An investor probing the world for information on places to park money would probably inquire first with Western governments with a long-standing reputation for open records. But this year shoppers for information on data such as government spending, election results, procurement or air pollution should proceed first to Taiwan. The island in Asia suddenly ranked first in a field of 122 on British advocacy group Open Knowledge International’s “open data” index. It jumped from No. 11 last year and 36 the year before to displace former titleholder the United Kingdom. How did this happen?
Last year officials found new impetus to offer more info as tens of thousands of protesters occupied parliament and the streets around it. Demonstrators under the Sunflower Movement banner wanted more details on Taiwan’s fast-growing economic ties with China, a political rival of nearly 70 years, to ensure their side was safe from any takeover bid by Beijing. (China ranked No. 93 on the index with 18% of its data open, compared to Taiwan’s 78%, up from 67% last year.) “Taiwan has, of course, faced internal pressure to be more transparent in a number of ways including cross-Strait dealings,” says Alan Romberg, East Asia Program director with Washington think tank the Stimson Center.