堅強民主 數位民國

A Strong Democracy Is a Digital Democracy

:world_map: Democracy improves as more people participate. And digital technology remains one of the best ways to improve participation — as long as the focus is on finding common ground and creating consensus, not division.

:art: These are lessons Taiwan has taken to heart in recent years, with the government and the tech community partnering to create online platforms and other digital initiatives that allow everyday citizens to propose and express their opinion on policy reforms. Today, Taiwan is crowdsourcing democracy to create a more responsive government.

:sunflower: Fittingly, this movement, which today aims to increase government transparency, was born in a moment of national outrage over a lack of openness and accountability in politics.

🙋 On March 18, 2014, hundreds of young activists, most of them college students, occupied Taiwan’s legislature to express their profound opposition to a new trade pact with Beijing then under consideration, as well as the secretive manner in which it was being pushed through Parliament by the Kuomintang, the ruling party.

:mag: Catalyzing what came to be known as the Sunflower Movement, the protesters demanded that the pact be scraped and that the government institute a more transparent ratification process.

:construction: The occupation, which drew widespread public support, ended a little more than three weeks later, after the government promised greater legislative oversight of the trade pact. (To this day, the pact has yet to be approved by Taiwan’s legislature.) A poll released after the occupation, however, showed that 76 percent of the nation remained dissatisfied with the Kuomintang government, illustrating the crisis of trust caused by the trade deal dispute.

:link: To heal this rift and communicate better with everyday citizens, the administration reached out to a group of civic-minded hackers and coders, known as g0v (pronounced “gov-zero”), who had been seeking to improve government transparency through the creation of open-source tools. The organization had come to the attention of the government during the Sunflower occupation, when g0v hackers had worked closely with the protesters.

:1234: In December 2014, Jaclyn Tsai, a government minister focused on digital technology, attended a g0v-sponsored hackathon and proposed the establishment of a neutral platform where various online communities could exchange policy ideas.

:stew: Several contributors from g0v responded by partnering with the government to start the vTaiwan platform in 2015. VTaiwan (which stands for “virtual Taiwan”) brings together representatives from the public, private and social sectors to debate policy solutions to problems primarily related to the digital economy. Since it began, vTaiwan has tackled 30 issues, relying on a mix of online debate and face-to-face discussions with stakeholders. Though the government is not obligated to follow vTaiwan’s recommendations (a policy that may soon change), the group’s work often leads to concrete action.

:revolving_hearts: VTaiwan partly relies on a unique digital tool known as Pol.is to ensure its crowdsourced policy debates remain civil and reach consensus. Using Pol.is, any vTaiwan participant can post a comment about the topic or policy being discussed. Crucially, other users cannot directly reply to these statements, which reduces the likelihood of trolling and abuse. Instead, they can click “agree,” “disagree” or “pass/unsure” on each comment.

:bulb: Using real-time machine learning, Pol.is analyzes all the votes on the comments to produce an interactive map that groups like-minded participants together in relation to other, differently minded users. The map lays bare the gaps between various groups — as well as any areas of agreement. Ideally, this incentivizes people to post comments that attract more supporters, creating a path toward consensus.

:signal_strength: VTaiwan has been used to solve a number of particularly thorny digital policy problems. In 2015, it helped break an impasse over how best to regulate Uber, which had arrived in Taiwan two years earlier prompting opposition from taxi drivers.

:calling: In 2016, hundreds of ordinary citizens using the platform managed within a few weeks to come up with new regulations for online liquor sales, after multiyear discussions among business and social groups had broken down. And in 2018, vTaiwan helped to create new regulations for the platform economy.

:arrows_counterclockwise: Taiwan also relies on another civic engagement platform called Join, this one maintained entirely by the government. Though similar to vTaiwan in that it uses Pol.is to create consensus, Join tackles matters beyond the digital economy, such as vacancy taxes and drug prescriptions for animals. Compared to the hundreds of thousands who have debated issues on vTaiwan, Join’s website has hosted 10.6 million unique visitors — almost half of Taiwan’s population — since it began in 2015.

:handshake: Together, vTaiwan and Join are opening up more direct lines of communication between Taiwan’s government and its citizens, producing tremendous benefits for the former. Officials are exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking, while identifying core public service demands.

:trophy: The Presidential Hackathon is yet another tech initiative bringing Taiwan’s public, private and social sectors together to solve urgent problems. At the event, the first of which was held last year, teams of hackers — composed of either private citizens or government workers — compete to design the most innovative improvements to the nation’s public services. Instead of prize money, the best teams receive a promise from the government that it will apply their ideas.

:balance_scale: One of the top teams in this year’s hackathon included officials from the Judicial Yuan, the judicial branch of the Taiwanese government. The team developed two digital tools to make the nation’s judicial system more legible and transparent for everyday Taiwanese.

:oncoming_police_car: Drunken driving is an issue of broad public concern in Taiwan. And in recent years, the differing sentences handed out to drivers involved in high-profile accidents have led to public confusion about why some punishments can be so light compared with others.

:wrench: One of the digital tools developed by the Judicial Yuan team addresses this confusion by giving the public a better sense of why punishments can differ for the same crime. Any user can simply enter in the relevant data for a hypothetical drunken-driving offense, such as blood alcohol concentration and the type of vehicle involved. The application then lists the appropriate penalties for the case, while also showing sentences from real-world drunken-driving cases that are similar to the one described. (The team analyzed over 50,000 verdicts from previous drunken-driving offenses to create the tool.) In this way, users get a better understanding of how slight changes in, for example, blood alcohol concentration can lead to radically different penalties.

:earth_asia: In the closing speech of this year’s Presidential Hackathon, President Tsai Ing-wen encouraged government officials to embrace a hacker spirit as they work to meet the public’s needs. “Do it bravely; dare to make mistakes,” she said. In Taiwan, digital technology is boosting civic dialogue and infusing government with the spirit of social innovation. By giving everyone a voice, Taiwan is strengthening its democracy for the future.

:world_map: 民主會隨著越來越多人的參與而改善。只要大家關注的是尋求共識,而非分化彼此,數位科技仍然是提高參與度的最佳方式之一。

:art: 臺灣近年來致力於落實這個概念。因此,政府和科技界合作,建立了線上平台和相關數位措施,讓公民可以針對政策改革提出建議。現在,臺灣正透過「群眾外包」的方式實踐民主,並建立一個反應更快的政府。

:sunflower: 這個提高政府透明度的努力,起源於當年臺灣民眾為政府缺乏開放精神與政治責任感,而憤怒的一刻。

🙋 2014 年 3 月 18 日,以數百名大學生為主體的年輕社會運動者,衝入立法院佔領議場。因為當時政府正考慮與北京簽定外界諸多疑慮的《服貿協議》,而 3 月 17 日,執政的國民黨立委在爭論不休的立院委員會中僅以 30 秒便宣告《服貿協議》通過,讓公民社會為之譁然。

:construction: 抗議民眾的訴求是「拒絕黑箱、退回服貿」,要求政府建立更透明的法案審議程序。為期 22 天的佔領行動,在政府承諾將加強對貿易協定的立法監督後方告結束。(該協議迄今並未獲得立法機關通過。)然而,佔領行動後的民調顯示,76% 的民眾仍對政府不滿,足見服貿事件引發的信任危機。

:link: 為了彌補這個裂痕,當時的政府開始和公民科技社群 g0v(零時政府)聯繫,這群具有公民意識的黑客一直嘗試透過各式開源行動來提高政府透明度。在 318 運動中,g0v 也積極投入佔領現場,協助資訊的透明匯流。這些公民黑客的作為,引起了政府的注意。

:1234: 2014 年 12 月,時任行政院政務委員蔡玉玲在 g0v 零時政府的黑客松提案,希望建立一個中立的第三方平台,讓政府在修訂網路相關法規的前期,就能及時與各種線上社群朋友交換彼此觀點,進而凝聚法規共識。

:stew: 多位來自 g0v 零時政府的貢獻者,於 2015 年和行政院協作出 vTaiwan 平台。這個由社群運作的專案,旨在有效匯集政府、經濟和社會部門等各方利害關係人,討論與數位經濟相關的政策。雖然政府沒有回應 vTaiwan 建議的義務(這點可能將有改變),但 vTaiwan 的工作成果,往往都能化作政府的具體行動。目前 vTaiwan 已處理了 30 個議題。

