• Your first time in Taiwan?

  • Yes. The first time, yes.

  • Welcome. Your second day in Taiwan then?

  • (laughter)

  • I understand you’ve already talked to Billy and other vTaiwan folks. How can I help?

  • I think what you’re doing here in Taiwan is very interesting. So far, I’ve seen a lot of ideas how to improve the way we do democracy. In your case, I see something that’s there and shows references also on a big scale. I’m here to learn. I’m here on a studying trip.

  • I’d love to discuss with you a little bit how you see the things, why you’re doing this, and if that’s the same view that I’m having. In the end, I think about how can I help? How can I support to somehow spread the idea and use the process to get something good, even better? This is why I’m here.

  • That’s great. As of why I’m doing this, I’m doing this for fun. Just to enjoy the general atmosphere of people listening to one another and try to spread this enjoyment in a larger scale, as large as possible through various technologies.

  • We’ve been somewhat successfully scaling an experience that’s usually 20 people or a hundred people up to thousands or tens of thousands of people. That’s about the amount that we’re working with right now.

  • People who participate tells us that they prefer this over voting once every four years. That’s where we’re at. In PDIS, we’re about 20, 25 full-time people and, every year, around 35, 40 interns. We’re trying to take this model whichever way, with the same value of increasing the trust between the public service and the civil society. That’s the TL;DR. [laughs]

  • "Too long; didn’t read", so like one executive summary.

  • (laughter)

  • When I hear what you’re doing, I of course thought that’s very similar to what I’m thinking of. Especially when I started to think about how to improve politics , I always had in my mind that direct democracy is something great and direct democracy is something that could help. Now I am more sceptical on this opinion.

  • And obviously, you can’t switch a country from representative democracy to direct democracy from one day to the other, so that’s not working at all.

  • You have to think about an idea, "How can you implement participation with the existing way of democracy that we’re having?" And this is what you are doing.

  • The question that I’m having is the following: Sure you’re now supported by the government? I mean you’re working with the government?

  • What does the party that’s not in the government think about the process of participation? Do both parties have a shared view or is that something that’s difficult for the party that’s not in government - like a normal reflex of opposition?

  • At the end of 2014, when the ruling party said that the national direction is going to be open data, crowdsourcing, and so on, the "ruling party" was at a legitimacy level of maybe nine percent approval value, which is historically low. They basically had less legitimacy than civil society organizations.

  • They embraced open government as a last recourse, as saying, "We understand we don’t have legitimacy anymore, but you guys figure it out." [laughs] It does help that, at the time, the person who primarily championed this idea was independent. He had no parties, and his staff and the other previous digital ministers that I’m an understudy of, they were all independent non-partisan people.

  • Also, this government, the first premier, after Dr. Tai won the election, was also independent, so it really helps to have this structure. At the moment, in the cabinet, there is more independent cabinet members than members of any party.

  • It’s a very balanced cabinet, whereas, of course, in the parliament, there is a major party. There’s a ruling party, but in the cabinet, it’s pretty balanced. That’s the first thing.

  • The second thing is that we explicitly ally ourself with the career public servants. The career public service, by law, should be neutral. They should not take any party’s side, and because we work mostly with regulations and because of constitutionally, here in Taiwan, many parliamentary bills start as being proposed by the administration, not by the MPs.

  • Yes, the same in Austria.

  • It means that there is a longer politically neutral -- what we call the pre-decisional, or research phase of policies that could be subject to policy design, after which the parties will try to add, subtract, multiply, and divide.

  • (laughter)

  • There’s this period before the policy is fully formed that is generally now seen as a partisan matter, and I think that is very different from, say, the US model.

  • To answer your questions directly, every time a mayor or a premier announced the embracing of the open government ideals, the next one can only do better than the previous one. The citizenship will not tolerate something that has already been rolled out to be rolled back.

  • Do you mind if I also take notes?

  • Sure. I’m recording, and you’ll have a copy of the transcript, but you can, of course, also record, yeah.

  • There’s no way the citizenship will tolerate a rollback, and so the KMT, which was the ruling party, likes to say that this whole e-participation platform, or whatever, was what it built when...

  • What they built. OK. Oh, good.

  • ...they were in charge, which is...

  • Historically true, yeah, but now the ruling party, the DPP, of course, says they just started it, but we actually populated it with all the real projects, not cherry picking a project, but hundreds -- actually thousands of projects, and also hundreds of regulatory consultations.

  • Whereas before, it came here, it was very much cherry-picked, so there was a dozen or so for show.

  • In the first, it was cherry picked, and now what it learned from your group is that vTaiwan is outside of the government, and so this vTaiwan, the citizens pick the topics?

  • Yes, but they have to find a agency willing to risk...

  • They have to find a...

  • That’s kind of our office’s job.

  • It’s they have to find an agency, or is it that vTaiwan, is it their job to support, and even if they don’t find an agency, the say, "Well, we don’t find an agency, but we let everybody know it."

  • That’s right. There’s a movement part in vTaiwan, a mobilization part, where if you don’t find a agency willing to discuss it, at least here, we can bootstrap the conversation so that it reaches, for example, a e-petition threshold, which is 5,000 people.

  • Once you reach 5,000 people, then by regulation, a agency has to respond, no matter if they want it or not. Of course, when it reaches like 200,000 people, then it’s a referendum, whether the legislator want one or not.

  • One question. If that system doesn’t start with the government as a backing, but it would start with, let’s say, a city or would start with...

  • It will work better.

  • ...it would start with the state?

  • Yeah, it will work better.

  • It would even work better?

  • The smaller the jurisdiction is, the easier.

  • The better it works.

  • For everyone to feel engaged.

  • Is that one of your ideas, to work in that way?

  • Yes, that’s right, which is why we work in the open, meaning that we publish the toolkits that we’re working with.

  • Yeah, I’ve seen it.

  • So that when a municipality want to take into account this model, we also transfer all of our technical knowhow as well. There’s a bunch of software that we’ll happily teach people.

  • About the software, a lot of the software that I’ve seen is at least North America-, America-invented. In Austria, in Europe, we have a big topic about privacy, the Privacy Act. Was it ever a topic here?

  • Basically, people insist to...

  • You know what I mean? Do you know what I mean about...?

  • ...to run on the...This is what we call data localization, so by running the server locally, by running only open source, by making sure that the PIIs don’t get transmitted outside of the system, and by having dedicated people to handle write or eraser, and that’s pretty much it.

  • Because it’s open source, it’s actually much easier for us to meet the GDPR requirements. Truth to be told, in pol.is, the only PII really is if the user choose to reveal their own identity through social media, and they happen to use their real name, that’s the only PII, really. There’s no other PII.

  • What I learned about the processes -- but maybe that’s a different process with pol.is, is that you ask the citizens if they want to get involved in political stuff, to come up and register to some sort with Join.

  • With email, with Join, yes, and that’s the e-petition platform. It asks for your SMS and your email.

  • Then do you say, "Well, I’m happy to take part in politics more regularly," and then you have them on board?

  • They can use this ID with pol.is as well?

  • That’s right, but they can do so pseudonymously.

  • Yes, I’ve heard that, either with their name or pseudonymously.

  • Yeah, pseudonymously. Basically, I can register email [email protected], you know, my actual email, but I can choose a nickname, abcde, and I’m just know as abcde for everybody else.

  • How well accepted and known is vTaiwan in Taiwan? With people on the street, when I talk to them, would they say, "Yeah, sure, I love it..."? Or is it...?

  • If you ask about a e-petition platform, or the Join platform, of the 23 million people in Taiwan, about 5 million has at least used it once.

  • It’s a very large population, but if you ask about vTaiwan in particular, I wouldn’t expect many people to know of it.

  • It’s more e-participation that people know?

  • Yeah, because vTaiwan is a community that fosters and bootstraps engagements, and vTaiwan itself, as a website and as a community, keeps track of the topics that was initially drawn in the vTaiwan. Many of them ends up being discussed in Join or in other different platforms, and even in the parliament.

  • It is more of a multi-cycled network where the people who are interested in taking part of the process of decision making, that people gather every Wednesday here to talk about the decision-making process.

  • When it comes to mainstream media or mainstream attraction and things like that, I’m sure that the Join platform, or if you are in Taipei, then the I-Voting platform, has much more. I think most of the Taipei people have at least heard of I-Voting.

