Centre for Digital Governance

Taiwan and Covid-19

Preventing a beacon of digital governance from turning into a privacy nightmare.

The COVID pandemic represents a crisis eclipsing precedent, and managing its consequences is a challenge with many possible answers and actors for states around the globe. Taiwan’s response in light of a prior national health crisis involved the development of a digital tracing system that many have hailed as an exemplar of effective digital governance during a pandemic. The paper presents an overview of Taiwan’s policy path, key considerations and actors that epitomised the nation’s strategy. It then gives a closer look into the inner workings of digital tracing as it was executed during the pandemic and evaluates strengths and urgent risks. We argue that Taiwan risks weakening its reputation for digital democracy if crucial privacy concerns it highlights are not addressed. We conclude that Taiwan’s leadership should consider establishing an independent data protection authority, taking advantage of information-based approaches, which proved effective within its unique context, and leveraging its civic hacktivist ecosystem to adopt a collaborative direct provision strategy to strengthen its privacy policy framework.