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Digital Transformation Initiative: Taiwan

Taiwan’s DIGI+ program is a digital transformation initiative committed to establishing equal digital rights (2017-2025)

October 10, 2023
Author: Amanda Lenhardt, King’s College London

In 2016, the government of Taiwan initiated a digital transformation initiative–the DIGI+ program to promote digital development and technological innovation. The objectives of the DIGI+ program include: deliver equal opportunities for digital development—pursued through the extension of broadband internet access for disadvantaged groups such as migrants and Indigenous communities; promote digital infrastructure in remote regions; support participatory democracy; and build a legal foundation for digital human rights.

The Information and Technology (ICT) sector is an important part of the Taiwanese economy, which ranks highest in the world on the share of the ICT sector’s contribution to GDP.1 Yet the digital divide in Taiwan is still significant,2 with gender, age, income, education, and employment status, among other factors, driving inequality in internet usage and access.3 Employment and income generating opportunities in the ICT sector are also poorly distributed in Taiwan, contributing to widening income inequalities.4

Taiwan’s DIGI+ initiative (or Development, Innovation, Governance, and Inclusion) broadly seeks to promote a digital transformation in Taiwan and work towards “smart government” by harnessing innovations in technology to improve the efficiency of service delivery, promote civic engagement, and link government services to the needs of the public.5 The initiative is built around strategies related to infrastructure, talent, cross-industry transformation, digital rights, smart cities, and increasing Taiwan’s position in the global digital service economy.6 The initiative also involves an Innovative Industries Plan seeking to make Taiwan the “Silicon Valley of Asia,” focused on innovations in biomedical, green energy, smart machinery, defense, and agricultural industries, as well as developments in the circular economy model and the digital economy.7


At the outset of DIGI+, the premier of Taiwan instructed responsible agencies to “formulate concrete action plans that achieve tangible results that resonate with the public.”8 These have been accompanied by new legislation and amendments to existing legislation to overcome market barriers, and creating a “sufficiently flexible legal environment that is conducive to disruptive technologies and new business models.”9 Among these laws is the Financial Technology Development and Innovation Experiment Act which came into force in 2018. It permits new products, services and business models to be tested in a limited live market, without the constraints of immediate livability.10 The Cybersecurity Management Act of 2018 has also been introduced to establish protections around data in the public interest.

“Digital Opportunity Centers” have been established in remote areas around the country to extend access to technology and create opportunities for local digital development in areas that have not previously been connected. These are intended to provide venues for people to learn Internet skills, particularly for Indigenous peoples, immigrants, agricultural workers, low-income residents and people with disabilities.11 Free Wi-Fi access has also been introduced in public areas, including railway and metro facilities.

Another component of DIGI+ is the promotion of “smart cities,” with 223 smart service applications proposed between 2018-2020 to “develop innovative people-oriented applications and public services such as AI air pollution monitoring, smart parking, and AV/VR smart English learning.”12 A disaster information website was launched to provide access to up-to-date information on typhoons, schools and business closures, and service outages.


The DIGI+ program is funded through public investment in the areas of research and development, public awareness, and digital infrastructure as well as through partnerships with private actors, such as Microsoft.13 The Innovative Industries Plan was supported with an investment of TWD 100 billion (USD 3.3 billion) to build new research facilities, technologies, and infrastructure—to attract foreign investment and to strengthen human capital.14


Taiwan’s approach to digital transformation has been hailed as one built on trust, whereby digital tools are being developed in an open and accountable way. The government has demonstrated trust in its citizens by opening data and facilitating access to it “before asking citizens to trust government with their personal data or involvement in the partnership.”15 This has been linked to the creation of an environment in which citizens have been included in development decisions and in actions that drive change.

“Civic hackers,” for example, were involved in the fight against COVID-19, and were encouraged by the government to do so. One hacker was able to connect to existing systems and data to create an app that displayed information on the availability of masks. The app was then supported by the government of Taiwan following its uptake by the Minister of Digital Affairs, a former “civic hacker” herself.16

Implementation of the DIGI+ program has been criticized for being overly focused on the economic growth potential of the tech sector at the expense of the social development aspects of the plan. Digital access remains a challenge for some groups, and the drive to be competitive in the global market risks putting further pressures on wages in Taiwan that remain relatively low in comparison to other countries.17

Photo: ©Adobe Stock/ryanking999