  • VTaiwan is behind many political platforms, but vTaiwan as a platform itself, I think is mostly only known for people in the civic tech or in the public administration communities.

  • What I learned this afternoon with your team is that you try to focus on problems. I think you somehow just decide, according to the problem, what is the right process?

  • Is there a sort of role model, which fits to a hot topic, and rather gets, let’s say, also pol.is involved, as a tool, and there are rather less hot - more focused topics, and there, you have a different process.

  • Yeah, because pol.is is there when there is thousands of incoming comments that we can’t sort through them all.

  • Is that something where you, yourself, got involved, and you decided, "Well, let’s do this process, or rather that process," or is it that already written down in a rule book that you say, "In this case, we do it that way, in another case, we do it that way"?

  • There’s a playbook-ish thing, but it’s more rule of thumb than anything, because every case is very different.

  • All our decision making in vTaiwan is chronicled in Hackpad, which is a collaborative, edited document. We keep one every Wednesday so that people who happen to be around here, either online or offline here in the Social Innovation Lab, we collectively decide what process to take.

  • The process itself may also be amended, changed, experimented upon on a weekly basis. It’s not me personally doing this decision, but there is a sufficient backlog of like 30 cases, and the decision of why each case choose that particular way.

  • Any new case, when it comes in, the community have some reference classes to work with. There’s no hard and fast rule, but there’s some rule of thumb that we are also working on writing down.

  • Another question. Obviously, you’re working with your colleagues, other ministers. Do you want to talk about how that works?

  • A picture that I have in my mind is you are responsible for, let’s say, the process, and they’re responsible for the topic.

  • That’s exactly right.

  • But is it that easy that the Minister, say, of Health, is trusting, let’s say, your process?

  • On the other way around, is it easy for you to say, "You take care of the topic itself"?

  • How does that work, or at least is it easy, or is it not easy?

  • By law, in Taiwan, there is eight to nine, what we call ministers, without portfolio, meaning...

  • Without portfolio, OK.

  • ...meaning that I’m a minister, but I don’t have a ministry, and so it’s easier, because a minister without portfolio are essentially the aide of the premier. On particular subject matters, the premier delegates...

  • Actually no, because Health and Welfare is a ministry, so specific cross administrations.

  • OK, sorry. The eight are the other ones?

  • Right. What our work essentially is, is twofold. The first is to make sure that on emerging topics such as e-sport, social enterprise, there’s no minister for that, so we’ve got to make sure that existing ministries know which part they want to take, like the sustainable development goals, there’s no ministry for that, so things like that.

  • On the other hand, there are certain topics where each ministry want to work on, but they sometime work at odds with each other, and so it’s a minister without portfolio’s business to make sure that people don’t step on each other’s toes, so to speak, and to resolve any potential tensions between.

  • For example, the Environment Agency and the Ministry of the Economy may not always be...

  • ...on the same line, so there’s a minister without portfolio -- not me -- who takes care of that part of things. My...Yes?

  • Sorry to interrupt you. Is that somehow like somebody who takes care of culture? Is that what this is?

  • Yeah, there’s a cultural minister.

  • I mean, not culture within the country, like dancing and whatever, but like culture meaning like, "What are we doing if there is a conflict? How do we behave in situations where we are not thinking the same way?" Is there somebody who feels responsible for that?

  • That’s exactly right.

  • That’s exactly what this person, or this minister is doing?

  • That’s right. Yes.

  • We have eight people at the moment who plays this role, and each of us has different mandates. For example, for me personally, I have three mandates.

  • Anything that pertains to open government process, that is to say, how to talk with emerging stakeholders, that’s my mandate. Anything that has to do with social entrepreneurship is my mandate, and anything that has to do with youth empowerment, that’s my mandate. That’s my three mandates.

  • As the digital minister, of course, additionally, I’m also consulted when people talk about digital transformation, but that is more of a role, not as a minister, just as a technical expert. That’s besides the point.

  • What I’m trying to say is that it’s me asking the Minister of Health and Welfare to do anything. As an anarchist, I don’t want anyone to do anything and vice versa.

  • It’s usually one of the participation officers of which there is a team in each of the 32 ministries responsible for working on open government process to emerging stakeholders.

  • We make sure there is a national regulation that in every ministry, this kind of people, just like media officers talking to journalists and a parliamentary officer talking to the MPs.

  • These people talk to emerging stakeholders, people who show up and petitioning for better health care in the rural part of south-most of Taiwan and so on, using e-Petition, using on-the-street petition, using whatever, and...

  • That is the structure in the ministries?

  • Right. The ministry people will surface it to our cross-ministry Participation Office and network. Every month, we choose two -- plus or minus one -- one to three topics to have a full engagement with the stakeholders.

  • It’s at this point that I step in and personally provide the help, so that the help is threefold. First, to make sure that any consultation or engagement ends up on the desk of the premier, and I will personally brief the premier of the result.

  • Second, if the ministry in charge, there’s more than one, I make sure that everybody is responsible for it, and that their skills complement each other, so that it looks like one government from the outside.

  • (laughter)

  • The third thing I also think very important is that I help securing the skills that the few that they miss so that, for example, if one ministry don’t have professional facilitators, then we provide that.

  • If they don’t have good -- I don’t know -- live streaming, software support, or logistic support, we provide that. If they don’t have good visualization, or comic or short film directors, or whatever that a few is needed to communicate this thing, then we also provide the communication experts.

  • It’s always on a voluntary association basis that they have to say, "We don’t have that," and then I provide that, only on-demand basis. That’s pretty much it.

  • One question. On the Internet, I find this famous case of Uber. Another topic, at least the topic that we’re having in Europe is the topic of pensions. "How long do you have to work? Can we afford what we spend for pension?"

  • Does this topic fits to open government and participation? If yes, did you ever have that in your mind? Or did you have references on this already? What do you think about this topic?

  • This obviously is a topic where a lot of people, in the case of Austria, 50 percent of people who are voting are getting pensions, and 50 percent of people who are voting are working. Related to government and the parties, it’s a very tough topic.

  • It is, so intergenerational justice. [laughs] I think this is one of the cases that I, when I came into the cabinet, is already being deliberated in a multi-stakeholder fashion by the National Pension Reform Board.

  • Convened by our vice president and taken care of by one of the ministers without portfolio, Minister Wan-i, who is a professor and expert in social work, social justice systems, and things like that, well-respected.

  • They basically use a live-streaming model of a stakeholder panel that composed of all the different generational and also occupational stakeholders, that focuses on the civil service, the armed services -- the army, navy, and air forces -- and also teachers.

  • It’s not the full pension reform. It doesn’t included laborers and the National Health Care system or anything like that. It’s just the civil service and public service reforms.

  • First, I think it’s a learning process. It’s essentially the first national forum of this kind that goes on for months under this administration.

  • I would also say that we started with a time pressure to deliver a working strategy within a year. Always, if you have a national forum like this with a fixed time frame, it always increase the tension.

  • I would also say that every other national forum after that, the National Cultural Policy Forum, the National Judicial Reform Forum, the many other forums, learned from this and made it better.

  • I wouldn’t say this is completely, sparklingly successful, but we did manage to finish the pension reform, and it was actually just in effect this month. It’s pretty successful when you look at the results, but it’s very hard work.

  • In a topic like this, do you see something where a systems like pol.is would not work, or you don’t think that there is, in this case or other than this case, something where pol.is could be something good to get people involved and to spread out the ideas, get it away from polarity to a more differential point of view?

  • Yeah. There’s online participation, all right, in a Q&A fashion, like real-time Q&A fashion.

  • I’m not personally in charge of that, but as far as I understand, the National Pension Reform Forum is more traditional in the sense that it’s a selection of people who are representative, but it’s ongoing, and it’s the same group.

  • It’s binding. It’s just like deliberative councils. It’s binding when they’ve finished the last proposal, but during their discussion, it’s all live-streamed, and people can write in their suggestions.

  • There is quite a few public hearings that people can also provide their input. The public hearings do get violent.

  • That’s one of the technical challenges that we subsequently solved for our subsequent discussions by essentially having the deliberation in a smaller room, but having people who want town halls watch the live-streaming in a separate town hall, rather than having them in the same room. That’s the technical thing.

  • Yes, I think something like pol.is would have helped during the discussion, but it’s not structurally the determinant. It will perhaps make is easier for the wiser suggestions to float to the top faster.

