Blooming digital democracy in Taiwan’s Sunflower movement

How technologists and activists are working together to mobilise a nation

Sunflower Movement and Digital Democracy

Taiwan has in recent years experienced some of the world’s most dramatic protests. The Sunflower Movement, a youth-driven but cross-sectoral coalition famously occupied the Taiwanese Parliament for more than three weeks as it fought against a controversial trade deal that they felt would impinge on Taiwanese sovereignty.

Software, social media and other rapidly evolving technologies are fueling a digital democracy and political change in Taiwan. Connected networks support mobilisation leading to greater government transparency.

Neutral Tech, Mass Movements

The Taiwanese public and international audiences used “traditional” social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Line, Twitter) for communication. Meanwhile, organizers and activists relied on an innovative digital communications and collaboration system powered by several open source tools including Hackfoldr and Loomio.

g0v.tw

A screenshot from g0v.tw’s budget site. Find out more at g0v.tw.

Tools could be quickly adapted to specific needs, collaboratively managed, and responsive to changing needs and demands. Ultimately, this platform opened the campaign to broader participation and helped influence how the Taiwanese government engages citizens.

“There was already this community of people interested in using tech to improve citizen democracy and because that was already in place, the movement was resourced with techniques and technology for organizing really effectively,” said Ben Knight of Loomio.

Taiwan has been at the forefront of digital democratization for some time. In 2012, Taiwanese netizens created alternative, crowdsourced .g0v (a number 0 where an O would otherwise be) versions of Government websites where they released data in formats that helped people more easily understand what government ministries were doing.

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