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Remarks by AIT Director W. Brent Christensen at Presidential Hackathon
September 21, 2020

2020 Presidential Hackathon
2020 Presidential Hackathon

Remarks by AIT Director W. Brent Christensen at Presidential Hackathon
September 20, 2020

  (as prepared for delivery)

President Tsai, Deputy Secretary General Lee, Vice Premier Shen, Minister Chen, Minister Tang, Vice Minister Cheng, Deputy Minister Chen, Senior Advisor Lee, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, wu an!

It is my great pleasure to be here today.  First, I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to all the teams who competed, and especially those who made it to the final round.  These are truly amazing ideas!

AIT has been involved in the Presidential Hackathon since its inception in 2018, but this year AIT co-hosted with Taiwan the International Track of the Presidential Hackathon, which brought together teams from around the world to use technology and social innovation to advance human progress.

In many ways, the Presidential Hackathon embodies the very best of Taiwan—technology, innovation, and social good.  While Hackathons originally started in the United States, Taiwan has definitely taken them to a new level.

This year, the winning teams have focused on developing innovative solutions to solve some of the most pressing problems facing our shared environment here in Taiwan.  Whether it is the effort to use technology to find ideal land for planting trees to prevent erosion, or reducing energy consumption through smart energy pricing, these solutions will improve life for all of us here on Taiwan.  I am especially excited about the establishment of a national map for drinking fountains, not only to reduce plastic bottle pollution, but also for my own future planning of my bike rides around the island!

Taiwan’s Presidential Hackathon is unique in the world for receiving such high-level commitment from elected officials and a willingness of policy makers to put into practice the solutions devised.  Taiwan is showing the way for how to bridge social entrepreneurs, the hacking community, and government for the sake of innovative public policy.

I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to again praise the response of Taiwan to the COVID-19 pandemic.  As Digital Minister Tang has often said, Taiwan’s response has leveraged technology from the get-go and has been Fast, Fair and Fun.  Fast in terms of the health authorities’ immediate action when they learned of a new influenza like virus emanating from Wuhan.  Fair, in terms of Taiwan’s support of “civic technologists” who ensured that mask rationing was done in a fair and equitable way.  And while there is nothing funny about COVID-19, Taiwan has done an outstanding job of using a “humor over rumor” approach to communicate transparently with the public, creating viral memes like Zongchai (總柴) the Shibu Inu to make sure that correct information from health authorities is spread faster than fake information.

What most distinguishes Taiwan from so many other parts of the world is how it openly encourages its democracy as a conversation between diverse values.  Rejecting the notion of a binary choice between human rights and security, the Taiwan model should be shared with the world.  Despite being unfairly excluded from international bodies dedicated to global problem solving, Taiwan has nonetheless committed itself to being a force for good and contributing its expertise to the international community.  Through this Hackathon, Taiwan is once again reminding the world that technological advancement is about more than business and economic opportunities.

We often describe our partnership with the phrase “Real Friends, Real Progress” (真朋友,真進展) and our mutual support of the Presidential Hackathon perfectly illustrates this idea.

In closing, I would like to congratulate the winners, and also congratulate Taiwan for fostering an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit through this exciting Presidential Hackathon.  We look forward to celebrating the success of many more in the future.

Thank you.