Audrey Tang and Hélène Landemore on Taiwan’s Digital Democracy, Collaborative Civic Technologies, and Beneficial Information Flows

Following the 2014 Sunflower Movement protests, Audrey Tang—a prominent member of the civic social movement g0v—was headhunted by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration to become the country’s first Digital Minister. In a recent GovAI webinar, Audrey discussed collaborative civic technologies in Taiwan and their potential to improve governance and beneficial information flows.

Much of the discussion concerned vTaiwan, an online platform designed to facilitate constructive conversation and consensus-building between diverse opinion groups. The vTaiwan process involves a combination of crowdsourcing facts and evidence and mass deliberation using machine learning-enabled software pol.is. To date, the process has been used by government ministries and representatives, scholars, business leaders, civil society organizations, and citizens. Over 30 deciion and policy issues have been discussed using vTaiwan, leading to decisive government action on topics including Financial Tech and Uber.

Such tools are examples of information systems that create socially beneficial information flows. Enabling productive uses of information, without also enabling undesired misuse, is a goal GovAI calls “structured transparency.” Taiwan’s experience constitutes an exciting example of structured transparency’s potential.

The webinar conversation involved the following participants: 

Audrey Tang is Taiwan’s Digital Minister in charge of social innovation, open governance, and youth engagement. They are Taiwan’s first transgender cabinet member and became the youngest minister in the country’s history at the age of 35. Tang is known for civic hacking and strengthening democracy using technology. They served on the Taiwanese National Development Council’s Open Data Committee and are an active contributor to g0v, a community focused on creating tools for civil society. Audrey plays a key role in combating foreign disinformation campaigns and in formulating Taiwan’s COVID-19 response.

Hélène Landemore is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Yale University. Her research and teaching interests include democratic theory, political epistemology, theories of justice, the philosophy of social sciences (particularly economics), constitutional processes and theories, and workplace democracy.

Ben Garfinkel is a Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Insitute. His research interests include the security and privacy implications of artificial intelligence, the causes of interstate war, and the methodological challenge of forecasting and reducing technological risks.

You can watch a recording of the event here.

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