Our paper will investigate the principles behind Taiwan’s success in the field of civic technology, and whether (and how) they can be transposed to different settings. Because of the United States’ prominence as a global leader in technology, we will use the United States as a comparison tool, to further understand Taiwan.
The paper will begin by considering each country’s broad historical background and philosophical influences relevant to the development of their civic technology ecosystems, alongside a broad overview of their similar histories of colonization, identity, and geopolitical rifts. We will then look at fundamental distinctions between both of these countries’ underlying schools of thought and principles, highlighting how the majority of their populations believe in two different conceptions of state: the USA as a service provider and Taiwan as a strengthener of social fabric.
Finally, we will explore the manifestations of these beliefs in their respective civic tech ecosystems, centering our analysis on the interplay between civil society organizations in these two countries and the new public institutions they inspired. In the case of the USA, those are Code for America, the US Digital Services, and 18F; in Taiwan, the g0v hacktivist movement and the Digital Ministry. To substantiate our analysis, we will consider the conception, adoption, and effectiveness of a sampling of participatory data processes and civic technologies in each country, looking at how the aforementioned conditions fostered emergence, resilience, bottom-up civic engagement, and change in Taiwan, and a strikingly different civic tech ecosystem in mainstream USA.
Paula Berman is a part of BlockchainGov, an ERC project studying the impact of blockchain technology on local and global governance. Prior to that, she worked implementing participatory technologies and researching decentralized identity protocols with Democracy Earth Foundation.
Deborah Tien works on strategy, community, and systems at the intersection of regenerative development, participatory governance, and technology for impact. She lived in Arusha, Tanzania, for almost five years, co-creating an ecosystem for inclusive innovation in Africa at Twende - a Tanzanian design hub for local-scale innovation - first as Director of Development, then as Executive Director.