Going Digital: Taiwan Experiences


Chao-Chen Chen

Professor, Graduate Institute of Library and Information Science

National Taiwan Normal University, and

Co-Principal Investigator of Applications Service

National Digital Archives Program





ABSTRACT: Taiwan has been undergoing an e-Revolution as unprecedented technological advancements in various fronts have taken the nation by storm. Sophistication upgrades in mobile technology, for instance, have transformed everyday life of Taiwanese people. In an attempt to make appropriate responses to this e-trend, Taiwan Government launched e-Taiwan and m-Taiwan Projects. Implementation of these projects aims to enhance Taiwan¡¦s overall competitiveness and economic advantages in its international trades worldwide. Of the nationwide programs included in the e-Taiwan Project, two of them bear critical significance in library and information science: National Digital Archives Program (NDAP) and National Science & Technology e-Learning Program (ELNP). These two programs are projected to lead Taiwan to the cutting edge in digital content creation and applications. This article is to describe e-Taiwan and m-Taiwan Projects, including NDAP and ELNP, to share experiences we have learned from their implementations so far, and to delineate the impacts on Taiwan libraries these e-programs have apparently brought about.


KEYWORDS: e-Taiwan project, m-Taiwan project, National Digital Archives Project (NDAP), National Science and Technology Program for e-Learning (ELNP), digital plans, digital experiences, digital libraries


1. Introduction


Over the years, research and development of information technology in Taiwan has advanced Taiwan to be the fourth largest information hardware manufacturing country in the world. Moreover, rapid increase in Internet usage effects changes not only in information and telecommunication industries but also consumers¡¦ demands and marketing management models. These inter-related factors, in turn, spur the creation of the digital content essential to the e- and the m-Revolution in Taiwan. In an attempt to make appropriate responses to this e-trend, Taiwan Government launched the e-Taiwan and the m-Taiwan Projects. Implementation of these projects aims to enhance Taiwan¡¦s overall competitiveness and economic advantages in its international trades worldwide. Under the e-Taiwan Project, there are several programs, two of which are of nationwide importance: the National Digital Archives Program (NDAP) and the National Science & Technology e-Learning Program (ELNP). These programs are launched to help advance Taiwan to the vanguard in digital content creation and applications.


What follows includes an introduction to the significance of these landmark projects and programs as well as a sharing of experiences we have gained and challenges we have yet to face.


2. Epoch-Making e-Plans in Taiwan


2.1. e-Taiwan Project


To meet with the challenges we face in the digital world, the Taiwan Government has, in recent years, actively promoted digitization through a number of initiatives to improve the nation's IT proficiency and the competitiveness of domestic IT industries. In May 2002, the National Information and Communication Initiative Committee (NICI) and other governmental agencies worked together to launch the e-Taiwan Project as a part of the Challenge 2008 Plan. The focus of the e-Taiwan Project is to design and implement programs for the development of the nation's information and communications infrastructure and applications.(FIND, 2004)


The e-Taiwan Project will bring benefits to economic development, infrastructure framework and government services. The Taiwan Government has planned to invest in this project a total of NTD30 billion in 6 years. The enterprises thus created are expected, in return, to generate a revenue of about NTD100 billion and offer more than 20,000 job opportunities. Moreover, it is predicted that the number of Internet users will reach 50% of the total population and the broadband subscribers 35% by 2007. In terms of government services, it will bring 600 major government services online and expedite document sharing efficiency.(e-Taiwan Project Office, 2005)


The vision of e-Taiwan is diagramed as follows: (e-Taiwan Project Office, 2005)


Fig-1: The vision of e-Taiwan

Source: NICI (2005). The vision of e-Taiwan. Retrieved April 27, 2005 from http://www.etaiwan.nat.gov.tw/content/application/etaiwan/vision/index.php


There are 59 subprojects in the e-Taiwan Project and they are classified into 5 major categories: (e-Taiwan Project Office, 2005)


Ø    e-Infrastructure subprojects. They serve as the pillar in promoting information and communication infrastructure development as well as network security. The objective is to establish a comprehensive network of wired, wireless, mobile and fixed broadband Internet networks.


Ø    e-Society subprojects. They promote online education, entertainment, culture, health care, and transportation services. These initiatives will improve the quality of services available to the public.


Ø    e-Industry subprojects. They serve as the pillar to promote industry digitization, facilitating Taiwan's transition into a high value-added manufacturing and service center. They strive to strengthen our supply chain and management system logistics and expand our international sale channels and venues.


