FAST, FAIR, FUN: Taiwan’s winning formula vs pandemic, ‘infodemic’

December 11, 2020

FAST, fair, and fun are the three pillars in social innovation helping Taiwan win its fight against the twin epidemics of COVID-19 and disinformation, according to Taiwan’s Digital Minister Audrey Tang at the webinar Kaya Pala! (It Can Be Done).

In the Taiwan Model, fast pertains to quick use of collective intelligence.

Tang said that immediately after a Wuhan doctor posted about a “seven years SARS cases” on Chinese social media, it was reposted on a Taiwanese forum run by national university students and was discussed extensively.

“So many people just chimed in…They triaged the message to see that there is actually a legit early warning…The very next day, we started house inspections for flight passengers from Wuhan,” he said.

The first COVID case in Taiwan was reported in January 21. As of December 11, Taiwan has a total of 724 COVID-19 cases, with 590 recoveries and seven deaths.

Recognizing the importance of open communication, the same month, Taiwan established the Center for Epidemic Command Center (CECC) where the government started taking calls through a toll-free number where anyone can share they thoughts on epidemic prevention.

The CECC is also responsible for prevention measures, and the Taiwan government was quick to introduce travel restrictions and protocols for high-risk travelers.

The second pillar is fairness.

“When we’re rationing out the masks, at the beginning, we deliberately chose the pharmacies that are already trusted by the community. And we assign the mask rationing to follow the procedure of getting refillable prescriptions,” Tang said.

Taiwan provides its citizens with a national health card that allow them to dispense then weekly, now bi-weekly quota of masks.

Through open data, citizens are able to report the number of masks being purchased, a prompt to government to ramp up production of masks based on need.

“So soon as they finish the queueing, people queueing after them will be able to check on their phone, using this map, exactly how many masks are being purchased… Everybody can hold us to account as for whether everybody gets equal distribution on the rural and urban areas,” the Taiwan official said.

“Humor over Rumor” is also a key feature of Taiwan’s counter-disinformation strategy.

“How do we combat this virus of the mind? Well, with vaccine of the mind. Turns out, joy, humor is a very effective vaccine. So instead of enraging people, they see the spokesdog, an actual dog, a Shiba Inu. The name is Zongchai,” Tang said.

Appealing to rational self-interest, Tang emphasized that Taiwan’s strategy does not attack anyone, and does not emphasize class and economic distinctions.

“We don’t see democracy as a showdown of opposing ideas, rather we see the conversation of various ideas…The social innovation lab is designed so that everybody can join with people who have different viewpoints and then just enjoy conversation based on what we call listening skill technologies,” Tang said.

“While we see the internet of things, let’s make it the internet of beings. While we see virtual reality, let’s make it shared reality. When we see machine learning, let’s make it collaborative learning. When we see user experience, let’s make it about human experience,” the official concluded.

Kaya Pala! was a webinar hosted by the Council of Asian Liberals (CALD) and Democrats in cooperation with the Center for Liberalism and Democracy (CLD) and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF).

Panelists included Congresswoman Stella Quimbo, PhilStar editor-in-chief Camille Diola, and Batanes Doctor to the Barrios Noel Bernardo.

Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, CALD chairperson, delivered the closing remarks.

The webinar may be viewed here: