Recommended: Digital Social Innovation to Empower Democracy with Audrey Tang
When we see “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.
When we hear “the singularity is near”, let us remember: Plurality is here.
These are the words Audrey Tang uses to describe their job as Taiwan’s first Digital Minister for Social Innovation. Sounds pretty revolutionary, right? Well, Tang’s not one to make grand promises without following up. In fact, their work is nothing short of revolutionary as they continue to serve as an inspiration for the incredible ways tech can be utalized to empower a community, rather than dividing and exploiting people. After all, as much as it’s important to bring attention to the murky waters of the tech industry, we must not forget the exciting potential of technological innovation. In the right hands, digitalization makes room for solutions we once hardly dared to dream of. And this is where Audrey Tang comes in as a shining example.
In their TEDx talk, Tang details some of the ways that Taiwan is already using digital tools to boost citizen engagement and democracy. For one, they emphasize the importance of open source, meaning that code is publicly accessible, giving anyone and everyone the freedom to modify and distribute it. With each invention comes much potential, especially when individuals with different visions and backgrounds get a chance to build on it.
Tang make it clear that open data does not only refer to government data, but extends to citizen data. For example, they are involved with an e-Rulemaking initiative meant to facilitate public participation in lawmaking. In practice, this means anyone can take part in comprehensive consultations, where they get the chance to contribute their opinions to be considered by fellow members of the public and the government. Once a citizen statement is posted to the digital platform, people can either agree or disagree with it, or post an entirely different suggestion. Then, when a consensus is reached, it can slide into law and regulation.
This ideal of a citizen-centric government also takes the form of the project named Gov Zero (g0v). Put simply, every government website in Taiwan has an alternate url which leads you to a ghost site. This is a duplicate of the official website, only that it acts as an interactive map which citizens can edit to share suggestions and feedback. In other words, Gov Zero is yet an example of how technology can be used to bridge the distance between a government and its citizens.
The progress Taiwan has seen serves as a valuable example of what can be achieved in the name of the collective good thanks to technological innovation – and there are many more to pick from. “Instead of asking what is the fair, the best arbitration, we ask two new questions. First we ask, given our different positions, is there some common values after all that everyone can live with? And the second question is, given the common values, can we come up with innovations that deliver these values to everybody?” Tang encourages in the TEDx talk.
Watch the full speech to learn more about a future where tech serves humanity rather than dictating it: