Premier Lin Chuan (林全) yesterday confirmed that 35-year-old Audrey Tang (唐鳳), a tech prodigy and former adviser to BenQ and Apple, is to join the Cabinet in October as a minister without portfolio.
Cabinet spokesman Tung Chen-yuan (童振源) first broke the news yesterday morning, which Lin confirmed in the afternoon, when he was asked about the appointment by reporters on the sidelines of the 2016 Taiwan Sustainability Summit in Taipei.
Lin said Tang’s achievements in the digital industry and open government projects have been recognized worldwide.
“Our hope is that by inviting her to join the Executive Yuan team, she could contribute in the said fields. Her role as a minister without portfolio will be different from the others: Instead of participating in drawing up bills, she is expected to assist government agencies in building communication platforms for all kinds of public policies and putting government information to good use,” Lin said.
Tang has been called an Internet prodigy who taught herself computer programming when she was eight.
At 16, she launched a start-up computer company and “retired” at 34. Since then she has been an active member of the open source community and a major contributor to g0v.tw (零時政府), which seeks to improve transparency in government and dissemination of public information, and vTaiwan, a platform for the government to solicit and integrate public opinion and promote communication.
Tang, who is currently abroad, confirmed the appointment on her Facebook page.
She said that from 2014 to last year, she served as an adviser to the Executive Yuan’s plans in making virtual-world regulations, and is a committee member of the National Development Council’s open data advisory committee and of the 12-year education course development committee.
“I have also been collaborating with the French ministries of foreign affairs and economy, Paris’ city government and Madrid’s city government on digital governance,” Tang said on Facebook.
She said that after becoming a member of the Cabinet, she expects to be “a civil servant of civil servants, that is, through the use of digital technologies and systems, to assist the government in solving problems and to enhance communication and cooperation between government agencies and civil technology and community,” she said.
“My presence [in the government] will not be for certain communities to have easy access to the administration, nor will it be for ‘policy announcements’ on the Internet. Rather, it will be a ‘channel’ for the better combination of wisdom and power,” she added.
Tang’s appointment will not only significantly lower the average age of the Cabinet, which has been criticized for being too old, but also mark a milestone for gender equality. Tang was born male and did not change her gender and name until 2005.
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