Audrey Tang is a hacker and digital rights activist who emerged from the 2014 Sunflower Movement student protests with a government job and, ultimately, a cabinet position. Tang, Taiwan’s first transgender minister and its youngest, is a talisman of the country’s recent shift toward liberal, progressive governance and an eloquent advocate of how technology can enhance, rather than undermine, democracy at a moment when disinformation, propaganda, and polarization feel like the global norm.
During the pandemic, Tang spearheaded civic technology projects for contact tracing and distribution of masks and vaccines, working with “g0v” (pronounced gov-zero), an informal collection of technologists and civil society activists working on open-source social projects. The initiatives were mostly founded on approaches that brought in many different stakeholders from the beginning and were hailed for balancing privacy and efficiency, distinguishing them from the top-down, often authoritarian approaches adopted by even other democratic countries.
Tang’s commitment to the core philosophies of the internet, promotion of open-source and open-data approaches to civic technology, and her own abilities as a coder have made her a figurehead far beyond Taiwan. However, her domestic challenges are practical, not just ideological. The pandemic isn’t over, and Taiwan has to continue to innovate, as the economy opens up and recovers. Her country is bombarded with cyberattacks on a daily basis and is constantly targeted by disinformation and misinformation campaigns, all part of Beijing’s hybrid warfare approach aimed at undermining support for the island’s autonomy.