Problem Definition

The arc of the lawmaking process begins with defining which problems to tackle. Getting diverse input both from those with lived experience and from those with credentialed expertise helps lawmakers learn about how the public experiences problems. This is especially important for those who are most disadvantaged and may otherwise lack ways of informing the lawmaking process. Many countries already have a well-established petitioning process for ordinary people to articulate problems. Brought online, however, problem definition is an opportunity for the public to contribute expertise and information at scale and increase the likelihood of developing solutions that actually work. Engagement opportunities in this stage allow residents to identify issues of concern and to prioritize them. For example, in Taiwan hundreds of thousands are participating in a process that translates broad issues into specific and actionable problems using the vTaiwan process. At this stage, online participation gives lawmakers the potential to improve the quantity and quality of of the information used in the legislative process.

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  • Insight generation with AI
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to computing systems that exhibit behaviour that is commonly thought of as requiring human-like intelligence such as language processing, knowledge representation, reasoning, rationality and learning. AI can analyse and create visual representations of large volumes of data (such as comments on a website or in social media) to spot patterns, sort data into logical groupings, and continually modify these groupings as new data is added.
  • Web-based town halls
  • Web-based town halls are lightly moderated discussions between groups of constituents and congresspeople that use simple (and sometimes freely-available) web-based discussion platforms. Typically scheduled for no more than 1 hour, they aim to generate discussion that goes beyond media sound-bites and facilitate more substantive deliberation on an issue.Digital listening with social media
  • Digital listening using social media
  • This involves monitoring and engaging with people on social media to generate actionable insights. Passive forms of digital listening involve the use of tech tools to analyze social media posts, see what people and thinking and saying about a problem, and geo-locating this data to map sentiment. More active forms of digital listening involve soliciting feedback on a specific issue and using “Twitter bots” or hashtags that enable you to assemble an evidence base about a problem that can include location data, photos, and comments.
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vTaiwan is a complex and versatile process designed to enable Taiwanese citizens to address legitimate concerns and mold opinions and ideas into issues that spur decisive government action on a national scale. It is a combination of online and offline processes to facilitate rational deliberation on digital economy issues raised by any member of the community and reach rough consensus that will be used to craft new--or modify existing--regulations and legislation.
About the interviewee:
Audrey Tang is Taiwan’s Digital Minister in charge of Social Innovation, the founder of vTaiwan, and a renowned technologist. After years of working with several reputable private sector companies, Audrey joined the public sector and led Taiwan’s first e-rulemaking initiative. She also leads the Public Digital Innovation Space and served on the Taiwan national development council’s open data committee and K-12 curriculum committee. As a civic hacker, Audrey largely contributed to creating Taiwan’s g0v (“gov-zero”), a vibrant community focusing on creating tools for the civil society, with the call to “fork the government”.
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Case Studies