On Thursday and Friday last week, the Digital Innovation Forum, hosted by the APEC Business Advisory Council, took place at the Taipei International Convention Center.
Invited speakers included Taiwanese and overseas experts who have made innovative contributions to the field of network applications.
One speaker was former Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves. As president, Ilves led Estonia’s efforts to develop an open government and find ways to overcome obstacles in the nation’s difficult geopolitical environment.
Ilves’ experiences could prove beneficial for Taiwan.
Estonia’s population is only 1.32 million. The nation regained its independence when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991. Since then, Estonians have made good use of their late-developing advantage in technology.
During Ilves’ 10 years in office, he led Estonia’s transformation into a global model of digital governance. Located on the doorstep of a powerful neighbor, Estonia has been willing to defend and empower itself, leveraging technology to develop innovative businesses and quickly growing its economy to become a developed nation.
Taiwan has a similar geographical position to Estonia’s: They both have unfriendly, powerful nations as neighbors. Taiwan’s existing foundation in information and communications technology makes it possible to achieve the same kind of industrial development. In the past few years, Taiwan has also oriented itself toward having an open government, although its achievements have been few.
Last week’s forum provided an opportunity to learn from other nations’ experiences, but are we in Taiwan willing, at a national level, to apply Estonia’s experience of using technology to govern a reborn nation?
Having spent a decade at the helm of Estonia’s reforms, Ilves is the best person to advise us on this.
Taiwan could learn from Estonia’s experience in developing an “e-residency” plan.
Launched in 2014 under Ilves’ leadership, the plan welcomes individuals and companies to become non-permanent residents of Estonia. The nation gains access to simple professional assistance, while the residents identify with Estonia in a conceptual way, without having any obligations.
Thus far, about 40,000 individuals and 5,000 companies have become “e-residents” of Estonia, including a number of world-famous experts. Even Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became an “e-resident” of Estonia in 2015.
This kind of identity as a virtual resident fits well with the features of the Internet world. People who meet online and find that they get on well can form communities where they exchange views and gradually develop into civic forces — and what is true for individuals also applies to nations.
Small nations that are overlooked by the world’s mainstream media can seek recognition that transcends national boundaries. Joining traditional international organizations under a national title is no longer the only way for nations to gain influence. In the age of the Internet, using broader and more flexible definitions of sovereignty and citizenship can garner recognition in the international community. The “e-residency” concept could be an especially valuable lesson for Taiwan to learn.
Estonia’s system of governance is not only significant because of its level of implementation, but also for its historical significance. Compared with dictatorial or oligarchic societies, the Internet brings liberation and autonomy, as well as sharing and cooperation.
Taiwan’s freedom and democracy are precisely the fertile ground that nurtures a networked society.
Taiwanese non-governmental organizations invited knowledgeable people from around the world to visit Taiwan. In doing so, the nation demonstrated how the Internet can nuture creativity.
Meanwhile, China is taking its use of the Internet to the opposite extreme.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) government is using the far-reaching capabilities of the Internet and digital technology to maintain law and order, and to keep everyone under control.
Overseas, Beijing is using digital networking to exert sharp power, sharpen its trade weapons and disrupt the world order. This kind of closed and destructive networked society based on a monolithic value system goes against human nature and is a dead end.
Taiwan’s and China’s choices about how to apply technology, and their different attitudes toward a digital society, can be compared with Estonia’s story of building a networked nation.
The forum has shown Taiwan some options for repositioning itself in the Internet world.
Hochen Tan is a retired civil servant.
Translated by Julian Clegg
Last year, China entered into a spat with Lithuania over Vilnius allowing Taipei to open a de facto embassy using the name “Taiwan.” Beijing recalled its ambassadors from Lithuania and downgraded its diplomatic ties with the Baltic state to the “charge d’affaires” level. In hindsight, China should realize that this move handed Lithuania on a plate to Taiwan. China used its economic leverage as punishment. First, it tried to pressure German industry giant Continental AG to stop using Lithuanian-made components. When an EU trade commissioner said that Chinese customs were refusing to clear goods containing Lithuanian parts, China denied it was at
The State Bank of India has raised US$300 million from the Taiwanese market through a maiden issue of Formosa bonds at a coupon rate of 2.49 percent. The issuance attracted a wide range of investors, such as supranational agencies, asset managers, private bankers and financial institutions. Meanwhile, the Indian government has also started talks with Taiwan on a free-trade agreement. These developments would normally have been treated as a routine affair between India and Taiwan, but as the countries do not enjoy formal ties, and India has in the past remained hesitant to sign a free-trade agreement with Taiwan, the activities
Treason, in legal terms, is when a person is disloyal to their own nation, as opposed to their government. In the US context, Oran’s Dictionary of the Law defines treason as “the crime ... committed by a US citizen who helps a foreign government to overthrow, make war against, or seriously injure the US” — again, as opposed to the US government. Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) was the first Taiwanese to encourage China to unify with Taiwan by force. Appearing on Chinese television, he called for “reunification,” saying that Beijing should aim its missiles at
On Thursday’s second anniversary of the creation of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that it is working toward “zero COVID,” and that precise calculation and careful planning would be needed if the nation must accept “living with the virus.” He also said if the virus can be eliminated through contact tracing, isolation and other public health measures, unlike the harsh lockdowns in China, then it should be done. “Zero COVID will be the approach, but not the goal,” he said. After a janitor at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport