Govt should alter its mentality in Internet age: Taiwan premier

Premier Mao Chi-kuo referred to statistics released by the Ministry of Labor this year, which showed that the nation's workforce would shrink by 180,000 people per year due to the aging society.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Premier Mao Chi-kuo yesterday said government officials must change their mentality to improve communication with netizens.

Mao made the call at the start of a workshop arranged for Cabinet members to better understand the development of the Internet, as well as the workings of social media and its users.

"We need not only change our brains (the way we think), we really need to change our mentality," Mao told the attending members of the Cabinet, which was reshuffled last month shortly after the ruling Kuomintang suffered a humiliating defeat in local elections.

Netizens showed overwhelming support for the opposition camp in the elections, and critics, as well as the KMT, blamed the defeat - at least partially - on the ruling party's failure to adapt to the age of the Internet.

Mao said the focus of the workshop was meant to help the government handle open data, which is more than a technology and requires a change of mentality.

He said the government also needs to understand the opinions expressed through the Internet and how they can be properly turned into useful information.

The government should also explore the possibilities of cooperating with netizens whose expertise can be used to serve the general public, the premier said.

He said government bodies must be ready to provide timely and transparent information to the public, allowing ordinary people and netizens to know exactly what the government is doing.

Speakers at the workshop included Google Taiwan President Chien Li-feng and two experts who managed Internet affairs for the election campaign of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je last year.

In response to some legislators' skepticism about the effectiveness of such a workshop, acting culture minister Hung Meng-chi said the Internet is a "new trend" that the government must understand.

Almost all Cabinet members participated in the workshop.