Ø    e-Government subprojects. They stimulate an on-going implementation of innovative government services including integrated ¡§single-window¡¨ government services, G2B2C electronic transaction systems, and online public services.


Ø    e-Opportunity subprojects. They aim to maximize the usage of limited resources to expand digital opportunities and improve access in remote regions of Taiwan, in underprivileged and disadvantaged groups, and downstream industries. The long-term goal is to share our digitization experiences with other countries so that international digital divide can be effectively bridged.


2.2. m-Taiwan Project


The third IT revolution has configured personal computers, Internet and mobile communications into a "Ubiquitous Network". By utilizing this network, the government, entrepreneurs and end-users are able to get needed information by any device, at anytime, in anywhere, with more efficient, more convenient, and better quality. With the advantages of world no.1 production value of WLAN products and mobile phone penetration rate, the Taiwan Government has devoted itself to sharpen our mobile-competitiveness. The National Information and Communication Initiative (NICI) Committee of the Executive Yuan (Cabinet), the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) coordinated to propose the "m-Taiwan Project" with a budget of NTD37 billion dollars in five years. The "m-Taiwan Project" is expected to beef up the wireless networks, integrate mobile phone networks, setup the optical-fiber backbones, and execute the Integrated Beyond 3rd Generation (iB3G) Double Network Integration Plan. This project has its purpose to shift Taiwan from an "e-nation" to an "m-nation", to realize the Taiwan vision of "Mobile Taiwan, Unlimited Applications, and Brave New Mobile World".


The vision of the m-Taiwan Project is as follows: (m-Taiwan, 2005)


Fig-2: The vision of m-Taiwan

Source: NICI (2005). The vision of m-Taiwan. Retrieved April 28 from


The m-Taiwan Project is expected to achieve the following objectives: (FIND, 2005)


Ø    To construct a barrier-less online environment, to improve Taiwan's ranking of mobile Internet penetration rate from the 20th to the 5th in the world.

Ø    To upgrade Taiwan to the top 10 countries with the lowest online access fee in the world. The Internet access fee in Taiwan is expected to decrease by 30%-80%.

Ø    To promote the communications industry to another "trillion dollar" industry (in addition to communication manufacturing and communication service industries) in Taiwan.

Ø    To aggregate the efforts of the cell-phone manufacturers, content providers, and telecom companies in order to develop the broadband & wireless infrastructure.

Ø    To improve the deployment of broadband & wireless infrastructure and availability of e-government services in remote areas so as to narrow the digital divide.


The m-Taiwan Project attempts to realize the vision of ¡§m-Taiwan, Unlimited Application, and Brave New Mobile World¡¨. m-Taiwan will bridge the digital divide and let everyone use information communication technologies anytime and anywhere. It will also transform Taiwan from an e-country to a m-country.(m-Taiwan, 2005) This project has three core aspects as follows:


a)      m-Life

      m-Life has 4 major sub-projects: m-Social Well-Being, m-Communities, m-Entertainment, and m-Health Care. It hopes to bring to the Taiwanese people a comprehensive well-being and construct a quality living environment.


b)      m-Services

      m-Services aims to complete the basic infrastructure in the Taiwan Government and bring convenient mobile services to everyone. A 6,000 km broadband channel will be built in urban communities/centers in every corner of Taiwan and fiber optic connections will be provided for residential areas.


c)      m-Learning

      m-Learning begins at school and plans to overcome the limitations of space, thus creating a new wave of lifelong e-Learning.


2.3. National Science and Technology Program for e-Learning (ELNP)


Included in the e-Taiwan Project are two important national-scale programs: 1) National Science and Technology Program for e-Learning (ELNP); and 2) National Digital Archives Program (NDAP). What distinguishes plans on the national scale such as these is that their proposed expenses are guaranteed. In other words, their budgets have been passed in the legislations. We will introduce these two programs in this section and the next.


On January 15, 2002, the National Science Council of the Executive Yuan approved a resolution on the ¡§National Science and Technology Program for e-Learning,¡¨ planning to spend USD120 million within a 5-year period for this program. In 2002, the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPC) drafted a 6-year national development plan ¡§Challenge 2008¡¨ and listed the national e-Learning program as the first key initiative under the ¡§E-Life¡¨ category of the ¡§e-Taiwan¡¨ Project. Its specific emphasis is to build a high quality e-Learning environment, making Taiwan one of the leaders in e-Learning technologies. This is an integral part of the national efforts to lead Taiwan into a knowledge-based economy.


The program architecture has three main apexes (Fig- 3): (NSC, 2003)


Ø      To upgrade Taiwan¡¦s overall competitiveness in the era of knowledge economy.

