Born in 1981, Audrey Tang started working with computers at a very early age, her first program was an educational game for her younger brother. She learned Perl programming at 12. At 19, she had begun working in Silicon Valley, after dropping out of school to start her own company. She was a consultant to several companies including Apple.
At the age of 33, she retired from the private sector to focus on public projects. In 2005, she led the Pugs project, which helped implement Perl 6. She has also worked on projects like Perl Archive Toolkit, SVK and Request Tracker, and helped translate books on open-source software into Chinese.
Tang joined the g0v project in 2012, and helped the hacker group to create “shadow” websites where the URL was one character different from official government websites. But these websites displayed the information from those government departments in a more easily understood fashion using open source.
After the Sunflower Student Movement protests of 2014, Tang has said that people in Taiwan wanted to see government decisions made through “deliberative democracy.” To facilitate this, she worked on a new platform that encourages debate and information sharing among the various interest groups so that people could “decide their lives together.” She believes technology can be used to help people converge, rather than become more polarized.
In 2016, she was appointed as Taiwan’s first digital minister. In this role, she is helping the Taiwanese government communicate with the public through digital outlets as part of an open government initiative. She is the youngest cabinet minister in Taiwan’s history and has said that she views her new role as a “the public servant of public servants” and aims to bring the public and private sector together.
Tang has said that it is “not the era of planned governance anymore,” and that innovation comes from the private sector and civil society. As a minister, she will be working to bring those sectors together, using technology to encourage a more open and transparent government.
Written by Mary Ratliff