Note for the BBC World Service Interview

Had quick interview with BBC World Service (radio) via London this Friday – it was succinct and nice. My short note (not actual interview content) here is more extensive (but not exhaustive) for anyone who’re studying or interested in understanding whether the whole “digital measure” “geofencing” is working or not. Further research is dearly required to claim that the “Taiwanese Model” or “Digital Measure” has been contributing to the success of containment.

Why Taiwan has succeeded in first phase of virus containment?  

  • Act early with strong political determination
  • You are basically on your own. Isolation helps in this regard, and you have to exhaust all possible means you’ve learned
  • Learning from SARS experience (playbook in existence)
  • 30 days of critical medical resource in reserve at major hospitals
  • Extensive screening of travelers coming from the epicenter of outbreak since week one (as early of first week of January)

Mobilization of society?

The region is natural disaster-prone and social mobilization not a new idea or doctrine. This is lesser known or aware of. We’ve all been mobilized sometime in the past.

What about digital measures?

A mixture of digital tracking means have been used on:

And unknown machine learning methods to identify high-risk clusters has been implemented.

Who have been targeted by digital measures?

  • Objectives: (a) ahead of the curve (b) enhancing situational awareness (c) supporting epidemic survey
  • Four groups of people are targeted using extensive, large-scale, intrusive (or non-intrusive) means of digital measures
  • Infectants (300+ ppl)
  • Home Inspection (6,000+ ppl)
  • Home Quarantine (50,000+ ppl)
  • And those having possible physical contact with aforementioned three groups (using cell tower data, private call log, travel histories).

The data is integrated in epidemic survey system(s). Number of people been surveyed or tracked is unknown for the last group of people.

In the Spring Break Holiday (April 2-5), we’re also seeing the government sending out “Presidential Alerts” (via cell broadcast) to selected geographical regions where tourists are gathering and staying, and police forces have been dispatched to alerted sites right away to take care of the situation. It is possible that the government has human mobility monitoring systems in action, as supported by major telco operators, CECC (Central Epidemic Control Center), and cbe.tw.

The problems (and cost) as you see it?

  • Local governments are experimenting “novel ways” to enforce very strict (but may not be necessary) rules and fine the shit out of violators with thin or zero legal basis (a) violation of geofencing (b) violation of improper disposes of masks (c) violation of not wearing masks when using public transportation. Based on report from various media, very high false-positive ratio is widely observed and reported by the police stations which need to dispatch officers to check if alarm has been issued
  • Linking and even merging of critical databases (big no-no…) with questionable legal basis (grey area)
  • Indefinite retention of all the datasets and IT systems
  • Application retirements policy (sunsetting of systems) unknown
  • Taiwan is one of the most targeted countries in terms of cyber attacks on critical and civilian IT systems, and the government does not have a reputable record of protecting these systems and data

I hope it’s not moving into the direction of digital “TTW” despite having early resolution, strong public health sector investment and swift actions before April that made Taiwan a spotlight of attention up till now.

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