Covid-19 Without a Lockdown: Digital Tools Used in Taiwan for Coronavirus Prevention & Monitoring

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Who: Lulu Keng, Open Culture Foundation

Date: Tuesday, May 12

What: Taiwan does not have lock-down, and all businesses and schools remain open, while still having a very low number of COVID-19 cases - 429 cases since January. Join us and find out what methods and approaches they have taken to be a stellar example of innovation and safety. Learn about: The various digital measures the government has used to set up a tight net to control the epidemic.What specific tools were used. How they have targeted people not respecting social distancing via SMS, and triggered a larger discussion about surveillance. The discussion will be led by Lulu Keng, executive secretary of the Open Culture Foundation (OCF), a community based foundation in Taiwan which aims to promote open-source environment, internet freedom, open data, and open government.

Slidedeck (PDF on Cryptpad):

>> Check notes out notes from other sessions here



  • Taiwan is an independent country, it is not part of China. It is not a UN member. However, because of politics, many times Taiwan is not shown in maps, including recent COVID19 maps.
  • As of May 12, 2020 there has been 440 confirmed COVID19 cases in Taiwan and only 7 deaths. This is very low compared to other countries.
  • Taiwan did not have a lockdown - business and schools have stayed open.
  • Taiwan had heavy lessons from SARS in 2003. Many people got infected and many people died. It really traumatized people. So they have been very concerned about epidemics for a while. This is why the government was already setup to deal with COVID19 People have been wearing masks even before it was required. Government has tons of experts and epidemiologist
  • Taiwan government began aware of COVID19 on December 31 and since then has been reacting in a timely manner.
  • On December 31, 2019 a Taiwan Netizen posted about COVID in Taiwan’s reddit (PTT). Luckily that same day, a Taiwan CDC officer saw the PTT post, and immediately shared it with colleagues. On that same day Taiwan CDC emailed China and WHO asked about the COVID mentioned in the post. They also had a press conference and announced the border control - that all flights from Wuhan City had to be checked.
  • Jan 12 Taiwan sent two epidemiologists to Wuhan.
  • Jan 20 Taiwan established the Central Epidemic Command Center.
  • Jan 21 The first case in Taiwan, and the individual had been in Wuhan.
  • Taiwan banned cruise ships from calling at ports n since Feb.6.
  • Part of Taiwan's strategy was to immediately start checking if people had any symptoms at the airport. If yes, they were sent to an isolation room in a hospital. If no, they had to go home for 14 day quarantine, and were given a test on the last day of their quarantine. Also, to get home people could not use public transportation. They either are picked up by family or take a certified protection taxi.
  • When passengers arrive at Taiwan airport they were put into a an e-system at the airport. Theey did this using a QR code and then filling out a form. That system includes management of dataset and collaboration of different government departments, who used it to checkin on the heath condition of people in quarantine in timely manner and provide help to them as well.
  • The government also created an electronic fence for people using the help of telecom companies. If you are outside of your quarantine area, you will get a warning message. If your phone is turned off, you will get a door visit to your house.
  • They government also created maps of hot spots to send to citizens. And also sent warnings via text to people who may be have been near the hot spot areas. However ,they didn’t have people’s name or phone numbers, they basically told the telecom companies to send text messages to folks that were in a specific area during a specific time.
  • Government did face mask rationing, this includes controlling storage and selling of masks. Only people that have a NHI dataset can purchase masks. (People got 2 masks every 7 days.) All selling data are real-time updated and three is open API. Hackers created an app so people can see what pharmacies have masks. This FLOSS app was adopted by Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong. You can read more of the app here: The government was able to also build 92 extra mask production lines in 1.5 months.
  • They also link you reinsurance to personal immigration data, so doctors can see if you have travelled recently.
  • Taiwan is focusing on building a massive system that links so many databases together. This is scary.Their national health card it becomes a super card because of the amount of data attached to it. No proper regulation has been formed to regulate the use of data.

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