Audrey Tang: Taiwan’s First Minister of Digital Affairs

Meet Audrey Tang: a passionate civic hacker turned government official dedicated to leading Taiwan to an inclusive digital era. At only 42 years old, she has forged her own identity as a leader within the online community and an advocate for government transparency.


Image courtesy of Time.

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Early life

Tang was born in 1981 in Taipei, Taiwan. Born with a heart condition that required her to always stay as relaxed as possible, she grew up shy and extremely calm- causing her to be bullied and her family to have to move around a lot. By the time she was eight years old, Tang began to learn how to program, dropping out of school at 14 to teach herself.

She taught herself Haskell and Perl, two popular programming languages, and created her own search engine company, leading her to become an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley by 19. There, she developed software and worked as a consultant for major companies like Apple.


Sunflower Student Movement

Tang’s political career began in 2014, during the Sunflower Student Movement demonstrations in Taiwan. Protesting a potential trade deal with China that could threaten Taiwan’s independence, a group of hackers occupied the main government building in Taipei for nearly a month until then-president Ma Ying-jeou abandoned the deal.


Tang quit her job to join the hackers, broadcasting their debates and protests around the island.


After the Sunflower movement, the group focused on organizing to get progressive Tsai Ing-wen elected.



Once Tsai Ing-wen was in office, Tang was appointed the Minister without Portfolio of Digital Affairs in 2016. On top of being the youngest minister without portfolio in Taiwan’s history, she’s also the first transgender person to sit on the cabinet. Tsai hoped that Tang would help bridge the older generations and younger generations, as well as manage digital communications and information.


(Note: A minister without portfolio is a government official who does not head a specific ministry.)



Prior to her position, Tang was, and still is, an active member in g0v (pronounced “gov-zero”), an online community that promotes transparency within the government. On top of hosting regular hackathons, they have an alternative government domain that allows users to view interactive and accessible versions of the government websites, encouraging civic hackers to make their contributions to be “forked” back in with the normal sites.


Throughout the process of building and maintaining g0v, Tang was passionate about helping others and fixing their code. It wasn’t a surprise to users when they stopped coding for a while, knowing that there was a bug, and they came back to see that Tang had fixed the issue.



Prior to Ing-wen’s election in 2016, then-digital minister Jaclyn Tsai was impressed with g0v’s work in open data. She brought the group on to create an online platform that allowed citizens to discuss public matters, with Tang as her main assistant.


The platform became known as vTaiwan, or Virtual Taiwan, and enables users to bring issues up with the government once they receive a certain number of signatures.


Audrey Tang’s Impact on COVID-19 in Taiwan

When the news broke about COVID-19, Taiwan acted fast. As citizens rushed to purchase face masks, stores struggled to keep citizens up to date on the stock they had available.


Enter 35-year-old Howard Wu, a software engineer who saw this issue arise and got to work building a website that crowdsourced information about which stores were in stock using Google Maps. Once the site went viral, Tang reached out to Wu and got to work within a few days to collaborate on their ideas and utilize government resources. The system was developed to streamline mask distribution as the pandemic went on, ensuring the data was open for every to view and play with as they saw fit.



In 2022, Tang was announced as the inaugural Digital Minister in charge of the Ministry of Digital Affairs (MODA). Many felt as though Tang would be the obvious choice for the position due to the success she already had in the government, her rising international fame, and the months of work that she put in to set up the ministry itself. In charge of overseeing strategy for Taiwan’s data economy, promoting cybersecurity, and coordinating digital governance in Taiwan, MODA represents a new chapter as Taiwan aims for digital democracy.


Tang hosts open office hours, and in an effort of radical transparency, ensures that nearly every meeting she has is transcribed and uploaded for citizens to view.


Audrey Tang: Digital Democracy

Throughout her career, Tang has been a passionate advocate for open data and open-source approaches to technology. She was named a 2023 TIME100 Most Influential People in AI for her work in utilizing AI technology to aid democracy instead of hindering it. She’s also a poet, has hosted TED talks, and continues to work within g0v.



Further reading:

LA Times


Rest of World

The Diplomat