The Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc around the globe in 2020 and 2021. The coronavirus is likely to follow us well into 2022. People around the globe will keep looking for effective ways to cope with the shared challenges we experience that transcend physical boundaries. Although it might seem frightening that borders no longer provide the kind of protection we need to keep us safe in the physical world, we will see an explosion of opportunities in the digital world – opportunities relating to the formation of a global neighborhood.
As the erosion of the traditional concepts of countries, nations and states accelerates in the digital world, the idea of “neighborhoods” based on shared values is flourishing.
We have already seen examples in 2020 and 2021, such as the #MilkTeaAlliance. This is a collaboration of pro-democracy citizens that originated from a meme depicting many jurisdictions around east Asia holding up their respective “popular drinks” (such as Taiwanese bubble tea) in solidarity. 2022 will see continued evolution toward a generation where distance is no longer measured in meters, but rather in terms of the experiences one shares in common with other people and groups.
Global neighborhoods will also bring changes to the way norms are established. Indeed, we will find ourselves in a world where the establishment of norms is no longer monopolized by governments and multilateral organizations. Decentralized, non-political and non-state actors will play critical roles in this.
Taiwan’s digital democracy can be seen as a precursor in this regard. On the country’s online platform, join.gov.tw, anyone can file a petition. There is no need to be affiliated with any political party. Twice a month, for petitions that gather 5,000 signatures, we hold face-to-face collaborative meetings across related ministries to explore ways to incorporate them into policymaking. In this way, even those who are too young to vote can nevertheless have a way to start a movement and set a norm.
Technology will be used even more widely to facilitate crowdsourced policymaking. Governance models based on what I call “People-Public-Private Partnerships” are set to be the key to government transformation. The creation of Taiwan’s Mask Maps showed people early on in the pandemic where masks were available in stores. Meanwhile, SMS-based contact tracing and online vaccination-appointment systems resulted from collaboration incorporating open data from social-sector platforms, government departments and private-sector companies.
With the rediscovery of civic infrastructures on the internet, civic technologists will unify opinions that are currently dispersed throughout society and transform them into a motivational force for creative policies. This will be even more important as we understand the need for our social, political and economic strategies to adapt frequently in response to ever-mutating viruses. An alliance forged between the government, the social sector and the private sector will thus be in place to meet the diverse needs of the populace in the shortest possible time.
In 2022, we will see a continued emphasis on “swift and safe” technologies to bring about such broad participation. Cyber attacks and disinformation will continue to threaten democracies worldwide, but Taiwan will continue to share its experiences in adopting the tactics of “fast, fair and fun” in the fight against the pandemic and infodemic. Allies of the same mind will step up and work together to build a resilient global neighborhood.