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Taiwan’s Digital Defence Against China Comes From Tech Partnerships, Explains Audrey Tang

Last Updated May 31, 2024 12:49 PM
Teuta Franjkovic
Last Updated May 31, 2024 12:49 PM

Key Takeaways

  • Audrey Tang drove Taiwan’s digital rise, attracting talent with residency programs.
  • The ex-Bitcoin advocate bolstered Taiwan’s digital defenses with global partnerships to counter threats from the mainland.
  • Taiwan uses digital tools to empower young people in democratic processes, leading in youth-driven digital democracy.

Audrey Tang , a prominent Taiwanese politician and free software programmer, was Taiwan’s first Minister of Digital Affairs from August 2022 to May 2024. She spoke with CCN she spoke how Taiwan’s digital defense is key to keeping out China, as well as how they are utilizing emerging tech to bolster the region.

Tang also highlighted Taiwan’s leadership in virtual reality through companies like HTC Vive and its expertise in trust technologies. She pointed out how companies such as Trend Micro are at the forefront of filtering online scams and combating information manipulation.

Bolstering Digital Defenses Against China with Tech Partnerships

Tang highlighted the importance of maintaining Taiwan’s digital security, especially in response to increased military activities by China around Taiwan.

Recently, a defense ministry spokesperson from China stated  that the Chinese military successfully met its “expected goals” during two days of drills around Taiwan last week. The exercises were in response to the inauguration of President Lai Ching-te, who Beijing labels a “separatist”.

China considers Taiwan, a democratically governed island, as part of its territory. The spokesperson also indicated that China is prepared to take further action if provoked.

Tang’s tenure saw enhanced communication resilience through collaborations with European and other international partners, strengthening Taiwan’s digital infrastructure against external threats.

She elaborated:

“Not only we work with european providers such as SES Global for MEO satellite connectivity, but also with Oneweb, which is backed partly by the UK government. And all of these worked very well during the earthquake in Hualien, and to provide emergency communication, we increased our joint drills, what we call code or cyber offensive and defensive exercise, with not just the US, but Czech Republic actually was 18 friendly countries.”

Diplomatic support, not just from the government to government relationship, but also from the people to people ties, people who support Taiwan on the Internet and on social media.

Tang also addressed Taiwan’s position on the technological front, particularly in attracting global talent. Initiatives like the Taiwanese residency for contributors to open source projects underscored her strategy to foster innovation.

This approach not only attracted technological expertise but also supported Taiwan’s significant role in the semiconductor industry.

Tang asserted:

“If you contribute to open source, if you, like me, has a GitHub account and work on it for eight years, you automatically qualify for Taiwanese residency, which includes with it healthcare for you and your family, and you can start an enterprise in Taiwan. And you don’t have to be physically in Taiwan. You can just search for Taiwan gold card and receive such a gold card with a three year benefit. And if you like Taiwan, at the end of the three year, if you want to renew it, you can naturalise as a taiwanese citizen without giving up your own passport, becoming a dual citizen.”

Her efforts  extended to promoting digital democracy, where digital platforms significantly engaged the public, especially the youth, in democratic processes. This engagement has been recognized globally, positioning Taiwan as a leader in digital democracy and civic participation.

From Bitcoin Consultant to Policy Leader

Exploring Audrey Tang’s influential tenure as Taiwan’s Minister of Digital Affairs  reveals that she has made substantial strides in digital technology and governance. Before assuming her cabinet position, Tang was engaged in free software development, setting her consulting rate at one Bitcoin per hour, a price determined in 2013  when Bitcoin was still under $100.

Tang’s time in office was marked by high approval ratings, exceeding 50% by the end of her second term, an unprecedented achievement in Taiwanese political history. Her commitment was particularly evident during challenging times, such as the pandemic and various information crises. Tang actively participated in protecting Taiwan’s elections and addressing the infodemic.

Prior to her government role, Tang traveled globally, promoting digital democracy. Her shift from parliamentary duties to a more ambassadorial role allowed her to focus on a broader, international stage, advocating for Taiwan’s digital initiatives.

Chip Powerhouse Pushes Beyond Hardware into AI & VR

Tang spoke about Taiwanese chip industry and its efforts to develop in the field of AI and VR.

She stated:

“Now, of course, many of you know, Taiwan is also the producer of the most advanced chips, the TSMC and its supply chain. And so we make sure that we use this advantage of chips to also work on, for example, 5G, that requires the communication chips. We use immersive, shared reality that brings people together even though they are physically apart.”

Tang mentioned to CCN that one of the leading VR companies, HTC Vive, is a Taiwanese entity. Additionally, Taiwan is active in the development of trust technologies. Companies like Trend Micro and GogoLook, along with numerous other Taiwanese unicorns, specialize in differentiating online scams from legitimate messages and identifying information manipulation or polarization attacks from genuine grassroots campaigns. This focus on discerning the trustworthy from the fake is an area in which Taiwan excels.

Throughout her career, Tang remained a pivotal figure in integrating technology with governance, aiming to solidify Taiwan’s standing as a tech-savvy and democratic nation.

Taiwan’s Digital Democracy Empowers Youth

Asked about how effective she thinks digital platforms have been in engaging the public in decision making processes, Tang answered that, in her opinion, people below 18 years old  are the primary beneficiaries of this technology.

She added that according to the ICCS, which is like the PISA International test for the civics, Taiwan ranks in STEM sector in top three or top five. PISA International test for the civics is used for  measuring 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges.

Tang said:

“In terms of civics and the participation in democracy, Taiwan is top one in the world according to iccs, because people who are 15 years old or 14 years old, they feel they are already an active part of democracy. They can start very effective electronic petitions.

If they get 5000 signatures online, they can force a ministerial response. They can affect real change, like banning plastic straws from bubble tea takeouts for ecological reasons. So instead of taking a break from classrooms on Fridays or something, they can use their Fridays in classrooms.”

Tang concluded that civics teachers encourage students to engage in activities such as fact-checking, measuring air quality, and ensuring the effectiveness of electronic petitions. She believes that the “Join the Gov TW” platform, which includes tools like participatory budgeting and petitions, serves an educational purpose. This platform helps young people, even before they turn 18, to see themselves as full participants in democracy.


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