Ø      To stimulate the development of industries related to e-Learning.

Ø      To bring about new waves in academic research.


Fig-3 ELNP architecture

Source: e-Learning National Project in Taiwan, Division Head

Planning & Evaluation Div., National Science Council, 2003



According to the architecture, ELNP has 7 major projects.


1)      e-Learning for Everyone:

This project transforms established centers and institutions such as libraries, schools, and training centers for job skills, Internet cafés and citizen clubs into e-Learning classrooms. Moreover, in order to develop e-Learning activities, these classrooms use resources including a combination of existing content platforms such as education resources, teaching materials for career training, test databases, health education materials, military training materials and so on. Through diverse e-Learning classrooms, we can promote lifelong e-Learning to target groups.(ELNP, 2005)


2)      Narrowing Digital Divide

Digital divide is the gap between those who can use computers and Internet technologies and those who cannot. Digital divide can be demonstrated by poor information access, scarce education, rare job opportunities, low income, etc. The main tasks of this project are: establishing indicators for digital divide, evaluating the current situation of digital divide, analyzing factors that contribute to digital divide, planning for strategies of how to eliminate digital divide, creating integrated resources, and seeking out invisible underprivileged groups in the digital divide.


3)      Mobile Learning Device ¡V Multi-functional e-Schoolbags

This project researches and develops advanced mobile learning devices such as multi-functional e-Schoolbags. These m-Learning devices can help people in learning while surpassing the limits previously imposed by time and location.


4)      Network Science Park for e-Learning

This project wants to create a Network Science Park to integrate all technologies and outcomes developed by the ELNP. This Network Science Park serves as the converging point for services, industries, technologies and experts. This Park supports e-Process industries (technologies, markets, platforms and quality control) and links to physical service centers. It has been estimated that this Park will play an important role in the Chinese e-Learning world.


5)      R&D of advanced e-Learning technology

The advanced e-Learning technology in Taiwan is defined as the technology that is yet to come or the technology that is yet to mature. Such technology will take years to research and develop. This project groups advanced e-Learning technology into four categories: platform, content, software, and certificated standards. Mobile learning device and e-Learning support device are not included in this project; rather, they are part of the Mobile Learning Device project, as these two projects are closely related.


6)      Fundamental research on learning and cognition in e-Learning

This project studies ¡§science, technologies and mathematics¡¨ in the aspects of learning and cognition. It will create a digital literacy database, a digital database with e-Learning/teaching/assessment models, an e-Learning strategy and behavior database, and a database on the mental and physical impacts of e-Learning on children and students. This project strives to develop native e-Learning theories and structures of ¡§science, technologies and mathematics.¡¨


7)      Policy guidance and manpower cultivation

This project aims at the study of planning and developing the environment for e-Learning industry. Moreover, it trains personnel and explores policies relating to e-Learning profession.


2.4. National Digital Archives Program (NDAP)


The ¡§National Digital Archives Program¡¨ (NDAP) was launched on January 1st, 2002 and is sponsored by the National Science Council (NSC). Its objective is to promote and coordinate content digitization and preservation at leading museums, archives, libraries, universities, research institutes, and other content holders in Taiwan. The first phase of this program is a 5-year plan for the period 2002 to 2006. Of the nine National Science and Technology programs presently sponsored by NSC, this is the only one that focuses on both the humanities and social sciences. The budget for each of the first three years is NTD337 million, NTD367 million, and NTD561 million respectively (Approximately USD$9.6, $10.46, and $16 million). It is estimated that the annual growth rate for the projected budget will be approximately 20% or higher in 2005-2006.


The ultimate goals of NDAP are manifold, aiming to help preserve and sustain our culture and civilization. They are:


Ø      To preserve national culture collections;

Ø      To popularize fine cultural holdings;

Ø      To revitalize cultural heritage and cultural development;

Ø      To invigorate cultural, content, and value-added industries;

Ø      To promote knowledge and information sharing;

Ø      To enhance research, education, and life-long learning;

Ø      To improve literacy, creativity, and quality of life;

Ø      To explore collaboration among international communities.


NDAP has archived a large amount of digital content in these 4 years. The subjects covered in the archives include botany, geology, zoology, world maps, astronomical maps, archeology, etc. The core value of digital content is the diverse application of value-added content. Only when the content of digital archives is diversely applied and used can it demonstrate its value to everyone. Fig-4 illustrates a scenario of what we envision to be the derived benefits of the NDAP.


