AUDREY TANG – Digital Minister of Taiwan

Audrey Tang is a Taiwanese free software programmer, who has been described as one of the "ten greats of Taiwanese computing.” and describes herself as a "conservative anarchist. At the age of 12, she left school to code; at 15, she created her own start-up.

In August 2016, Tang was named a minister without portfolio in the Tsai Ing-Wen cabinet. She took office on 1 September and was placed in charge of helping government agencies communicate policy goals and managing information published by the government, both via digital means.


Q : How would you define the difference(s) between representative democracy and direct democracy? Is the role (rights and responsibilities) of the Citizen changing today?

Internet has enabled mass self-communication among citizens, resulting in an accelerated pace of assembly and speech.

I consider access to an open Internet through digital tools as a human right.

By their nature, such tools give rise to "adhocracies", where new forms of legitimacy are self-programmed through — and contained within the topologies of — these tools. Elected representatives are part of this network.


Q: You are currently travelling to Spain, Britain and France. Is today’s global interest in other forms of democracy just due to new technological possibilities or do you think there are other social or societal reasons driving this change?

Active participants in adhocracies tend to experience trust to their peers — termed "swift trust" — and distrust traditional authorities.

This leads to a pressure on democratic governments to innovate and regain trust from citizens.


Q: What movements, projects or examples inspire you outside of Taiwan?

The Free Software, Open Source and Free Culture movements have inspired me.

People donated their talents, their time, their resources on furthering not only the freedom of software (freedoms to use ; to study the source ; to copy ; to change and apply improvements), but also people who have worked on the freedom of assembly and the freedom of speech, which underlies the whole free software movement.

In particular, I would like to thank the late civic hacker Aaron Swartz, the Internet's own child, for pioneering (not only in code, but also in writing) the radical transparency that I'm currently practicing in Taiwan.


Q: If democracy becomes more and more dependent on technology, how do you guarantee all Citizens access to these tools?

By ensuring broadband access as a basic right, and improving digital literacy throughout all populations. Technologists are also invited to design in an accessible, multi-modal way.


Q: and in general, the vTaiwan process is very impressive and has been wonderfully thought through. However, how do you guarantee that no special interest groups “hijack” the tools and influence policy at the stage of consultation? (For example, coding an A.I. to create multiple fake profiles and change the discourse on

By enforcing a "consensus threshold" for binding agenda — e.g. when there are two groups (60% and 40%), taking all of 60% and half of 40%, gives us 80% — mobilization on is ineffective and so people are disinclined to spam the engine.

In cases of multiple groups or more extreme groups, Chris from development group came up with a multiplicative metric for each comment:

Cons(c) = _{def} \prod _ {g \in G} 2 \min ( P_a(g, c) - 0.5, 0 )

where G is the set of groups and P_a(g, c) is the probability of someone in group g agreeing with comment c.


Q: What is your position on Liquid (or Delegative) Democracy? Do you wish it be implemented in some way in the Taiwanese political system?

g0v contributors have experimented on it around 2013.

As with participatory budgeting, it has the benefit of shifting the public discourse to policy domains instead of personalities. At the moment, there are no specific plans to introducing Liquid Democracy into the administration.


Q: What is your position on Sortition? Do you wish it be implemented in some way in the Taiwanese political system?

There are existing sortition processes for consultative hearings (登記抽籤制), however the binding power varies from case to case.

I would like to focus on gradually increasing agenda-setting power of such groups, as well as on scalable listening technologies so all stakeholders can join — to some degree — even when they are not drawn by the sortition.


Q: You are a strong advocate of transparency. How do you make sure normal citizens do not get overwhelmed and lose themselves in the huge amounts of data public institutions generate and could share with full or near-full transparency?

Through collaboration with investigative journalists, data scientists, and other storytellers who can translate raw material into narratives.


Q: While discussing automation and the possibility of Universal Basic Income, you mentioned the need to disentangle the notions of “work” and “jobs”. What is your position on the post-work narrative? Taiwan having an industry-heavy economy, how is the country preparing for this eventuality?

Post-work, as you described, is an eventuality — not necessarily happening in my lifetime, and not necessarily happening in a way that benefits everyone.

Preparation involves a shift of focus of K-12 education on Autonomy, Communication and Common Good — three traits that we think will remain helpful throughout increased automation on cognitive work.


Q: I usually like finishing my interviews by asking: What question did I not ask but should have?

I think these are great questions. :-)

For a bit more context on trusting the collective intelligence of citizens, here is a recent speech I gave: