25 October 2016
Audrey Tang is expected to bring new energy and diversity to the president's team. Photo:
Audrey Tang is expected to bring new energy and diversity to the president's team. Photo:

Taiwan’s new digital minister: young, talented, transgender

Audrey Tang, 35, will join Taiwan’s cabinet as a minister without portfolio in October.

The self-taught programmer and self-described “civic hacker” has been named an executive councilor to help the government in formulating its digital policies.

The appointment is seen as an effort to boost the popularity of President Tsai Ing-wen, whose approval rating has slipped to 39 percent, the lowest since she took office in May.

Tsai’s cabinet has often been mocked for being too old; the average age of current cabinet members is 62, higher than during the administrations of Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou.

Tang’s appointment is expected to bring new energy and diversity to the president’s team. 

Being a transgender, Tang is likely to appeal to the young generation, who appreciates the unconventional.

Tang was a child prodigy with an IQ of 180. She wasn’t able to fit into the mainstream education system and dropped out of high school at 14.

Fortunately, her parents are very open and supportive, knowing their child is special. Her mother even quit her job to spend more time with Tang.

Tang started her own business at 16, focusing on hacking and anti-hacking technology.

She was later hired as a consultant to various tech behemoths such as Apple and Google.

At the age of 33, she decided she has made enough money, sold her businesses and devoted her time to political projects that mainly involved using information technology to monitor government efficiency and transparency.

In 2014, Tang got involved with the Sunflower Movement on the IT side. She created tools and built platforms to promote freedom of speech.

Prior to becoming a cabinet official, Tang worked for the government as a member of the consultation committee on open data as well as the panel on the development of a 12-year basic education curriculum.

In the latest appointment, Tang will focus on open data and digital policies.

Taiwan’s cabinet, or Executive Yuan, is similar to Hong Kong’s Executive Council. Both are responsible for helping the government in policy-making.

While it is too early to say whether Tang’s appointment will make Taiwan a better place, at least Tsai has shown her guts by introducing changes to her cabinet.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 26.

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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