This book is the crystallization of wisdom jointly created by academics and practitioners in the field of digital governance, following the publication of “Government Digital Transformation: An Essential Guide”. This time, the authors focus on “government data governance”, once again demonstrating their profound professional expertise.
If digital transformation is likened to the Industrial Revolution, data is the new energy driving the wheels of the times. Just as the development and utilization of energy are vital to the success of industries, data governance is the cornerstone of digital transformation.
Today, with the popularization of audiovisual and language models, businesses ranging from translation, customer service, marketing, and content creation are all impacted by generative technologies. Just like advancement of refining technology has liberated fossil fuels from primitive uses such as lighting and heating — not only producing powerful propulsion for land, sea, and air vehicles but also generating countless plastic products, permeating every aspect of food, clothing, housing, transportation, education, and entertainment — the prevalence of foundation models spurs global investment in data applications, unleashing boundless creativity.
However, just as petrochemical products have triggered climate crises and ecological disasters, leading to the pursuit of clean energy as a century-long challenge, foundation models are closely related to large datasets from training to application. If there is no foundation for proper governance, cyber-ecological disasters are imminent, with deepfake scams being just the tip of the iceberg.
Fortunately, the international community is paying close attention to governance issues, expecting legal, ethical, and technological advancements to proceed hand in hand. At the G7 Digital and Technology Ministers’ Meeting held in Japan in late April, a joint statement was issued, pledging to promote “human-centered” principles to maximize benefits for all and oppose misuse and abuse that undermines democracy, freedom, and human rights. The statement echoes the spirit of the “Declaration of the Summit for Democracy” and the “Declaration for the Future of Internet”, pointing out that a “Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT)” mechanism is the top priority for cross-border collaboration.
In other words, in the face of rapidly developing technologies such as foundation models, even if there are concerns about harms to human rights and democratic values, “free flow” remains the primary value of cross-border data governance, rather than building isolated strongholds or resorting to government regulation to reject data flow, turning advanced countries into “prohibition-first” countries.
The five principles put forward in the statement — “rule of law”, “due process”, “democracy”, “respect for human rights” and “harnessing the opportunities of innovation” — can be summed up as “human centric”, firmly defending the value and protection of individuals as data subjects. Just like the well-known fable, if governments cannot sincerely face the lost iron axe, they will not be rewarded with golden and silver axes.
The Ministry of Digital Affairs was established in response to public expectations, with the mission of “government digital services, data governance, and open data”. As a supplement to legal and ethical norms, we promote Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) and actively assist e-commerce and logistics companies in adopting them to reduce the risk of personal data breaches.
Observing international trends, the European Union recently advocated privacy-enhancing processing, proactively transforming high-value data into non-personal data, promoting applications across various sectors for public benefit.
In Taiwan, public-benefit applications such as climate and environment, disaster prevention and rescue, transportation, health care, energy management, and social assistance all have corresponding “high-value” topics on the data.gov.tw platform, inspiring endless innovative solutions. Over the past decade, the platform has attracted 113 million views and over 19 million downloads, and through events like the “Presidential Hackathon”, it inspired a myriad of practical co-creations.
In other words, the “oil analogy” mentioned in this book may only be half right; oil and minerals are rival goods, but data is quite the opposite, possessing “non-exclusivity” and “non-competitiveness”. Under a governance environment built on sound legal systems and privacy-enhancing technologies, data can exhibit “anti-rival good” characteristics: the more it is shared, the greater its value, contributing to both individuals and the world.
That is to say, only in an environment of free flow with trust can the “data altruism” concept proposed by the European Union’s Data Governance Act (DGA) be realized: data holders voluntarily provide data to drive societal development and improve public service quality.
As foundation models become popular, the vision of “data democratization” in Chapter 10 of this book is about to be realized, with everyone expected to become a producer and user, and “data governance” becoming a core issue in digital development. The publication of this book will undoubtedly guide all sectors to achieve informed and rational data governance. Only by pooling the collective intelligence can we establish mutual connections, foster virtuous collaborations toward the common good, and realize “data altruism” in a rational and principled fashion. It is my pleasure to write this foreword.