:revolving_hearts: 互動式數位工具「Pol.is」經常在 vTaiwan 的討論過程中,用來確保多方利害關係人的政策討論能夠維持理性,並達到共識。藉由 Pol.is,任何 vTaiwan 的參與者都能針對正在討論的政策主題,發表相關評論。重要的是,其他用戶無法直接回應這些言論,僅能在每條評論上點擊「同意」、「不同意」或「跳過 / 不確定」,而非挑釁和謾罵。

:bulb: Pol.is 透過即時機器學習,分析這些意見,並產出一張互動性圖表,這個圖表將意見相同的參與者們集中在相同區塊,並與其他不同想法的用戶們分開。如此一來,每個參與者都可以看見自己在意見光譜上的位置,以及與各個群體之間的差距,進而開始思考如何找到彼此意見的交集。在理想的情況下,這將吸引更多人發表己見和加入討論,為達成共識開創一條道路。

:signal_strength: vTaiwan 多被用於解決一些特別棘手的數位政策問題。例如 2015 年,Uber 引發計程車司機們的強烈反對,此平台協助化解如何規管 Uber 的討論僵局;多年來,線上酒類銷售的問題在企業和社會團體之間僵持不下,2016 年,數百名使用該平台的市民,在幾週內便提出線上酒類銷售的新條例;2018 年,vTaiwan 協助制訂平台經濟的新規定,在金融沙盒條例立法過程中,作為意見徵集平台。

:arrows_counterclockwise: 臺灣還有另一個名為 Join 的公民參與平台。相較於 vTaiwan,Join 平台完全由政府維護,且處理的議題範圍更廣,例如空屋稅和動物藥品管理。與數十萬在 vTaiwan 上討論過議題的人相比,Join 的網站自 2015 年推出以來,已經有 1060 萬個訪客—幾乎是台灣人口的一半。

:handshake: vTaiwan 和 Join,為臺灣政府與公民之間,開拓了更直接的溝通管道,政府因此受惠甚鉅。因為公務員不僅能接觸到新的想法和思維方式,也能透過民眾的意見,確定公共服務需求的核心。

:trophy: 總統盃黑客松,是另一項數位科技的倡議。從去年開始,總統親自參與這項活動,每年聚集公務部門與公民朋友,在黑客松中一同協作,優化、發想出好用的政府服務。獲勝團隊得到的不是獎金,而是「政府將會實際採用這些好主意」的承諾。

:balance_scale: 今年總統盃黑客松,五個卓越團隊之一的「司法院隊」,便由司法院資訊處的公務員與資訊專家組成,提出「裁判易讀」與「量刑參考小幫手」兩個點子,目的是讓司法系統更清晰、更透明。

:oncoming_police_car: 在臺灣,酒後駕駛議題受到廣泛關注。近年來,多起酒駕事故的判決結果引發輿論沸騰,民眾往往不懂「為什麼只判這樣?」

:wrench: 面對民眾的困惑,司法院隊開發出「量刑資訊小幫手」,讓民眾理解為什麼對同一罪刑的懲處會有所不同。以酒駕導致的「不能安全駕駛罪」為例,他們先從現有的裁判書資料庫裡,找出五萬多筆的相關裁判書,進而整理這個罪名所具備的條件,再將這些條件設定在量刑資訊系統上。

:calling: 任何對於判決好奇的人,只要在這個系統上輸入相關數據如「酒精呼氣濃度」、「交通工具種類」等條件,不只可以看到對於該案件建議的適當懲處範圍,也可以看到相似案件判決。這樣的做法將可讓民眾更加瞭解,單是一個酒精濃度的變化,就可能導致截然不同的判決。

:earth_asia: 「勇敢去做,不要怕犯錯。」在今年總統盃黑客松的閉幕致詞中,蔡英文總統以黑客精神鼓勵公務員。在臺灣,數位科技正積極推動公民對話,並為政府注入社會創新精神。藉由「讓每個人發聲」的方式,臺灣正在為世界的未來,強化民主。