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Taiwan appoints transgender software prodigy to take charge of digital policies

Taiwan appoints transgender software prodigy to take charge of digital policies

Audrey Tang

A software engineer and ‘civic hacker’, Audrey Tang, has been appointed to the position of head of digital policies for the Taiwanese government.

Aged just 35, she is also the youngest official in Taiwan’s executive government (known as the yuan).

Tang learned coding aged 12, dropped out of school at 14 but had launched her first search engine for Mandarin lyrics by the time she was 15. She subsequently worked as a technology entrepreneur.

She began the process of gender transition in her early 20s.

She has previously described herself as a ‘conservative anarchist’ and was involved with the Sunflower protest movement that came to a head in early 2014.

As part of the protest, students occupied Taiwanese legislature buildings. Tang created an online video and text live stream inside and outside the occupied building.

She has been an strong advocate for government transparency. A ‘civic hacker’ is defined by Wiktionary as someone who works ‘with others to create, build, and invent open source solutions using publicly-released data, code and technology to solve social, economic, and environmental challenges.’

Tang has most recently been working under contract with Apple and will take up her new position on 1 October.

She confirmed the appointment yesterday via a posting on her Facebook.

‘After entering the Executive Yuan, I expect myself to be a ‘civil servant of civil servants’, that I will help the civil service to solve problems using digital technology and systems, to strengthen the communication and cooperation between government departments and civil technology communities.

‘My role is not to be ‘someone inside’ for some communities, or for promoting policies on the internet, but to be a channel for more wisdom and abilities to combine.’

Quartz reports that Tang will be involved with making the government more transparent and to help develop Taiwan’s own equivalent of Silicon Valley.

She has subsequently launched a page to answer questions about her appointment and new role.