Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves recently visited Taiwan and attended the Ketagalan Forum. He proposed that democratic countries across Europe, Americas, and Asia, including our country, should form a “Digital Democratic Alliance” that is similar in function to NATO, but not based on geopolitics, but on shared values against authoritarianism.
In fact, specifically regarding this idea, President Ilves generously shared many specific practices and crucial thinking on “how to strengthen digital resilience” back in early July 2022 in the TaiwanPlus program I hosted. Among them, Estonia has already stored important government information abroad for backup and real time synchronization. This is a groundbreaking attempt for the operation of various governments.
This practice originated from the Fukushima incident in 2011. According to President Ilves, after learning that the Japanese government had lost some government information due to the disaster, the Estonian government became wary and thought about how to respond to such situation. In addition to transporting important materials physically to embassies abroad, they also set up servers in embassies. President Ilves pointed out that the Estonian government contacted the Luxembourg government for this purpose, asserting that this server should also be regarded as the territory of Estonia. It cannot be entered without permission and is completely independent. If any important domestic information is changed, it will also be updated to the servers in the embassies simultaneously.
This is not just an innovative approach worthy of reference by governments around the world. The Estonian government has also demonstrated precisely how to build “digital resilience”. What is Resilience? Resilience refers to the ability to quickly recover when affected by adversity at any time, to adapt to changes promptly through perfecting mechanisms, and even to learn from the experiences of being attacked to strengthen one’s own physical fitness. It can be seen that Estonia’s backup mechanism is an important infrastructure for strengthening digital resilience.
In addition, the X-Road architecture jointly operated by the governments of Estonia, Finland and Iceland does not use a single database, but rather provides a “Public Code” as the data exchange layer to avoid excessive concentration of risks and maintain the “heterogeneity” of data, space and usage. This way, even if some portions are attacked, the other nodes remain safe.
And “national cooperation” is also an important inspiration that we get from the Estonian government. As early as 1996, Estonia had provided computers in every school so that students could enter the digital world as early as possible. The government opened up everything from data to code, which not only made digital education universal, but also established digital capabilities of all citizens. In other words, whenever there is an error in the system, anyone has the opportunity to identify and help solve the problem at any time.
Estonia’s experience demonstrates that “plural heterogeneity” and “social resilience” are indispensable. Maintaining diversity in data and systems is the most comprehensive preparation, and having mutual help and protection between the people and the government is the most meticulous security.
“Digital resilience for all citizens” is not only the content of the conversation between President Ilves and I, but also the core concept of the preparatory work of the Ministry of Digital Affairs. From broadband access as human rights to democratic epidemic prevention, Taiwan already has a solid foundation for resilience. Going forward, we will not only create an environment of universal participation for Taiwan, but also continue to create new opportunities for the digital resilience of the Alliance of Democracies.