Live from Taipei: Minister Tang on radical transparency, public innovation and collaborative governance
In addition to her role as Digital Minister, Audrey Tang is also a member of the Digital Future Society Global Board of Trustees.
Though she could not be present in person, Taiwan’s Digital Minister Audrey Tang beamed in from Taipei at 1 AM local time to deliver a keynote speech and answer live questions from the audience in real time as part of a Digital Future Society event at Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona.
A self-described “civic hacker” and “conservative anarchist”, Minister Tang joined Taiwan’s Cabinet as Digital Minister in October 2016 to take charge of Social Entrepreneurship and Open Government. Previously, Tang was renowned for revitalizing global open source communities such as Perl and Haskell. In the public sector, Audrey served on Taiwan’s K-12 curriculum committee and national development council’s open data committee; and led the country’s first e-Rulemaking project. In the private sector, Minister Tang worked as a consultant with Apple on computational linguistics, and with Oxford University Press on crowd lexicography. In the third sector, she actively contributes to Taiwan’s g0v (“gov-zero”) project, a community focusing on creating tools for civil society, with the call to “fork the government”.
In addition to her work in a wide range of sectors, Minister Tang also serves as a member of the Digital Future Society Global Board of Trustees, an exceptional group of individuals from diverse geographic regions meant to serve as ambassadors of the programme. Their role is to oversee, support and give visibility to the DFS programme with the objective of building a better society. The depth and breadth of experience of Global Board members like Minister Tang ensures the ability of DFS to fully engage in global issues.
Collaborative governance: Combining technology and social innovation to bring citizens into the policymaking process
In her talk at the Digital Future Society Summit, Minister Tang shared her experiences in bringing social innovation practices into public policy through a “collaborative governance” approach. Echoing the words of Taiwanese President Tsai, Minister Tang emphasized the importance of plurality in this approach; rather than a clash between opposing values, democracy should be “a conversation among many different values.”
Her presentation focused on the rise of civic technology in Taiwan, highlighting the importance of “radical transparency” and open data in building a stronger democracy. She also spoke about voluntary association, the idea that participation should be open to all without the requirement of membership, as well as location independence, which borrows from the internet governance model in that she reports to no particular actor or authority, neither giving nor taking orders.
Minister Tang went on to share several examples of how collaborative governance principles are embedded within Taiwan’s widespread digital infrastructure as well as to civil society, and how these linkages have kept the government accountable through the continuous empowerment and inclusion of citizens. One such example can be found in the g0v (pronounced “gov-zero”) platform, a “shadow” website to official Taiwanese government sites that helps citizens access and easily understand government policies, programmes and initiatives. Using the g0v platform enables citizens to “fork” the government by modifying existing policies to reflect their goals and aspirations, as well as to test out certain policy measures in a sandbox environment.
Minister Tang concluded her lecture with a poem she composed that encapsulates her values and vision of the future of democracy:
When we see an internet of things
let’s make it an 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
And whenever we hear that a singularity
is near, let’s always remember that plurality is here.
Following her talk, Minister Tang answered live questions from the audience in real time about how to ensure nobody, especially older generations, is left behind in the digital transformation. She also shared her thoughts on how to incorporate ethics into the development of artificial intelligence, as well as best practices for getting citizens involved in policymaking processes.
Watch the full keynote and live Q&A with Minister Tang below: