• I was invited by a foundation to make a presentation on Sunday. I thought it’s my first time in Taiwan for many years, and so I was interested in seeing you again. I’ve seen that you are now in government, and I was wondering how you reconcile your ideas before being in government with government responsibilities.

  • I find that very interesting. There are, I think, few, if any, experiences in the world where someone with your profile got into government with ideas about open government, about civic tech, about all this. That’s what I was most interested in.

  • It’s been going really well. We started a public digital innovation space. It’s a little bit like Etalab in France, where we get designers, programmers, and all sort of interesting people, about 20, 22 of us in the national administration.

  • Our mission is very simple. We try to facilitate and incubate any and all kinds of innovations in the government, especially when it comes to talking with people directly. I think we do it with a few ways. This is our re-architect in charge of re-architecting any part of the government administration that needs re-architecting when it comes to meeting with people.

  • For example, we have an e-petition system. That was set up a couple years ago, before I joined the cabinet. Usually, when people petition on something cross-ministry, they get an explanation of their problem, but they don’t get a solution of their problem, because the internal communication forbids the agency in charge of responding to people’s questions into demanding pressure on other ministries.

  • That’s a public platform?

  • It is a public platform. Anyone who has more than 5,000 counter signatures get a formal response within 60 days by the ministries involved. That’s the idea. We get a lot of very interesting petitions.

  • For example, on May 1st, when we started our national tax filing day, there’s a lot of people discovered for the first time that, because on Mac, on Linux, and on other non-Windows platforms, like iPad or whatever, the technology that was used by the government called Java applet is deprecated, meaning that people cannot easily use it to file their taxes. They had to borrow a Windows computer or something.

  • Whereas before the government would just have an explanation of the problem, now that we have e-petition platform, we actually have people who are very loud, saying it’s a discrimination...

  • ...against free software, against people that have different operating systems. Because we have a way to get anyone who feel very strongly about this issue, we are now basically saying anyone who complain the loudest get to collaborate with us.

  • The Ministry of Finance has a participation officer in charge of facing not only media and all the parliaments, but just stakeholders who raise such issues. We have one time in every ministry, so a team of 30, 40 people. We are all on the same virtual workspace.

  • Those participation officers form a cross-ministry network. Anytime anyone has this kind of impromptu complaints, they can respond very quickly saying, "This involves four ministries," and these four ministries form the ad hoc team. PDIS will help them into having a facilitation workshop.

  • The petitioners and others who sign the petition, we just met, and maybe in five hours or something have a mind map of whatever that’s currently wrong with the system. We discovered the petitioners are actually expert user experience designers and things like that.

  • The way they feel strongly means that they have more expertise than the government. Every Friday when we have this kind of collaborative meetings, we end up with a user journey, an idea development, or a mind map of what is actually feasible going forward.

  • The next Monday, I take the entire transcript and the entire live video or everything to the meeting with the prime minister and other ministers with portfolio, saying basically, "Whether you agree this should be our national policy, that was the consensus over the last week."

  • When the prime minister says, "OK, sure. Why not?" then we allocate resources to make it a national policy. Afterwards, we have five different workshops with the petitioners and other stakeholders, like the vendors, and co-design the tax filing system for the next year.

  • We’ve been doing this kind of collaborative meeting for 25 meetings at the moment. It’s not just national issues that affect everybody, but also local issues. For example, there’s a national marine park, Marine National Park in Penghu. People there was deciding between more banning of fishing versus having still a local economy and moving to tourism.

  • The environmentalist versus local fishes peoples is a very common dialogue. But because people have more than 5,000 people going into the e-petitions, we now know what are the pro and con ideas are.

  • Actually flew to that remote island, to Penghu, and have a town hall style collaborative meeting there. With 360 livestream, we were able to connect to or more spaces into one deliberative space and still come up with some consensus that people can accept.

  • What was the outcome?

  • The outcome was very simple. We started with declaring this park a natural preservation tourism zone in which that we can hire local people as pay them as the local guided tours and also have a coop-like system set up so that all the incomes are distributed to the local people.

  • The local people were saying, "No decisions about us without us." The idea is that. for the next two years, we amass scientific evidences. We have a good cross-ministry rapport now to focus on this very seriously.

  • Over the next two years, we first solve all the pain points that all the stakeholder raised such as insufficient patrols against mainland China overfishing boats and also delivering the transport boat service to that remote island people. Maybe we’ll even have automated boats in experiments there, whatever. But the idea is that we solve all those local needs first.

  • Then once people form some solidarity that thinks this part whether we’re divers or fishers people or whatever, it’s still a commons that everybody got to protect. Then we run local deliberations to make sure that whatever going forward the people are OK with it.

  • The idea was that before on the Internet, they were fragmented into three different factions. But now we’re saying, "OK, everything that was agreed by all the different factions, we’ll just put it as national policy with the aim of building a local solidarity coop or NGO that will be able to have some..."

  • It’s like a local association that basically includes all the stakeholders and decide for themselves instead of everybody lobbying the national government to decide for them. We get scientists and the other people to try to translate those expert language into something that local people can understand. I think that’s our main contribution.

  • For that, you got government support?

  • You got that approved at each level.

  • Of course. We talked to the mayor of Penghu. Because now it’s the inquiry period of the council, he actually appeared as a video also. Then also of course we talked with the prime minister and the legislators from that area.

  • I think we have many success cases like this. There was one of the hospital in the southern part of Taiwan in Hengchun. The petition was for the Ministry of Interior to fly helicopters as ambulance because their closest large hospital is too far. It’s 90 minutes away. People die on the road going to there.

  • After a stakeholder consultation that runs, again, for five hours in two different rooms, we finally discovered that the proper way to solve it is actually to attract more medical talents who want to stay at that place. At the moment, they don’t even have a good dormitory let alone proper hardware.

  • We allocated some 300 million NT dollars dollars to that area to rebuild a eight story high new medical center that address the local needs so that they don’t at the moment require the helicopters to service ambulance which doesn’t quite work with people who have strokes anyway. It’s easier if it could be treated locally.

  • All those petitions, they may specify one particular solution. We try to get the stakeholder to agree on the larger structural issue or the problem. Most of those wicked problems are a problem because it takes coordinated action of six different parties before it can get better.

  • Nobody want to take the first action and suffer all the consequences. It’s like Kickstarter where we get crowdsourced commitment from everybody on the same mind map and then for the prime minister to say, "OK, now six parties move forward one little bit." That’s the methodology so far.

  • How do you address the drawback of this, which could be that the most digital-literate and active people will have a say, because they can gather 5,000 signatures and petition, and so on, and those who are left out by lack of knowledge of digital methods, or lack of access to social media, for example, to gather 5,000, might not be able to voice their...?

  • Which is why we don’t treat the particular solution that those petitions want. In fact, next to every petition, we have a pro and con argument point. It’s like the one that’s used in the republic numeric debate, where they have pro and con arguments.

  • Even though 5,000 people petition something, this only means that they want the administration to focus their attention on this. On the pro and con, we actually see a lot of different alternative options, and we also include them.

  • I think especially for local issues, but also for national ones, the ones that’s important is the stakeholder mapping, so that we try to include the diverse stakeholders, even though they were not aware of this conversation.

  • For local issues, we make a point of flying to their nearest town hall or whatever, that only requires them to walk maybe, and to join this deliberation. We do this with sufficient advance notice so that people don’t really have to go to online.

  • The online part is mostly just a record-keeping device, but we go everywhere, and using 360-livestreaming, try to capture those everywhere discussions and their consensus into the national agenda setting, but they don’t have to leave their neighborhood to do that.

  • For example, my work here, every Wednesday is also the same. I have this office hour that runs from 10:00 AM to almost 10:00 PM every Wednesday here. Everybody who has anything, want to talk with me about social innovation, they can do so.

  • Everything is on the record. It’s made into a transcript. I do this even for internal meetings that I chair, so that everything is radically transparent, and all the conversations carry off the previous one.

  • Every other Tuesday, I go to the four different regional centers of the administration in all parts of Taiwan, and meet the local social innovators who want to have some solution to their local issues. They are local problem solvers. We want to solve problems for those people.

  • We have 11 different ministries’ people just here, and then using this connected-space methodology, they see the people from like Hualien, was the last one. Next will be Taitung or Pingtung or different places, or Nantou.

  • Those social innovators, unlike the local facilitators that actually goes there, but 11 different ministries are here. They see still each other face-to-face through intermediated livestreaming. They can ask any question that will immediately be made into a transcript that was held accountable for the ministry to answer.

  • Once they answer, all the other 10 ministries now learn of this, and everything is kept into a record that is revised every two weeks, so it’s resolved very quickly.

  • This transparency exercise of transcript of every meeting, does that apply about all your agenda, or just Wednesday meetings?

  • No, everything. Everything that I meet outside of the administrative staff. For the administration, any meeting that I chair. The difference is that for our external meetings, you will be given 10 days to edit a transcript, but with the internal meetings that I chair, it will be 10 working days. That’s the only difference.

  • (laughter)

  • That must be pretty strange for your colleagues, no?

  • No, I think they’re fine with that. People in the legislative and in the courts already do that anyway. It’s only new to the administration. The other two branches of the government already have a system like this going.

  • That’s made public?

  • Yeah, of course. The legislation, even for the cross-party negotiation is all livestreamed.

  • They don’t have closed meetings at all?

  • They used to, but now all the binding meetings are livestreamed. That’s a really new development.

  • You must be the most transparent administration in the world.

  • (laughter)

  • I’ve never heard that.

  • I’m sure that there still are closed-door negotiations, but all the meetings that are binding are now livestreamed.

  • Do you have data on how many people will look at the transcripts and all that?

  • There is interest? There is people who come and...?

  • Yes, definitely. People still pay a lot of attention, not just the transparency, but the accountability. For example, for this morning’s press conference, my laptop and also my iPad has this QR code.

  • When the journalists scan this QR code, they get access not just for the presentations and the transcript of the press conference itself, but also the pre-meetings when we’re preparing for this press conference, was also the transcript there also. Also, the collaborative meeting in Penghu Islands, and also the preparatory meetings leading to that.

  • It is a whole accountability trail, where people can see that those good ideas, they are not Audrey’s ideas. It’s maybe a low-level public servant’s idea, so they could get the credit. If this is experimental -- of course this is experimental -- if this thing doesn’t work, I get the blame. This is like blame-seeking, credit-sharing politician.

  • (laughter)

  • Quite a reverse of the typical stereotype. Because of this, people are very willing to innovate, because they get recognized, and I absorb the risk basically.

  • Impressive. What’s this place?

  • This is the Social Innovation Lab. This is a place where it used to be the Taiwan Air Force Command Center, but the Air Force is not using it any more. Now the social enterprise and social innovation people, because of a plan by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, now have this as a dedicated place for social innovation and sustainable development.

  • This is both a incubator and accelerator for local social enterprises, but also a place where if you have any activity that has anything to do with social innovation, then you can use it for free.

  • The whole design is co-created with hundreds of social enterprises. They wanted rooms with pillows, so we have one room with pillows and whiteboards. They want a kitchen, we have a kitchen. All this arrangement is co-designed, and opens until well into the midnight, like 11:00 PM or something.

  • It’s been a pretty popular place for social innovators to showcase their work, not just in Taipei, but all across Taiwan.

  • You come here every Wednesday?

  • Yeah. I’m here every Wednesday. I live just 10 minutes’ walk from here.

  • Anyone who come and...?

  • Yeah, as long as they agree to the radical transparency, we have a office hour talk.

  • That’s a very interesting type of structure. How did you get the government to accept that? That’s very unusual for any government, even radical ideas, to accept this kind of transparency. Some people -- for us, for example, on the left -- talk about the dictatorship of transparency. They feel transparency is a burden, and not an asset.

  • I think the idea is that we introduce these tools as assistive tools. They’re there to reduce the burden of administration. If it increases people’s workload, of course, nobody would embrace it. The fact was that this crowdsourced petition platform, for example, once a cross-ministry response is given, it’s sent to the email box directly, to more than 5,000 people.

  • They don’t have to make inquiries over and over again. It saves everybody’s time over time. Also, because of the risk reducing way that we are doing the regular transparency, anyone who joins this system automatically have their political risk reduced.

  • That accountability will point to exactly the part they need to do, but not absorbing any other part. Also, for the ministers, it is a way to create pretty shining examples of crowdsourced decision making, which is pretty attractive in itself.

  • Across all three levels of the government, I don’t meet any resistance, but mostly because as an anarchist, I don’t give commands. I won’t just put a finger to the minister of foreign affair, saying, "You have to do things my way."

  • People come to us basically because they think this methodology works for them. If there’s any dark part of the government, I don’t know yet. Nobody have contacted us about this.

  • How did it happen, the deal to make you a minister? You were not a member of the DPP, or did you take part in the election campaign and all that?

  • Not at all. The prime minister, I did work before, Tsai Ing-wen He was not a member of any party, either. His successor after the election in the interim was not member of any party, either. Those two were both independent, and with a pro-transparency agenda, both of them.

  • The hand-off itself was transparency. Simon asked all the ministries to upload their checkpoint document for the Internet, for the next cabinet to download, and for the hand-off to happen. Incidentally, that enabled me to look at old documents without realizing I would be joining the cabinet six months in the future.

  • Back when it was, I think, in August last year, it was noted that when the government want to push this Asian Silicon Valley Plan, there’s no one member in the cabinet who can talk directly with the people, making connections between Silicon Valley and Asian economies, one who have a background in startup and digital economy world.

  • There was a lot of resistance against even the name of the plan, because a lot of people read [non-English speech] and think Asian Silicon Valley, like we’re making a mock copy of Silicon Valley, which doesn’t work, and offends anyone who actually work in the Silicon Valley, me included.

  • Anyway, I was invited to a meeting where first, we repositioned this plan. I put a dot into it. Now, it’s Asia.Silicon Valley, meaning Asia connecting to Silicon Valley. It’s not that we’re making an Asian copy of the Silicon Valley. That sets the record straight.

  • The next thing is that I was charged to find a minister without portfolio to talk with people on decisive issues. I asked around my friends, four or five candidates, but they all have other business to run. I’m like, "Yeah, maybe I’ll do it."

  • The idea was that my work description was crowdsourced. I had put up an ask me anything forum. Even journalist has to read my answer publicly, the same time as every other people. No exclusives. We over the course of one month basically work out the directive of transparency strategy, the participation office networks requirements.

  • We still didn’t call it then, but all the requirement was there. I bring this to the prime minister, saying instead of working for the government, I am working with the government. The idea is that I don’t ever look at national secrets or confidential information.

  • In exchange, every meeting that I hold, every presentation I see, every word I see is by default compatible with freedom of information. I’m like a resident journalist, in that sense. Anything that I see or read, I can report.

  • They are OK with this working condition. The other condition is that I get to work outside of the government. There’s a regulation that allows that. It’s just very rarely used. I invoked that, and now, I don’t have to work in the administration anymore. I can work here.

  • That means you are a member of the government with a foot inside and a foot outside?

  • That’s exactly right. I still do things exactly the same way as before joining the government. It’s just the administration is now paying me full-time. Instead of thinking also with Apple, or with Oxford University, I am mostly just thinking with the administration. Otherwise, the methodology is the same.

  • You take part in cabinet meetings?

  • Then if there are security issues, for example?

  • When there is military drills, I just take the day off. I don’t even know where the bunkers are.

  • (laughter)

  • No, but I mean, cabinet meetings are not purely...They discuss secret things.

  • No, they actually don’t.

  • They actually don’t. If there is a national security issue, it’s handled at the presidential level. The level code one, or whatever, is actually outside of the cabinet meeting. We have a very interesting constitution here.

  • Most of the foreign affairs, and also cross-trade affairs and defense affairs, is actually handled by the president, not the cabinet.

  • I see. I didn’t know that. I was at the president’s office the other day with Mr. Wu. They said that you had conducted a cyber security exercise at the presidency. That’s part of your bid to mobilize, make people sensitive to those issues?

  • Definitely, because open government only works if the underlying infrastructure is safe. That people can feel safe speaking online, that there is strong encryption, that they believe that the government will not encroach their freedom to speech, that we will not run censorship, for example, systems for their talking or whatever.

  • It’s important for the government first, not to do any censorship ourselves, but also make sure that if censorship does happen, we alert people to it. The censorship may not be malicious. It may be a design feature for some vendors involved, or whatever.

  • Our work is basically a service or platform for all the stakeholders to declare themselves. If people want to run a, for example, a fact checking service for the journalism world, it’s not a place for the government to sponsor or to run it.

  • It’s our place to make sure everybody involved understand what exactly is being talked about, and how the consensus may be formed. We’re actually making it into the digital telecommunication law, which is going to be passed back home any day now, for cross-sectoral issues like that.

  • After which, the administration is now required by law to set up a really cross-sectoral consultation structure for Internet governance, basically, instead of deciding unilaterally by ourselves. We very firmly believe on this multi-stakeholder issue when it comes to cyber security, freedom of speech, privacy, and other Internet issues.

  • Have there been decisions on which you lost? For example, have you lost on some decisions where industrial, political, or lobbying from other sides won over your recommendations, for example?

  • I don’t think so. When we are handed those kind of consultation issues, there is an implicit premise that it’s because nobody can dominate the discussion, either because it’s a very new thing, like Uber, where people don’t even have a good narrative to convince everybody else.

  • Or if it’s like the marine park thing, nobody has the expertise. The expertise does not translate across stakeholder groups. When we get issues like that, basically all the recommendations, the only difference is the time or the budget that is required to realize that.

  • Maybe some take place six months from now, some one year from now. Generally, our recommendations are just accepted by the prime minister, and by other minister without portfolio. For some cases, we were unable to get consensus, in which case we also report to the prime minister.

  • You mentioned earlier that you are still an anarchist. Isn’t there a contradiction...

  • ...between being an anarchist and organizing state or government activities?

  • The idea of anarchism is that first, I don’t receive commands, nor do I issue commands. That’s on an individual level, and I still do that. A command-free structure basically means everybody in PDIS are my peers.

  • They don’t take commands from me. They think up of something to do, and I always say, "OK, just go for it."

  • (background conversations)

  • (laughter)

  • Exactly. We’re all volunteer. We’re all peers in PDIS. The idea of PDIS is just people try all sort of different innovations possible, instead of we are now using state power to coerce anyone. We are now basically saying, "This state is basically the largest NPO in Taiwan, and we’re innovation." It’s a whole sort of different thing. That’s one part.

  • The other part is because of radical transparency. I am trying to make sure that civil society and the private sector know exactly what the administration is doing, how we’re doing things, making it predictable.

  • Meaning that in the future, or maybe now for some local limited issues, it doesn’t require the state to do governance anymore, because the information asymmetry is no longer there. They can go and hire people to do their own governance, instead of relying on the state.

  • Basically, we’re trying bit by bit to make the state not monopolize governance, and make this multi-stakeholder as open as possible, with the eventual goal of making the state disappear. Maybe it doesn’t happen in my lifetime, but any progress is good. I’m a conservative anarchist, in that sense.

  • If I may, I would like to see this happens in your lifetime, in my lifetime, because I think democracy...I’m a democracy activist. After the Trump won his election just about a year ago, I wrote an article and say that people are really fed up with the establishment.

  • Democracy has been hijacked by the globalized capitalism, capitalist. That’s my reading of what’s going on in the world. Also, what’s happening in Europe, Brexit. Here, actually in Taiwan, the Sunflower Student Movement, the Occupy Movement, took place.

  • I think the people who radically supported the students, half a million people went on the streets on March 30th that year, without consensus on the very specific issue of CSSTA, the service trade pact. The pact is the thing that crosscuts...

  • ...is this fuse of this movement. Then half a million people disregarded their take on this particular point, this idea to support student. What that is supporting? They are supporting the idea of anti-establishment.

  • That’s exactly right.

  • The establishment is what? The establishment is democracy. We have been called in Taiwan. We have been talking all this in the last couple of days. Taiwan is a democracy powerhouse, not only economic powerhouse.

  • It’s wonderful. It’s the beacon of the world, I even say. Still, democracy that we are practicing these days is outdated. It’s designed what, 200, 300 years ago.

  • It’s two bits of information every four years.

  • Yes, then at this time, the cellphone age, Internet age, all this time, we need to redesign democracy. That’s what I’m thinking. I take part in the civil organization here in Taiwan that start from, actually, Gao Zhong. It’s called Meerkat Society.

  • You know meerkat. The meerkat, the 狐獴, the defenseless little animal. Basically, I think they are stuff from Africa. We call ourselves Meerkat Society, 狐獴會, to believe that the people have a direct access to politics, to governance, to decision making.

  • Check and point, and to push democracy into its new phase is an imminent task to the whole world. That’s what I’m saying. You should see it in your world. If we don’t, we’re in big trouble, because democracy is failing in the global scale.

  • Do you find that that experience fits with what you are saying?

  • I walk into this meeting. I was thinking to have this opportunity to talk to you about cyberspace security, and things like, in one capacity, of one being this Reporter Without Borders member, when he talk about those things.

  • Then I say, this is the thing I want to talk to you about, the people, direct democracy. We no longer say that, but democracy 2.0, or version two. [laughs]

  • Maybe we should switch to three.

  • Yes. [laughs] I’m hoping that there is an easy access system, like people when they have a mobile phone, they all do now, a smartphone. Then they can use that actually to find an interface, app, or something that their opinion matters.

  • Then they can get related knowledge, not just information. That’s the thing I have been thinking. I have been trying to talk to Wang Jing-Hong and Hong Yao-Nan. They are the people who have been, you know them very well. They are information...

  • Yes. [laughs] Then also, they have been working on civil participation and these kind of things. One thing I think Taiwan can do in this world today to make Taiwan more secure is to join the club of democracy, if we may.

  • It’s almost a cheesy term now. Excluding Taiwan from that society has been posing threat to the society. In order to have Taiwan to join that club, we need to be very innovative in the world. AOL can merge Time-Warner, which is a hundred years company, and AOL is what?

  • It’s not about size anymore. It’s about who goes fastest. I’m sure that you understand that perfectly, the Silicon Valley mentality. On democracy, this is something Taiwan can actually export to the world, a new version of democracy.

  • China trying to export their ideology, very backward, very fascist. Then at this time, Taiwan say, "Wait a minute. We have a better version of political idea of future politics structure."

  • So far, technology is used for surveillance, mostly, even in our democracies. It’s been a very long time since I last heard of someone mentioning that technology could be used for freedom ; recently it’s mostly heading at citizen control. Now, I hear you talking about technology for the people to be heard.

  • That’s very interesting.

  • Which was the original idea of the Internet, and got lost in business scale. Probably when Google became too big, it became thinking not about the people, but about the shareholder. This is still experimental, you said, in the sense that you’re dealing with, let’s say, small size issues.

  • How could that expand to the key issues that the government is facing? For example, I hear a lot of people are talking about not happy about the labor law, or all the fuss about the same sex marriage, the constitutional court, and all that.

  • How could that be expanded to those core political issues that are really dividing opinions at the moment?

  • First, to reply to your point, she’s been toying around and exporting our methodology, not just in Tokyo, but also Madrid, also in the US. All over the world, basically. I, participating as a robot, was also visiting London, and in the flesh in Chile. Also, in many different places.

  • What do you mean, in London as a robot? It was a robot, and your voice?

  • Basically, I walk out with the iPad as my face. In Madrid, they even built a 360 robot for me, so I can wear VR and feel, and turn my head locally. After a week spent in Madrid...

  • You were live here?

  • Yeah, I still am here. That’s the digital minister. I’m just the analog avatar of the digital minister.

  • (laughter)

  • In Madrid, even last year, I visited as a robot. They call a Robot Gallatin, very good name, for a week. Then I fly there for a week. There is an absolute continuity. They just use the same being. It was just I was first in the silicon, and then in the carbon life form.

  • The best thing about that, like when I participate in the Open Government Partnership meeting, and gave a talk there. There was a talk with me in virtual reality as an avatar, because there is no multi-lateral diplomat prohibition against the Taiwan ministers recording being played, even though the recording was recorded two seconds ago.

  • That also let us attend a lot of UN-style meetings without going into any prohibitions. It’s a hack around the current diplomatic situation. Because of that, we’ve been making a lot of friends who are now systematizing our methodologies, and exporting it. It’s just replying to your idea.

  • Now, back to the issues. It’s true that so far, our most successful is about regulations. For example, in Uber, eventually, it led to a lot. When we were talking about it, it’s mostly on the regulation level, meaning that administration, after it get prime minister support, pretty much decides it.

  • When it needs to interface, like for the marriage equality interface, was the supreme court, was the labor law interface with the legislative. That becomes much murkier, because it’s no longer consensus of the prime minister and the ministries anymore.

  • We need a way to bring those people in as well. Now, Taiwan just passed its Referendum Act. The Referendum Act previously was almost impossible to exercise, because of a very high threshold. All of the referendums before fizzled.

  • Afterwards, now, everybody can, after 2,000-something people, instead of having a petition, they can also have a referendum, which has a binding power over the other parts of the government as well, not just the administration.

  • 2,000 people to bring this petition to table, and to start counter signature. They need more signature than that, of course.

  • Then you would be voting all the time.

  • We’re merging it with the next elections. Whenever there’s the closest election, we merge it with that election. Yeah, people are saying that. They’re like, "We’re going like Switzerland." Everything is referendumed, and everything is voted. Maybe we’re not going there that quickly, but people are also worrying, because of Brexit and other examples.

  • There’s referenduming all the time, whether it’s a good idea or not, whether we actually have people talking to each other instead of past each other on these issues. For this, the methodology that we are building on the participation networks, using regulations with stakeholders’ numbers in the tens of thousands or hundred of thousand, but not millions.

  • This will be some use, because this is like a kindergarten, a training wheel for the ministries involved and for the people involved for the truly national issues that are going to be passed into the Referendum Act.

  • The other thing is that, because of the participation office network also scales down. We work with all the ministries. Every ministry need to have a team of participation officer. It’s now a regulation.

  • With the regulation, they can also now build their own recursive PO networks, like the third level, the fourth level, all the different level of government agency to also have a recursive structure of this cross-ministry, and cross-agency, meeting with directly with stakeholder, services line-oriented attitude toward people.

  • Now, after we do things this way, and now, it becomes the norm, it means that nobody is now having political risk by talking about those things in public. We’re now creating an atmosphere where there is no taboo subjects.

  • Unless, of course, it’s clearly anti-the constitution text, in which case we can’t do anything. Otherwise, everything is up to discussion.

  • The participation officer, that’s what they’re called?

  • Where do they come from? Are they from the administration, or are they from civil society?

  • They’re senior career public servants. They are nominated by their deputy ministers, and report directly to the deputy.

  • Then you’ve trained them into, because that’s not the natural trend of civil service.

  • Actually, you would be surprised.

  • Yeah, many of them are after their work active people, Internet forums, or other Facebook, PTT, or some forums. They do have experiencing working in the civil society space. It’s that before, it was a site job. Now, it’s their day job.

  • We explicitly recruited on the PTT board for the public servants to join the PO workforce. We actually get the career public servants. It’s important, because otherwise, people will think it’s particular to a cabinet, and once the election cycle comes, all the system goes away.

  • Now, PO is a regulation, and all the key POs are career public servants. No matter who the government are, the system will just like, officers will talk with media or officer will talk with the parliament. It will be part of the constitutive element of the administration.

  • It’s inconvenient for you to be an anarchist, to redesign the politics, or redesign the government, which is very much needed at this time. The issue is how to get people enjoy the...

  • To make it fun, yeah.

  • Then so their efforts can actually become the force.

  • Exactly. The join platform, join.gov.tw, we don’t just put the petition there. We also put all the regulatory announcements, the 60 days in advance there. Also, we put all the national budget allocated major issues tracking there.

  • It’s a whole life cycle thing. It’s not just for petitions. Out of 23 million people in Taiwan, almost 5 million now use that website, which is a huge number, when you think about it. People generally enjoy the experience, because they can win most of the time.

  • The thing with e-petitions, with regulatory discussion, or with participation budget, is that unlike winner past the post voting, for voting, half of the people lose each time. People lose most of the time, actually, over the course of many votes.

  • Here, when you counter sign 10 petitions, maybe only 2 become policy, but you still win. You still feel that you win. It’s the same with participation budget. You vote for five PB issues. Only three makes it to the agenda, you still win.

  • The idea is that all the contribution counts, and then the contribution is much higher than voting ought of actually making good policy.

  • You’ve had several...

  • ...hats during your short life. You’ve been a developer, a programmer. You’ve been activist. Now, you’re government.

  • I’m a minister now, yeah.

  • How do you feel about those changes of skin?

  • It makes me have access to more systems. My methodology was always the same. When was 12, 13, when I participated in the first forming of the World Wide Web, there was already a political system. It was the Internet Engineering Task Force political system.

  • Rough consensus, running code, and people trust each other, even though they haven’t met before. They make decisions by humming, and things like that. That’s like living as an indigenous person on the Internet on an early Internet culture.

  • That was the culture I was raised. I was 12 then. I got my voting right when I was 20. After that, I encountered a representative democracy system. For the first eight years, I was learning from this rough consensus, multi-stakeholder system.

  • The idea is that the two cultures, they all have some advantages. I think what is best about this multi-stakeholder culture is that it’s entirely adaptable. Whatever the political climate is, whether it’s a representative democracy or even a central democracy, there is still some room for multi-stakeholder discussion to take place.

  • All the contributions that we make, it’s not specific to Taiwan. We have many other different governments taking part of our methodology, like the AI-based conversations and things like vTaiwan.

  • The five million people who use this website, they are mostly young, and I would assume, higher educated?

  • The five million will be, yeah, it’s a big number, but it’s still far from being a real democracy or a real citizen. How to eliminate the technology threshold or entrance barrier to make it...People use mobile phones, but still, there are people who use most part of, only the telephone of a smartphone, less than one percent of the function.

  • The thing is, also, people need to feel. People sometimes need to be extremely happy, or often need to be extremely angry to be mobilized into politics. Then anger is really cheap now in Taiwan, which is in one hand, you can say it’s good, because it’s easy. You can easily sell anger, and make it happen.

  • On the other thing, it’s like, it’s expires so fast. This time, the angers in Taiwan is ridiculous. People decide on political issues on what’s their enemy? What’s the object that they hate? It’s like, "What is the stance of KMT? If that’s the stance of KMT, I’m against it," that kind of thing, or DPP, or vice-versa. It’s a very polarized society.

  • What I am so surprised, inspired, and excited to learn what you are doing here, but that also present a problem. I only learned today, but you have been doing this for long time.

  • Just a year, but yes. [laughs]

  • Still, but if I am, who is, who does spend a lot of time in front of computer, on my lap, and using my smartphone as smart as possible, if I haven’t been driven into this wave, then the question really is, how to grab people.

  • Definitely. We’re now working to amend the [non-English speech] , the Proceeding of Regulation Act. Previously, it only include things like [non-English speech], the very formal hearing process that is very expensive to run, anyway, and doesn’t seem to be very attractive to people.

  • I think not even 5,000 people have a lot of experience with such hearings, let alone five million. What we’re now doing is that in [non-English speech] Act, we are now putting into a more relaxed public hearing chapter.

  • Then for it to have the Internet-enabled part, that takes place before, during, and after the public hearing. Now, I understand that in France, for example, the CNDP has a national debate prerequisite for a very large constructions.

  • What we are now doing here is for everyday matters, for all the small public hearings, for it to use Internet to save time, not to increase burden on the public servants. I think only with that, can people see that it’s now just part of everyday life, anyway.

  • They could participate, come and go, whatever they like. Then because we run this without any partisan agenda. I think people who are more into this is mostly not against or for any party at the moment now. We’re a very party agnostic force in the political arena.

  • Now, I am not saying that the parties are go away, but at least in the cabinet, there are more people who are independent than people of any party. This is a pretty balanced cabinet.

  • How do you do when there are some local quarrels or trouble. If everybody’s of good faith, it could work with the system you’re currently running. But very often, you have some local power that might be abusing or overusing their power.

  • You might have some people who actually don’t care, or don’t want to take in consideration what the other camp does. How do you deal with that? Sometimes, you must make some people very unhappy, or some people might want to retaliate, revenge, or something, because you’re fixing problem they wouldn’t like to fix.

  • I think mostly, people who see the persistent problem as to their advantage are people who already have some idea of how it gets better. It’s just they don’t want to share it or doesn’t really want it to happen for the fear of losing some stake here. Which makes them a stakeholder.

  • The idea of this process, it’s only legitimate if all the stakeholders at least agree that this process is there, is needed. If we don’t previously get commitment from all the stakeholders, it will be a failure.

  • We try to get commitment from all the stakeholders, understanding that ideally it would be like Pareto improvement, in the sense that nobody is worse off, and people who are worse off gets compensated so that they are no worse off anyway.

  • We only say that this is not binding. This only becomes binding when all the stakeholders agree to move forward. That way in the PengHu case, you would note that all the things that we now take as policy are pretty calm or pretty tame versions of the original petitions and proposals.

  • That’s because that’s the thing that people can actually agree on and, as they said, are still in dispute. It doesn’t get any buying power. People understand that we’re not forcing anything through. We’re not saying after two months, anything that’s unresolved will now be determined by rolling the dice or the digital minister saying so. No, it will be just for the next year’s discussion.

  • You’re leaving it to until you get consensus?

  • That’s exactly right. We keep running it until we get consensus, at least on parts. Then, we ratify those parts.

  • We have a system in France called the consensus conference. A consensus conference, for example, on issues like housing or social issues, mostly, we’d take, around the table, organized stakeholders and not individual ones, which is a big difference.

  • It doesn’t include citizens, per se. It includes representatives of citizens in the different components, which is a weakness.

  • We’re shortcutting in our methodology here, because there are at least 5,000 people who count their signature, the petition. It’s very easy for us to find five stakeholders on all different sides from the people who petitioned.

  • Even if only one in a thousand person would want to take a day off to join, there are still a lot of people. It is a methodological improvisation.

  • Thank you. That’s very impressive. Would you be prepared to come and explain that in France again?

  • As a robot, for sure.

  • Maybe as a robot? Why not, yeah?

  • [laughs] Yeah, sure.

  • How does that work, for the robot?

  • There’s two main forms. One is the robot that moves and can turn and talk to people, the one that Edward Snowden uses all the time. The other is a holographic projection, where there’s a light background, and it projects on a black mask. It’s like a hologram.

  • I was appearing in Barcelona, actually, the day they declared independence as a holographic projection. I can send you an email of how that went, and you can decide which one is better.

  • That would be nice. Because I think democracy is in trouble. It’s tired in our countries. I think it’s interesting to be challenged by what you’re experimenting with here.

  • It’s interesting to have a challenge from a place where we don’t expect lessons in democracy. That would be, I think, a very good idea to have that in France at the moment.

  • Taiwan is one of the most advanced democracies in citizenship. Why are you saying that?

  • The French are so arrogant.

  • Of course. Also, we have one of the highest rate in access for Internet, I mean, information technology.

  • Taiwan, actually, imagine that with a high citizen participation, with high information technology as threshold. It’s a young, catching up democracy. It’s a perfect country to project a new model of democracy.

  • The geography is our unfair advantage. It’s very easy to get broadband access to everybody, because it’s just this one island anyway. But there’s a lot of people here, so the density prompts the use of Internet.

  • Also, we have the highest number of, for example, women using the Internet for social issues and things like that, and also have participation on public issues.

  • I think all of this stems from the core idea of education should be a basic human right. With the Internet, that access to broaden, to further education and public discussion should be a human right. It is actually Dr. Tsai’s campaign, anyway.

  • One example, the same sex marriage act. That made Taiwan’s seem such a rural society.

  • There was a poll, said 46 percent of people pro the marriage equality. The other 45 against. I could never imagine 45 percent of people against the same-sex marriage rights. When this happened, it’s a perfect opportunity to project a platform for public dialogue to debate, but that didn’t happen.

  • We kind of had that, because the two sides all petitioned on the joint platform. Each side commanding more than 10,000 people. It’s 20,000 people, all subscribing to our newsletter. What do we do? [laughs] It was ultimately determined by the Supreme Court, anyway.

  • What we’re trying to do is that we look at the petitions and realize they’re looking at entirely different media. That their information source are completely non-overlapping.

  • Only maybe 10 percent of each side are radical in the sense that they truly think there’s no compromising solutions. The 90 percent was mostly because they were feeding on different information sources.

  • The way we’ve been doing that is that we synthesize into a mock debate. It’s not a real debate, but we try to present, fairly, the points.

  • Then we have the same newsletter spread to all the 20,000 people who countersigned those petitions, and try to redirect their energy into more constructive point-by-point discussion of the privileges and responsibility when you enter a marriage contract. Going into it one by one, and seeing whether it applies to same-sex couples or not.

  • This strategy actually worked. The discussion we observed is now much more practical. They’re now discussing it on a rights level, not on a ideology or spiritual level. You can’t really get agreement there, but you can get agreement here.

  • This is the process we’re now going through. It’s not a debate, per se, but this is a more a statistic.

  • The social engagement, again, is the question that I raised earlier. Yesterday we met with Chi Chia-Wei in the French Ambassador’s reception welcoming Pierre.

  • Chi Chia-Wei, I told him that, "I really hope that the day the same marriage act has been realized," a law passed or implemented, "and then that very morning I would say, ’You should go.’" I told Chi Chia-Wei, "I should go there, and then go there as the first couple to register."

  • I also spread this idea on my Facebook to say, "Everybody else, do not go there, try to get number one. Go for number two. Let Chi Chia-Wei get to be the first couple."

  • This morning they were talking about same-sex rights and everything. I posted on my Facebook, "The gay people should have every right to be as miserable, as unfortunate [laughs] as the straight people in a marriage."

  • (laughter)

  • They understand each other more. I don’t do marriage, so it’s all theirs.

  • That’s the irony. When we had that debate in France, all the older gay rights activists from the ’68 generation, they said, "We are against marriage."

  • (laughter)

  • "Why are you fighting for the right to get married? We can abolish marriage."

  • Actually, the law should be no marriage for anyone.

  • I agree on that one.

  • Not marriage for everyone.

  • I agree on that one.

  • We’re still working on that. That would need a large-scale debate.

  • I would like to say a word about the Reporters Without Borders. I don’t know if you’re familiar. We’ve opened this bureau in Taipei.

  • I’ve read reports around your choice. I understand that, while Taiwan likes to say that we’re the first in Asia, or whatever, there’s many shortcomings that we can improve on our media environment.

  • If there’s anything that I can be help with, let me know. If there’s anything that you want to get done next year, or something, you can share.

  • I do not have an idea right now. How good the system you’re currently building, beneficial to the exchange of information?

  • You just mentioned that the two parties fighting for or against gay marriage didn’t have at all the same information. This is not a normal situation, since there are some overlapping things. Do you have an idea how the system you are building could help, without becoming media, but I mean by communicating?

  • Yeah, very much so. When I’m saying not overlapping, I don’t mean that they don’t go one cycle on Facebook, and others don’t. They all go on Facebook, but to non-overlapping groups.

  • The way to cut across the echo chambers for us is very easily to build our own direct communication platforms with the citizens. They may be joining through a comment on the regulatory discussion board. They may be a petitioner or whatever, but now we have their email.

  • Now we can have people on different sides to redirect them to more productive places, where they get to have a convergent, instead of divergent, conversation. We just did one with the discussion of what to do about repeated drunken driving. There’s people who propose Singapore-style whipping as a punishment.

  • (laughter)

  • Yeah. It’s not very clear it’s against the constitution, so we had a discussion anyway. People actually who are reacting out of outrage, when they come face-to-face and talk with the people. There were people who are victims of such crimes before.

  • They actually converge on the consensus that actually not very strongly to do retaliation or to do humiliation. They mostly want prevention, want this not to happen again. There is outrage, but it’s not the brutal kind of outrage.

  • We get to have a very matter-of-fact discussion, both online with the Polis AI-based discussion system, and also offline with the 360 recorded livestream, where people start to compare different prevention methods.

  • Maybe it’s a car that refuse to start up when there’s more alcohol in it. There’s many other ways to prevent such accidents from happening. They all said maybe whipping is not the best prevention method.

  • Maybe it’s the highest profile, but it’s not actually as useful as many other alternative solutions. We explored alternative solutions, and that was the consensus of the meeting. It was for people who are very dogmatic about human rights and about the anti-cruelty international act.

  • The very movement to discuss this thing on a public forum would be taboo, actually. What we are seeing here is that because we actually bring it to the table, it’s not unspeakable. Then we talk about it, then people from all different sides actually believe in each other’s capability of forming a more reasoned discussion around this matter, especially its being livestreamed in 360.

  • What we’re saying is that this synthetic process, both online in places not Facebook, but on a platform designed for converging, and also the face-to-face discussion on a safe space designed for this kind of multi-stakeholder discussion, and instead of a normal public hearing where it only goes to two hours, and then the facilitator makes a unilateral decision that offends everybody.

  • A proper decision procedure does both online and offline, gets people who are on different sides to tune to the same media. First, they agree to disagree, but then they can even agree on a few things that are not very high profile, but they agree anyway.

  • This is the process that we’ve been making possible in a toolkit kind of way, so that the Taipei City or many other government, they may be interested in running it, but they don’t have to go through us.

  • That was very interesting.

  • (laughter)

  • We were discussing actually, it was quite his point, public media, public service media. They seem to be very weak here. We’re talking about that the other day with the president of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, and he was saying that no one watches public TV.

  • Don’t you think that that should be pushed? Everybody is complaining about the Taiwanese media, that they are very polarized, very commercial, very shallow.

  • Shallow and Chinese-influenced, populism.

  • Public service media should be the place where you get facts, where you get some neutral -- if that’s possible -- presentation of issues. That seems to be lacking in this environment, and democracy has to be fact-based, otherwise it cannot work.

  • This is what we call cultural commons here. In our special budget, the Ministry of Culture actually proposed a special budget explicitly for building a cultural commons.

  • It is remarkable that we even get that into a special budget at all, because the special budget is supposed to only go to hardware, infrastructure, but now we are taking a bold leap, saying open content for the public good is infrastructure, even though it’s not hardware. It becomes like roads and cable lines.

  • We think such open culture based on the GongShi, the public television, and also the work on ZhongYiangShe, the CNA, will form a part of the collective memory that powers the civil discussion, that will follow only through at consulting those memories.

  • One of the conditions when we’ve looked at the special budget for those projects from Ministry of Culture, it also included national archives and other agencies capable of producing memories, is the fact that it needs to be open, in the sense that it’s in the commons, either in a creative commons, or like Wikipedia, in the sense that everybody can take it and make value-added shared works from it.

  • That’s the condition of getting that earmarked money for those PTV, and also now the CNA. The public TV part, it is already started, maybe last month or so. It’s part of their conversion to a 4K pipeline.

  • Even the pipeline itself, the software that powers the pipeline, will be made into the commons, in the open, to make the citizens who are grassroots, maybe just a PO, who want to run their own television on the convergent Internet, to reduce their barrier of entry.

  • This is the idea that all the citizens, when they feel they care about something, they can easily start a professional media. That is the true antidote against stigmatization on the mainstream media part of things.

  • We provide sufficient open content, like in the 4K film. Any part, like the jig mounting or whatever, that is also individually useful as a picture, and things like that.

  • We’re now building a commons. It will take effect maybe half a year, a year from now. We’re now looking to have more grassroot media that’s set up, that’s powered by the commons, and produced by the special budget.

  • It’s a very interesting experience for us. You know that one of the major concerns of RSF is actually the fact that the Chinese authorities not only have built a repressive model of information, but that they are now working on exporting it.

  • That the future of democracy that Pierre was describing might actually be integrating some elements created by the China or CCP. We can see that you are somehow thinking something that could be a counter model.

  • Dissolving their efforts, actually. [laughs]

  • Oh, yeah. Certainly.

  • I have to excuse myself. Really nice to meet you. I am looking forward to have more discussion with you on many issues I didn’t know that you we were working on. I’m very excited and inspired. Thank you so much. Then my next meeting is up, so you continue. I will see you guys later.

  • (non-English speech)

  • (background conversations)

  • Actually, I still give lecture in China, in Hangzhou, even after I become a digital minister.

  • You mean physically or your robot?

  • In virtual reality. The student in Hangzhou model their classroom in 3D. We connected to a classroom in Gao Zhou in a place we call High Fidelity. It’s an open source metaverse created by the same guy who did Second Life.

  • The idea is that we merge those two classroom together. Once I put on the VR headset, the empty chairs are now sitting people.

  • (laughter)

  • I presented that work in Paris in the OGP. I think because I am physically here, I am safe. It’s the Hangzhou people connected to the ChangHwa data center, anyway. It’s not like we’re having any cyber security issues.

  • The check was there, generally, also their political commissioners. Really, is there no rule that forbids them from watching my recording. We actually talk about how to make online consensus, using virtual reality to get people to step into each other’s shoes.

  • When people never visit Hangzhou or Gao Zhou, they can nevertheless visit each other’s classrooms. Maybe even for the Gao Zhou people, they were modeling the historical part of Gao Zhou with help of local elders.

  • The elders put on VR, see them in their young form, and tour people down the memory lane, and things like that. I also, in Paris actually, had a VR conversation with some schoolchildren here in Taiwan, and had a conversation powered by the public TV, I think.

  • The idea is that they are actually looking at me as their same height and the same form, because I modeled myself in the same height as the schoolchildren. We now talk with a much more equitable fashion, because I’m not a tall person.

  • We experiment with a lot of these ways, and when we build them not as civic technology or democracy technology, but just novel ways of using VR and AI, the people in China are OK with that.

  • I guess if you ask people there, they would, of course, want more access to information, but it needs to be under control by default.

  • A lot of the work that we do, like here in the administration, we also set up a, what we call, a sandstorm. A cyber security-hardened computation environment where we can share our work nodes, our combined system, the cars that we check our work on, show spreadsheets, and things like that.

  • It has to be hardened against intrusion, so we have the white hat hackers here attack it, find vulnerable, and fix it. All of this is open source, so they also export this toolkit. If people in somewhere inside the Great Firewall want to set up these local systems, there’s no external dependency.

  • They don’t have to connect to Google or Facebook to enjoy this collaborative environment for decision making together for collaboration. It is pretty secure, so that their government, if they want to intrude into it, it’s actually very hard.

  • That’s also the assurance of the trust in the cyber infrastructures that we’re trying to build, even in places that are generally adversary to these attacks.

  • A personal comment. I’m trying to imagine how we could implement it in France, where the political mentalities are different and somehow closer to the monarchic idea.

  • It is changing. I think someone, like the new minister of technology, Mounir Mahjoubi. I don’t know if you’ve met him.

  • No, not really, but I followed the work after the election.

  • I think he can hear that, and he would be sensitive to that, even if he’s in a very centralized government. I’m sure the key phrase of our president is, "At the same time." He’s trying to combine...

  • Radical centrism. [laughs]

  • Yes, exactly. I’m sure he can combine highly centralized and conservative anarchism.

  • Thank you very much. It was really very nice to see you again, and to hear that, because it’s very, very encouraging, and very innovative thinking and practice.

  • We’re having fun.

  • How big is your team?

  • Yeah, but that’s in the national government, the executive UN, and two or three people are each ministry. There’s a larger network.

  • (laughter)

  • Almost 30. [laughs] That’s the same age average of the new French first circle on the president. His top adviser is 26. This is something very new for our old republic. [laughs]

  • It’s good. We still need to connect across generational gaps. The people who are really innovative, I mostly just make room for those kind of people.

  • (laughter)

  • (background conversations)

  • Yes. Age matters and doesn’t matter. It’s true that if you’re a digital native, you’ll be easily moving into those directions. I think you can be over 30 and understand it.

  • (laughter)

  • We have a very inclusive immigrant policy to digital. [laughs]

  • Yes, immigrant from...

  • From the analog world. [laughs]

  • From the previous century.

  • (background conversations)

  • I think it’s just we iterate faster, but the core ideas are all really a continuation.

  • For sure, this experience needs to be promoted. It’s really an asset for Taiwan. In the current situation, it’s really an asset that Taiwan would be seen by the world as a laboratory of the future democracy, and not just as one Asian democracy.

  • Not only that, but I think one of the problems of Taiwan’s image in the world is that it’s always been talking in defensive terms. "We are the victims of China."

  • What you are talking about has nothing defensive. It’s on the contrary. It’s completely building things. That’s something that people never hear about Taiwan. We always hear, "Taiwan needs to be protected against bullying," and all that.

  • I think that that image, it’s important to realize the balance of power is obviously very different, but the positive side not being just defending, but also opening doors is important.

  • When we did a redesign of the Asia.Silicon Valley Plan, we’re saying, it’s not just Asian, local sustainable development problems can be solved by Silicon Valley tools. Silicon Valley creates its own problems [laughs] that we can solve by our local innovations and perspective.

  • The rampant cyber bullying, and all sort of online cons and so on, enabled by social media, we’re actually creating antidotes here. We also maintain a pretty good relationship with Facebook. They see the issues they created here, the social problems.

  • We bring such multi-stakeholder issues to them, saying after those, for example, is the automated sellers of counterfeit goods on Facebook. Sorry, it’s all in Chinese. The idea is that we identified the parts that the ministries can do, the civil society can do, the local associations can do.

  • There are two cards that only Facebook can do. When I visited Facebook, I just presented to their VP, saying, "Now, it’s your turn. What’s your social responsibility?" After a couple weeks, they joined our local association, and started working very constructively with the local ecommerce merchants to solve the issues of false advertisements on Facebook.

  • I think this is fundamentally how Facebook makes their decisions, anyway. We come from the same culture. This is basically saying we are now being truly peer to peer. We are now saying top down or bottom up, it doesn’t even make sure. We are all peers in this game.

  • It’s been my intention to reform Facebook into a social enterprise -- I may or may not succeed [laughs] -- but at least to provide at every opportunity for them to be a contributor instead of a disruptor only.

  • Can I make a picture?

  • Thank you. I like this backdrop.

  • (background conversations)

  • Can I ask you a question, also? Since we are drafting the recursive public, of a collaborative democracy, and trying to be open format, and searching for crowdsource topics. Just wondering if there are other international examples, and other places we can look up to as a reference?

  • Yeah, we’re connecting with NYC, Madrid, Barcelona, London, and so on, and Iceland, but there must be other places who are into this.

  • Not as advanced. I don’t know. There are bits of it, like participatory budgets. Who doesn’t do that now?

  • Right, it’s the thought.

  • These conferences are pre-digital formats. It’s physical, but it’s been a traditional way of advancing on certain issues in France. These are very traditional methods. For example, I remember there was one two years ago or three years ago on housing.

  • It was a housing crisis, not enough houses being built, and waiting lists for apartments, and so on. You had around the table 200 people or less from the real estate companies, the Ministry of Housing, the associations of users, and the lawyers, whatever, backers, and so on.

  • You get them in a room for two days, and no agenda, and you try to get them to agree on five points, to move forward and get things done. These are methods that are outside the box of normal government procedures. That’s interesting.

  • Probably, you can build on that with digital tools to expand. That’s why I was saying earlier on that you can get direct contributions from citizens who might not be completely represented, even by user associations as well. That’s interesting.

  • Frankly, I don’t know any example as comprehensive as an experiment with cabinet authority. The difference is there. There are many people who are trying to develop tools -- civic tech and so on -- but they do it from outside, not from inside government. That’s interesting.

  • In France, in the new mood that we have this year, one of the things that the government has been doing, they have appointed a DSI in the French government, which is a new thing for France. I think US have had, under Obama had one. I don’t know if they still have one.

  • What he’s been doing is that he’s been creating incubators of startups within each ministry. He was on the radio the other day. I was listening, and it was quite interesting because that sounded not very French, in the sense that, for example, in the ministry of education, it’s one million people, teachers, staff, and so on.

  • They’re dealing with the most sensitive issue, because parents, kids, teachers’ unions, historians, philosophers, everybody is involved. Half of the country has an opinion about how the Ministry of Education should be run, and is not happy about the way it is run.

  • What he was saying is that the traditional way of the ministry would be to have a committee decide something, implement it, and then wait for reactions. The startup way of doing it is you do something, you see reactions, it fails, you go back. It’s approved, you build on it. You do like you do when you’re doing an app for traffic management or whatever.

  • That’s a very new approach. They’ve been doing that now. He said half of the ministries already have their incubators. That’s a very interesting approach.

  • It is great. Is there cross-ministry work?

  • Yes, and then they’ve got best practice.

  • They have this man who is the gang organizer. He is building bridges between the teams, and so on. He has had the authority to do that, and break the traditional mold of doing things. For example, he was giving one example in the ministry of education.

  • They built a crazy system for the timetables that every school, that tens of thousands of schools can use to build their timetable for classes, for teachers to use, and so on. It’s been so badly built that there’s a private system that is being used by two-thirds of the schools, rather than the public, free one.

  • Schools prefer to pay the private service to do their schedules, because it works, rather than...He said that’s exactly the kind of things they want to avoid. They pushed for innovation within the ministry through small teams, and open for projects from people from outside. You come, you have a budget. You try, you have one year, and it’s tested, and then done on a big scale.

  • That’s the kind of things which could be...

  • That’s very, very encouraging. One of our earlier team members was from The Policy Lab in the UK. They started doing something like that about three or four years ago. Of course, Obama had a social innovation civic participation office doing pretty much the same thing.

  • I’m very happy to see the French now. It’s not just Etalab now. It’s now in every ministry. That’s great.

  • It’s the previous head of that. They’ve really been given the green light. There, the generation issue comes first, because you see that Macron is 39, and he is bringing that kind of spirit in government. You won’t have had that a year ago, I think, with the previous president. They were very remote from that kind of thinking.

  • Even if this man, he was already in the administration, he never was able to get the green light to do that.

  • It’s very encouraging.

  • Thank you so much for your time.