Entering 2015, much of the media focus in Taiwan has been on the new mayors and county magistrates who have taken office following local elections at the end of November. Looking to the future, we believe the next focus should not be on who will run for president in 2016 but rather on the way global society is being changed by social media and new technology.
A common topic when discussing the remarkable results of the local elections, which saw a major swing away from the ruling Kuomintang, has been the impact of younger voters and the effects of new media. The student activists of the Sunflower Movement who took over the country’s legislature last year displayed — not for the first time — their ability to use social media to get their message across. Their success in galvanizing public opposition to the government’s trade pacts with China has forced the administration to set up a specialized task force to study new media, in the belief that they have no bad policies — only ones that they have failed to explain to the public convincingly.
The importance of technology in driving development has not gone entirely unnoticed in Taiwan, where the government has promoted the establishment and development of fourth-generation (4G) broadband mobile networks.
The United States has upgraded R&D into big data to national strategic level, having invested US$200 million in 2012 in the project. China has similar layouts, including pushing for opening of government information, encouraging cluster development of big data, establishing Zhongguancun’s information industry alliance and trading platform, and constructing a big data platform, among other moves. The United Kingdom has listed big data as a strategic technology, investing ￡189 million (US$288 million) in 2013 in big data development, while France has invested €300 million (US$359 million) in the development of big data.
South Korea in 2013 approved a budget of US$200 million for a four-year big data project, while Singapore has strengthened the government’s data analysis capability to promote itself as a global information analysis center.
If the Kuomintang only plans to use big data as a policy promotion tool and does not see it as a national strategy that requires thorough planning, it is simply out of touch with global trends and is destined to fail again in its battle to use technology effectively for Taiwan’s national development.