors around, including PRC interference but also other organic rumors or financially-motivated rumors.

  • We have to do this. Now, in Denmark, you have a really good institutional media and fact-check everything. You don’t have to do this. We do this by way of looking at the media landscape and say that if we don’t make our messages go more viral, we’re doomed, and that’s by necessity.

  • Would you like it to not be like this?

  • It’s very expensive, those comedians, but it’s also entertaining, so why not?

  • (laughter)

  • Personally, I’m more about making inspirational videos. This is not my forte. I recognize the necessity though.

  • (laughter)

  • Can we take the picture?

  • We also have something for you from Denmark.

  • Because it’s something the Danish really like. It’s a licorice. They call it salty fish.

  • I don’t know if you like them or not.

  • Of course. Thank you.

  • I love them and I like a lot of things, too. It’s in every store.

  • OK, I’ll share it.

  • When you go to the cinema to mix candy, they’re always there. It’s a really essential candy.

  • I’ll share this with my colleagues. Let’s take a picture…