Queer Tech History / Audrey Tang

Anna R.
June 7, 2024

Taiwan is perhaps one of the most proactive countries in utilizing technology for democracy, and Audrey Tang has been at the forefront of these changes. Tang is a prominent software programmer, having gotten her start as an activist hacker, moving on to work prominently in the free software movement, and later working for the Taiwanese government. In October 2016, Audrey Tang was appointed as Taiwan's Digital Minister, becoming the youngest person, as well as the first transgender and nonbinary person, to hold a high-ranking cabinet position in the country's history. Since then, Tang has developed media literacy curricula for Taiwanese schools and has been an outspoken conservative anarchist. She ultimately desires the abolition of Taiwan and all states, justifying her work for the state by the opportunity it affords to promote worthwhile ends. Recently, Tang has been traveling across the world, promoting the ideas and lessons she has about democracy and technology and promoting her book, "Plurality," which she co-authored with E. Glen Weyl, an economist at Microsoft.


Tang was born on April 18, 1981, in Taipei, Taiwan. Before turning five, she was already reading classical literature. By six, she had advanced knowledge of mathematics, and she began programming before the age of eight. At twelve, Tang started learning Perl. She spent part of her childhood in Germany. At fourteen, she dropped out of school, finding it difficult to adapt to the traditional education system. By 2000, at just nineteen years old, Tang had already worked for several software companies and established herself as an entrepreneur in California's Silicon Valley.

Source: Photography by An Rong Xu for Rest of World

In 2005, she joined the Perl Foundation, contributing to several high-profile projects and gaining a reputation as a leading developer in the open-source community. Upon returning to Taiwan around 2014, she became involved in the Sunflower Student Movement, which protested a controversial trade agreement with China. She helped coordinate the movement's online communication and public engagement efforts. "Democracy needs me," Tang wrote to her colleagues at the California-based software company Socialtext before leaving to support the protesters for the duration of their 24-day occupation by helping them to peacefully broadcast their message.
Around this time, Tang was, and continues to be, an active member of g0v (pronounced "gov-zero"), an online community dedicated to promoting government transparency. The community still hosts regular hackathons, most notably creating accessible versions of official government websites.

In October 2016, Audrey Tang was appointed as Taiwan's Digital Minister, becoming the youngest person to hold a cabinet position in the country's history. In this role, she has been instrumental in driving Taiwan's digital transformation, promoting transparency, and enhancing public participation in government processes. Tang advocates for open data and collaborative governance, leveraging her tech expertise to create platforms that facilitate citizen engagement and government accountability. One of her more notable actions was working to build media literacy for children in Taiwan's schools, which was implemented in 2017.

More recently, Tang has been working across the globe to help educate others about democracy and technology. In 2023, she was named one of the most influential people in AI. Other prolific initiatives of hers have included the vTaiwan platform, which uses online tools to gather public input on policy issues, and the Presidential Hackathon, an event that brings together citizens and government officials to develop innovative solutions to societal challenges. Throughout her career, leadership, and educational efforts, Tang has approached every moment with compassion in the name of collaboration. Her impact on creating a more accessible and democratic tech community is unmatched.

References & Readings: 

Audrey Tang: Taiwan’s First Minister of Digital Affairs
Audrey Tang, Minister of Digital Affairs, Taiwan, Time 100

Taiwan’s Digital Minister Has an Ambitious Plan to Align Tech With Democracy

How Taiwan’s elections challenge the power of China’s Communist Party