  • Essentially the National Pension Reform Board used human power [laughs] to manually go through any suggestions anyway, but that’s a lot of work, so I would say pol.is or something like pol.is would help as a work/labor reducer, but with a structure of a ongoing panel, plus public hearings, plus online a real-time Q&A.

  • There’s the time-saving part of it, but I don’t think it will qualitatively affect the result too much.

  • When I travel, I talk to people, and talk with them about these political changes and topics. I was surprised how similar the topics were. Going to America, people talk about Airbnb and Uber. Going to Taiwan, people talk about Uber. Going to Austria, people talk about Uber.

  • I love this. I see that the world is somehow growing together. What about sharing solutions? We all try to come up with our own solutions. Do you have it in your mind to share and more promote your solutions?

  • Yes. There is a international network called CrowdLaw. The website’s just crowd.law.

  • That’s one of the primary venues where we’re trying to share not just our vTaiwan paper or our participation of the sort of configuration that have a quantitative and qualitative comparison with every other similar efforts that’s ever been tried in other national levels for collaborative or collective policy making.

  • That’s a CrowdLaw initiative. To a lesser degree, there’s the digital seven that is more of an operational-level work that we’re working with. It’s more about sharing source code, sharing processes, and things like that. Not full-fledged processes or political context.

  • There’s the Open Government Partnership, which we always attend the OGP Summit, and build a really good connection with civil society, who keeps us in the government on this, but I’m writing their own open government reports and things like that.

  • With the new OGP steering committee, we’re now also looking at working even more closely than civil society engagements. I think the one most pertinent to your work or your interest here is the CrowdLaw initiative, because it’s explicitly trying to get all the different endeavors into a shared framework that people can follow.

  • I think the NESTA people independently are also doing very similar things. Just this week, two of our designers are in the UK attending the first government design conference. They call it OneGov or something like that.

  • I think that’s another way of looking at it, because you can look in at as people who want to improve democracy.

  • You can also look at it other way by saying this is essentially people with design thinking training and service design training, and it’s someone from the private sector trying to influence the public sector to think in a way that is more design thinking-ish.

  • (laughter)

  • It could be argued both within and without the government. I think Gov-Design is one that...

  • It’s probably both, right. For the Gov-Design crowd, there is a new community emerging, but from the parliamentarians and ministers, the CrowdLaw is more speaking our language. I do agree that it’s ultimately the same thing.

  • Because in the end, it’s the people who want to create the world that they’re part of the world living.

  • Probably, as you, as a government, if you understand this, and if you just do what the people want, it gives you the support of the voters.

  • Yeah, very much so. That’s a true mandate.

  • Do you think that the parties see it that way?

  • Or that they still are afraid of the discussion and disputes? What do you think about this?

  • Yeah. Here in Taiwan, the parties generally understand that if they don’t learn this new way of crowd sourcing, collective intelligence, then they don’t get new constituents.

  • They will be stuck with whomever that’s affiliates, but because I’m not a digital native -- I’m 37 now -- people younger than me, they’re still natives, and they don’t actually know any other way to organize.

  • They think that this mass self-communication is the norm, and the old hierarchical organization is something very alien. We see that internationally. It’s the same anywhere that has freedom of speech. I think the parties here generally understand it’s an existential issue for me.

  • Where do you see your work compared to other places that you know? Would you say you are somewhere between the top three? Would you say, "Well, we think we are almost furthest?"

  • I think Taiwan is new enough so people here in Taiwan, as I say in my talk, we’re the first generation that can work on democracy and on technology, on Internet technology.

  • We don’t have hundreds of years of legacy systems to work with, so I would say in the room of innovation are the possibilities. The previous president of Estonia, Dr. Ilves, just visited, and he compared the Estonian situation with the Taiwan situation, naturally.

  • Of course, they had even less baggage, [laughs] so yeah, because they were...I think their constitution is...Sorry, let’s pause a little bit.

  • Dr. Ilves pointed out incorrectly...

  • Do you care if it’s getting opened?

  • Should we put that back or something like that?

  • A chair or something?

  • Thanks. So, pointed out that back in ’93 when Mosaic first came out, it’s like a reset of the playing field for everybody.

  • Mosaic, like Internet?

  • The Internet browser, yes, first graphical browser, right?

  • He started to kind of reboot Estonia based on the premise that it is all digital. Taiwan, we lifted ourselves out of martial law around ’87, so there’s Internet, but there’s no World Web back then, right?

  • (laughter)

  • So they have even less legacy than we do, but I think it’s generally comparable.

  • We see this in many democratic countries that are still reimagining their constitutional elements, maybe constitution itself, but maybe also how their government bodies and so on are organized.

  • We see without fail that if they become democratic when Internet came about, then the representational democracy doesn’t feel sacred. There’s no sacred tradition for representational democracy.

  • It’s just one of the things that we can mix and match through direct election of presidents, through referendum here, e-Petition, participatory budget. Everything is like a palette and free to mix.

  • I think Taiwan is pretty far along. That’s the first thing.

  • The other thing that I would like to mention is that Taiwan is very blessed in terms of geography. We are a very small island with lots of people, and so it’s very easy to get Internet readiness or penetration to 90 percent or so.

  • That also makes it possible to try network conversation at scale without worrying too much about digital divide, because we can say broadband is a human right, and we mean it.

  • Combining the geography with the new democracy, I wouldn’t say it’s like top three or whatever, but I would say it’s one of the most free-to-experiment democracies.

  • You mentioned it just now, that trying to get all people involved is one goal. Do you think that to some extent you also think about an offline version?

  • Yeah, of course. We always start with the offline version, so our...

  • Like offline version or offline petition?

  • Yeah, our process...

  • You always have both processes?

  • Yes, our process is never to substitute face to face consultation. On the contrary, like when there’s a regional issue, we go to that region. When there’s a town hall, we go to the town hall.

  • The whole point is that we use live-streaming or we use Internet archives and things like that to augment the face-to-face reality. We’re not taking that away. We use two main strategies.

  • The first, as I said, is what we call assisted civic tech, to assist people who could not make it to the town hall to feel as if they are in the town hall and participating in real time.

  • I like this. I like this part of it. It’s very nice.

  • The second one is what we call a continuity between two or many face-to-face meetings by essentially having pol.is or whatever online part to be a document of what has transpired in the previous meeting.

  • By continuing the agenda setting to online, letting online people chime in and to collaboratively set the agenda.

  • When people go to this meeting, they go home. They may think of something more, so they follow up online. The online part determine the agenda for the next face-to-face meeting.

  • Basically, we allow the online people to contribute their personal experience, objective thoughts, their feelings, but we’re not making decisions online.

  • All the more convergent decisional part, we do face to face. The online part is basically the link that links multiple face-to-face meetings.

  • I asked you before about models, and I think what I heard, you pronounced this very politely and said that you found very nice -- what was the right word -- history was not...

  • You don’t have a hundred years’ history or something like this, so it was easy for you, probably, to come up with new ideas.

  • Nevertheless, I think that what you’re doing looks like a model. Do you also have in your mind to consult others how to do this?

  • Yeah. We’re on this international network where we constantly compare with our counterparts. In Europe, I think one of the most active exporter of this collective intelligence thing is Madrid, and to a lesser extent, Barcelona. Well, to a comparable extent, Barcelona.

  • (laughter)

  • Political importance, yeah.

  • (laughter)

  • I think that’s because like us, they were born out of the occupied, and they also try to make the, like 15M methodologies on the street, try to take it and use the city halls. They, like us, have found that only a fraction of the technologies work on street works on the city halls, and so they’ve been trying to improve it ever since.

  • Besides being part of public administration and learn by sharing there’s a private market where companies say, "I’m consulting in public management, and I tell you how to do it." How do you see this mixture of the public and private? Wasn’t there any private consulting company ever coming to you and saying, "Well..."?

  • Oh, yeah, plenty of analysts also, yeah. I do see an inference.

  • What is your picture on that ecosystem?

  • Like sharing and buying, or something else?

  • Yeah, I like to compare it to this, the very beginning of the idea of design thinking. There’s been policy design, interactive design, whatever design, for quite a while.

  • With the British Design Council, ideal, and other consultancies and academics, they manage to, despite their different organizational ambitions, to agree on a meme, [laughs] really, to...

  • Yeah, double diamond, yes, to anchor here to endeavor, and I think it’s very useful, because then it becomes what we call a social object where people can discover other people based on this, essentially a hashtag.

  • I see its being actionable, meaning that you can do a double diamond in a very crude way just by looking at a brochure tomorrow, so it’s actionable.

  • It’s connected, because when people do it, they will inevitably find that if they don’t fully understand the application, they will seek help, and that creates a ecosystem for consultants and professional designers.

  • Finally, it’s extensible, so people who want to take it into policy design, or people who want to take it into service design, and so on, they inevitably extend the original model.

  • They contribute back to the ecosystem, now in a very willing way, because they want more people to think in their domain, and help solve their domain’s problems.

  • By being actionable, connected, and extensible, I think design thinking is one of the very successful means that then gets applied to everything from policy to service to products.

  • What is your answer to the question, what is your vision with that? What do you want this to be in, let’s say, 20 years?

  • This, like open government. Where should this lead to? Is this your vision? Is your vision, ends up with the frontier of Taiwan, or is your vision contribution to the way we think about government and democracy in the world? What is your vision?

  • First, I’m working with Taiwan. I’m not working for Taiwan.

  • (laughter)

  • It just so happens that people pay me for time to think about these things.

  • Probably I have to think about it, with my English, where’s the difference?

  • (laughter)

  • I do understand where you’re sitting.

  • You’re working with Taiwan.

  • Yeah, I’m working with Taiwan in the sense that my primary goal is partnership for the mutual trust between all the different sectors.

  • It’s not necessarily just Taiwan, with the same trust-building we did with Uber and the taxi company here. It’s being looked after as a possible inspiration for many equivalent relationships around the world.

  • I think these contributions speak more of the portability or adaptability of this idea of cross-sectoral participation, or cross-sectoral partnership.

  • When people ask me my vision, nowadays it’s very simple. I just show them this of sustainable development goals, [laughs] and say...

  • ...that I’m here. I’m working on stage 17, which is partnership for the goals. It’s really true, because SDG 17 talks about sustainable development goals.

  • ...17, yeah. It talks about cross-sectoral trust. It talks about open data. It talks about transparency. It talks about broadband as human right. It talks about connectivity of all clients, and so on.

  • All this resonates really well with the work that I’m going. I wouldn’t say that it’s entirety of my work. I also do social entrepreneurship and things like that, but even those can also be factored into the SDG 17 hashtag.

  • Nowadays, it’s just like design thinking. I am just saying, "I’m doing SDG 17." It’s easier to explain.

  • The world is taking care of the goals, and you’re taking care of this. What are your challenges at the moment? Where do you see the challenges that you are facing at the moment?

  • In the moment, now it is. I just had dinner, so.

  • (laughter)

  • When you think about what makes your work difficult?

  • Yeah, because I work by voluntary association.

  • You work by volunteer association meaning?

  • Meaning that I don’t command anyone to do anything, so...

  • Yeah, but this is sometimes difficult.

  • No, it’s very easy.

  • You share things that, do you think, "Well..."?

  • What I’m trying to say is that if I feel the need to compel others to do things a certain way, and they don’t, of course, I may feel that they’re being difficult, or frustration, or whatever.

  • By basically just sitting here and waiting for people to come to me and chat and have dinner, then it’s by voluntary association. There’s no way that I would feel difficult if I just keep working this way. It’s a very Taoist world view.

  • Are there many people like you in the Taiwan ecosystem?

  • Yeah, it’s plenty of. Taiwan has one of the largest open source community in Asia.

  • Do you think a kind of cooperation could work with somebody in Austria? Could that work, and would you be interested in cooperation?

  • Sure, yes. We just sent a fellow to New Zealand for three months. People are talking about sending fellows both ways. I think that’s by far the easiest to work, by having a fellow from New Zealand, or Austria.

  • We had one who will stay in Madrid for a few months, and then back in Taiwan for a few months, and participate in real projects together. I think that’s the easiest way to do knowledge transfer. That’s the easiest way, just by sending fellows both ways.

  • Those fellows, the fellows that you are sending, the more or less, do understand your process well? Is that the way, or...?

  • Yes. Yes, of course.

  • Not just fellows both ways. I think it more speaks about...Every process and software, whether it is online, it’s on Slack, and so on.

  • The whole point of having fellows is to document new developments and new innovations, and to build connections with the local civil society. These things, we cannot do online. These things, we have to do where we can have dinners together. [laughs] That’s the whole point of having fellows.

  • How important is trust in this field that they’re working with, and is that something that you always had good experience on? Did you ever got disappointed as well.

  • We move at speed of trust. In the environment where there is less trust, we move slower and earn the trust. In an environment where trust is plenty then we move faster and earn trust even faster, so that’s the whole idea.

  • At my core job, taking care of tobacco shops. What we do is we provide tobacco shops to people with disability. We’re saying that’s not a normal market so we interfer and link it to a social problem.

  • Smoking, as a topic, is very controversial. At the moment, we have a very big discussion going on about smoking in bars and restaurants. On that topic, Freedom Party said people should rather take their own decision, like restaurants owners, what they want to do. They want the people, as well, have the decision what they should do.

  • Obviously, the others, they’re saying, "The government should take care of that and should ban it."

  • Because there’s a externality for other people.

  • Yes. Did you have this kind of discussion also discussed with participation tools and experiences here in Taiwan?

  • We had a discussion on whether we allow online sales of liquor, of alcohol, which is similar. It’s not the same, but it’s similar.

  • Yes, I can transfer it to online sales of cigarettes in Austria.

  • That’s right. We did use pol.is for that. Pol.is worked really well for that, mostly because there’s a middle point. There’s a point where people can feel like...The central argument being, first, if we ban online sales of liquor, it’s going to happen anyway. There really is no law against, for example, buying it off Amazon or some external, foreign stores. That was the first thing.

  • Second is that, if people are alcoholic, online purchase is not what they will do. They will just go to a grocery store, because it’s faster. People who buy liquor online means that they have a taste. It’s cultural.

  • The third is that people who worry about underage people having access, they basically agreed that if the pick-up is at least as good as the grocery store, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

  • The compromise solution arrived at the pol.is consultation is that you can order online liquor, but it’s delivered to your nearby convenience store. You have to show up with your ID to pick it up, which is pretty good.

  • One of the main characteristic is that we try to make it really specific, like the problem being very specific, but the solution being unbounded. We allow people to ideate all over the place and allow a long enough conversation period.

  • People feel that they’re not a tug-of-war, where they’re fighting against each other, but rather engaging in a competition where they can compete to propose the most innovative solution and manage to convince everybody. If you can flip the agenda-setting this way, then you can arrive on something that’s creative.

  • Fantastic. For you. Thank you very much.

  • Cool. That’s exactly an hour.

  • If people would to participate, somehow, in what you’re doing here. Would you have something in your mind that you say, "Well, let’s do this or that," as a next step? Should they just come up with an idea and write an email or something like that?

  • No, we’ll catch up on Slack. The #vNetwork is now a very international thing, so it’s also possible that, for example, our Taiwanese friends or even our Ministry of Foreign Affairs nearby can send help. That’s one of the ways of doing this.

  • The other ways, of course, is engaging with one of the think tanks, like NESTA, who had plenty of experience working with vTaiwan-like methodologies. You can find plenty of people in the crowd law directory, maybe one that’s even closer to you.

  • There’s a lot of mutually trusted friends like a few New Zealands, like Richard Bartlett, who, at the moment, is in London. He’s just wandering around and taking the vTaiwan and Loomio... He’s a co-founder of the Loomio project, which we draw a lot of inspiration when working on vTaiwan.

  • It’s called L-O-O-M-I-O. It’s a New Zealand thing, Loomio. For many configurations, Loomio may be more suited than pol.is. If you have a long-running panel of people, like in the national pension reform forum, maybe it’s more Loomio-like than pol.is-like. Pol.is is a few one-shot, large conversations.

  • The Loomio folks, Richard is touring around the world to Africa, to London, everywhere, to basically give organizational boot camps to would-be organizers on how to do decentralized mass mobilization and organization, the kind of pre-conditions to a vTaiwan-like community.

  • One possibility is to work with these super organizers to basically incubate your local organizers. I’m happy to Skype in or just mentor them.

  • Fantastic. Thank you very much.

  • You’re OK with this arrangement?

  • Yes, it’s perfect. [laughs]

  • Let’s just meet each other on Slack, and then we’ll figure something out.

  • That’s perfect, yes. Fantastic.