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Audrey Tang visited New Zealand in the last week of September as a keynote speaker for the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) held in Christchurch.
She is the Digital Minister (Taiwan) and is in charge of Social Enterprise. She is known world-wide for revitalizing global open source communities such as Perl and Haskell.
In the public sector, Tang served on Taiwan National Development Council’s open data committee and K-12 curriculum committee; and led the country’s first e-Rulemaking project.
In the private sector, she worked as a consultant with Apple on computational linguistics, with Oxford University Press on crowd lexicography, and with Socialtext on social interaction design.
Tang actively contributes to Taiwan’s g0v (“gov-zero”), a vibrant community focusing on creating tools for the civil society, with the call to “fork the government”.
Named a minister without portfolio in the Lin Chuan cabinet in August 2016, she took office as the "Digital Minister" on 1st October, and was placed in charge of helping government agencies communicate policy goals and managing information published by the government. When appointed at age 35, Tang became the youngest minister without portfolio in Taiwanese history.
One of her tasks is to make the government more transparent, and making data about how it works available to all. She is also helping to form Taiwan’s “Asian Silicon Valley,” a new tech zone devoted to the “Internet of Things” industry.
TINZ, which aims for greater government transparency and stronger integrity systems throughout New Zealand, wanted to connect with Tang to learn about ways of engaging and gaining views from a public while ensuring it has access to information about its government.
Taiwan’s Representative to New Zealand, Dale Wen-chieh Jieh (Representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New Zealand), hosted a lunch meeting for TINZ to connect with Tang on 26 September 2017. Attendees included TINZ ’s Chair, Suzanne Snively, Christchurch Board Member, Nichola Hodge with other attendees representing Taiwan’s government and New Zealand’s Open Government Partnership initiatives.
When appointed as Minister, Tang said: "My existence is not to become a minister for a certain group, nor to broadcast government propaganda. Instead, it is to become a "channel" to allow greater combinations of intelligence and strength to come together.”
Her communication channel is designed to collect information about people’s feelings and opinions about the government and its activities.
Taiwan’s democratic environment shares similarities to New Zealand’s democracy. Like New Zealand Taiwan is a new democracy on the global stage and, like New Zealand has until recently, typically enjoyed high levels of voter turnout for national elections. Both Taiwan and New Zealand have seen voter turnout noticeably drop in both the number of the population enrolling to vote and the number actively voting. Like New Zealand, the voter turnout of those under 35 in Taiwan is considerably below the turnout of those from older age cohorts.
One of Tang’s roles is to address these issues and to bridge the gap between the older and younger generations. Tang’s work could provide an answer to New Zealand’s declining voter turnout and political engagement.
TINZ is keen to keep in touch with Tang about her development of free software, for the public to access. She wants also to demonstrate that the new Taiwanese sharing economy is, in fact, a working system.
Dale Wen-chieh Jieh, Nichola Hodge, Suzanne Snively, Audrey Tang