Joint statement A comprehensive digital transformation strategy is a must for the future development of Ministry of Digital Affairs
As the official establishment of the Ministry of Digital Affairs approaches, the civic society anticipates the creation of an innovative entity that will advocate for freedom and openness, protect democratic human rights, and foster civic engagement. This joint statement presents six concrete demands.
- The Ministry of Digital Affairs should promptly clarify its administrative plan and outline how it will align with or reform existing national digital policies.
- MoDA Should Emphasize on Digital Literacy for Public Sectors and Civil Servants
- Human rights should be the foundation for digital development.
- The Ministry of Digital Affairs should establish public-private collaboration
- Digital Transformation Should Aim to Promote Democratic Participation
- Realizing the vision of open source and open data in Taiwan’s digital governance
The Executive Yuan has already rolled out the "Smart Taiwan Plan" for 2021-2025 as its mid to long-term strategy for general digital development. However, the plan does not include the establishment of a specialized agency. Therefore, MoDA needs to clarify whether it will maintain the current policy framework or undertake comprehensive reforms Besides, while the Organization Act of the Ministry of Digital Affairs was passed last year, other legal frameworks central to its mission, such as the Data Governance Act or Digital Services Act, have been proposed but lack concrete content. In contrast, Estonia shows a better model for implementing digital governance and identification. By first creating a roadmap for their national strategy, they were able to establish a solid legal foundation. boosting trust in their government and increasing transparency and public engagement. As a result, Estonia has become a leading digital power on the global stage, despite its small size. Taiwan should take this example into consideration
A successful digital transformation cannot be achieved solely by one department or a few specialized staff within each sector. Instead, related competencies must be increased across all public sectors. Currently, the regulations of the Administration of Cybersecurity only target specialized cybersecurity staff, but not all civil servants. Despite the rapid growth of digitization and data exchange in the public sector, civil servants' awareness of cybersecurity risks remains low. As a result, it is crucial to raise awareness and knowledge of cybersecurity and digital literacy among all civil servants. In addition, cross-sector collaboration is also key to successful digital transformation. MoDA should build upon the experience gained from the Public Digital Innovation Space (PDIS), which was a special office under the Executive Yuan that focused on public digital innovation and service facilitation and was led by Audrey Tang. This can strengthen the connection between stakeholders, facilitating the resolution of complex issues and promoting consensus. Additionally, MoDA is responsible for managing the government's information and technology talent. But this may be challenging due to the current restrictions on procurement and hiring in the public sector, which makes job offerings less appealing to industry talents. The Ministry of Digital Affairs should thus develop a concrete solution to address this issue.
MoDA should implement its visions and missions with a focus on protecting basic human rights, both in its government services and the digital transformation of the industrial economy. This is not only in line with international trends, but also an important consideration as the Ministry rapidly progresses and faces potential conflicts with humanitarian matters. In the era of big data, as government services and corporate businesses become increasingly digitized, it is even more important to safeguard basic rights of citizens such as personal data protection and privacy. For instance, the privacy risk should be evaluated before expanding the use of personal information. Although the National Development Council is responsible for protecting Taiwanese personal data, there is a growing call from society for the establishment of an independent agency for privacy. The Ministry of Digital Affairs should take this into account and respond accordingly. Additionally, access to digital tools or digital identity should not be a prerequisite for utilizing public services or participating in civic engagement. As the Ministry of Digital Affairs works towards digitalizing public services and promoting civic engagement, it must address the issue of the digital divide and fully respect the public's autonomy. Providing citizens with diverse online and offline methods for accessing services should be the focus of the Ministry, rather than mandating the use ofdigital tools. It is also important to have measures in place to ensure that the restriction of digital technology or supplies does not negatively impact the basic rights of individuals.
The success of Taiwan's digital transformation is dependent on strong civic communities and effective collaboration between the public and private sectors. As a model, the Open Technology Fund in the US supports non-profit organizations globally to drive technological advancements in protecting activists’ privacy rights and combat censorship. Taiwan, as a democratic leader in Asia, also boasts robust civic tech communities and civil societies dedicated to advancing technology, defending against digital authoritarianism, and protecting digital rights and democracy. However, the policies and visions put forward by the MoDA have yet to be clearly communicated to the public with regards to how they will leverage Taiwan's unique strength of thriving civil societies to establish public-private partnership. This lack of clarity raises concerns about potential delays in building regional alliances in the Asia-Pacific region and the possibility of Taiwan facing continued diplomatic isolation.
Currently, Taiwan is actively involved in promoting open government. The government has established plans for open government and open parliament and has seen positive results that make it a role model in the region. However, when it comes to digital transformation and data governance, the main focus is still on service provision and economic value rather than openness. MoDA might miss a chance to enhance transparency and democracy. We believe the primary objective of openness, whether in the form of open data or open government, is to enhance civic participation and oversight in public matters through the use of technology. When technical tools for public service purposes are rapidly evolving without formal regulations, democratic engagement is the only way to prevent the creation of a technological black box and abuse of administrative power.
We endorse the principle of "public money, public code" put forth by the Free Software Foundation Europe. We believe that digital systems used by the government, which are funded through taxes and the public budget, should have their source code made available to the public. This approach not only enables the public to contribute to improving the system and identifying potential cybersecurity threats, but also facilitates further innovation through the use of open-source code. Additionally, it can prevent the need for costly and time-consuming system rebuilding when contractors change. Germany and Denmark are among the countries that have embraced open-source systems as a key component of their government's digital transformation, demonstrating its practicality and potential for integration into national strategies. The primary goal of open data is not economic benefit or to make everything machine-readable, but rather to promote true public engagement. We hope that MoDA will foster an open culture by reducing the use and procurement of proprietary software, making free and open-source software the default option.
In conclusion, the six main expectations outlined in this joint statementemphasize the need for the Ministry of Digital Affairs to become a leading institution for open government and public-private collaboration in order to establish a strong foundation for the country's digital progress and technology infrastructure. It is our belief that only with the implementation of digital rights protection and the establishment of social trust through public participation can the nation truly begin its digital development journey. This statement calls on the government to enact relevant laws, clearly articulate its framework, invest in digital training for the public sector, adopt a digital human rights perspective, foster collaboration between the public and private sectors, encourage democratic engagement, and implement open-source code and open data, in order to create a comprehensive digital governance plan.
【Co-sponsors】 Open source foundation, Taiwan Association for Human Rights,
Software Liberty Association of Taiwan, 台灣公務革新力量聯盟
【【Partner of Petition】 Amnesty International Taiwan, Information Service Industry Association of R.O.C., Computer Society of the Republic of China, Taiwan Art and technology, organization for Data-Driven Application