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There was striking evidence that Open Source can lead to Open Society at the first day of OS//OS at Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre on Monday August 22.

One of the keynote speakers, Audrey Tang from Taiwan, outlined how a quiet (and unheralded, at least in New Zealand) revolution has completely changed how democracy is practiced in the 23 million people nation sitting off China's coast.

It started with a parliamentary sit-in in 2014 – aided and abetted by Taiwan's digital wizards as informal representatives debated how to use internet tools to ensure that all voices are heard before any new legislation is put in place.

Eventually parliamentarians agreed that what was proposed by the 'Sunflower Movement' was valid.

Now, the feelings and opinions of many different people (and animals and the environment) are considered. The role of parliament is to enact this debate outcome through legislation.

Audrey gave an example of a furore that arose as Uber looked to set up shop in Taiwan. As in many other countries around the world, taxi drivers and others were most upset at the proposal.

But, unlike other countries its citizens put in place what is known as a 'focused conversation method'. The pros and cons, and feelings of all the parties received an airing.

Debating all the options

When Uber, the taxi drivers and government got together after this; it only took two hours for a compromise - satisfactory to all - to be nutted out.

Now Taiwan, having been effectively a dictatorship in its first 40 years after the Second World War, may be giving the proverbial fingers to the nearby Chinese power autocracy.

Even so, the lessons that Audrey made, that are possible through the application of digital tools to democracy, felt right at home among this particular audience.

Some of these points included:

  • Democracy is not just voting.

  • There has to be open debate.

  • A forum is required that can produce timely answers, and allow face to face conversations.

  • Democracy has to be a dialogue between people of many different values.

  • Pragmatic democracy lets its people take care of each other. That is done by listening to each other.

It was, for me, a practical and uplifting example of open at work.

I obviously wasn't the only one who thought so too. Audrey received the longest, loudest ovation from the audience – indeed many did it standing!

(There's completely different written material from Peter Kerr at:)

  1. Punchline - Messages that Matter (specialising in business's first, most important message [tagline]

  2. What I Wish My Dad Told Me - advice and bits of accumulated wisdom


Open Source at work, Open Society working in Taiwan

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