Figure-4 a scenario of derived benefits of NDAP.

Source: NDAP website. http://www.ndap.org.tw/1_intro_en/outcomes.php


For the digital content to be widely used, it is imperative that commercialization be in place to enhance information accessibility and public awareness. In the process of commercialization, licensing becomes an integral part to help ensure that quality and integrity are not compromised in the information shared.


This year, we held ¡§NDAP 2005 Exhibition and Licensing¡¨, a major step taken to further flesh out key-points for Taiwan¡¦s digital content and invigorate the digital market. The goals of ¡§NDAP 2005 Exhibition and Licensing¡¨ are as follows: (NDAP, 2005)


Ø      To commercialize value-added products. NDAP encourages various industries to apply for digital archives.

Ø      To standardize licensing process. NDAP will create a single window on licensing affairs, and speed up the process of commercializing digital archives in their businesses.


The attendees of ¡§NDAP 2005 Exhibition and Licensing¡¨ include archiving institutions (e.g., National Palace Museum, National Museum of History, Academia Sinica, Historica Sinica, National Taiwan University, and National Library of Taiwan), demonstration institutions (e.g., National Science & Technology Museum, National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, National Museum of Prehistory), and industry affiliations. Through this exhibition and licensing, NDAP, Council for Cultural Affairs, academic research institutions, education organizations, value-added industrial enterprises and commercial agencies will combine digitized content to meet with market demands. Taiwan is entering into the phase of application of digital content.(NDAP, 2005)


3. Experiences from Taiwan Digital Programs


Undoubtedly, e-Taiwan and m-Taiwan will elevate Taiwan¡¦s overall competitiveness and accelerate Taiwan toward comprehensive digitalization. With virtually unlimited dynamic applications from e-Taiwan and m-Taiwan, information will reach needed individuals in real time via devices such as cell phones and wireless broad-bands. At the core of e-Taiwan and m-Taiwan lie two critical factors: digital contents and digital applications available to people with diverse needs. Therefore, these digital programs and applications will bring tremendous impact upon institutions, businesses, and related aspects in our society, including the government, schools, libraries, museums, media, entertainment, publishing, and tourism. Because of such impact, Taiwan will be undergoing dramatic changes in its foreseeable future.


In the process of implementing NDAP and ELNP, some of the major results and problems have so far arisen:


3.1. NDAP: Results and Problems


NDAP has yielded the following encouraging results:


Ø      Enhanced academics and businesses in their capability to process large amount of information flow.

Ø      Enriched our otherwise rather poor information on Taiwan.

Ø      Made accessible to the general public materials only available to research scientists in the past.

Ø      Expended cooperation circles among research scientists who would otherwise be rather isolated in their individual labs.

Ø      Speeded up the utilization and usefulness of information via commercialization process.


Beyond dispute, NDAP has yielded some significant results. Yet, we are not to overlook the problems encountered, including the following:


Ø      Due to lack of standards to evaluate the quality and value of information to be considered for digitalization, expenses have been wasted on relatively trivial data. Consequently, information, which is minimal in value, has been wrongly judged and overpriced in licensing and commercialization.

Ø      Because of digitization technology coming largely from USA, we adopted it blindly without taking into consideration our specific perspective and needs, resulting in poor decisions and wasted expenses.

Ø      Copyright presents another critical issue yet to be resolved satisfactorily. The majority of digital archives contain materials which are open to the public with neither copyrights nor downloading rights incurred on them. Consequently, financial benefits expected to be generated from those endeavors have been rather minimal.


3.2. ELNP: Results and Problems

e-Learning has so far effectuated the following impact upon academic, business, and government institutions:


Ø      Training cost overall has been reduced and its effectiveness increased.

Ø      Distant learning has become an effective tool at various levels. Students have additional access to the wealth of information and materials available in an e-Learning environment.


Yet, there exist some problems to be resolved, including the following:


Ø      More business CEOs need to be convinced so that they will have a far-sight vision for e-Learning.

Ø      More school principals are yet to be educated so that they will be more open-minded about developing an e-Learning environment. It is critical that they would not waste their resources by merely duplicating e-Learning materials already existing.

Ø      More schools are to see that more teachers are willing to create and competent in developing e-Learning materials as well as more students take advantage of the e-Learning environment.

Ø      Integration is to be accomplished in e-Learning materials between libraries, government organizations, and businesses. Authorization to access e-Learning materials has to be incorporated as part of quality and integrity control process.


4. Impacts of Digital Waves on Libraries


Libraries apparently constitute a vital part of the infrastructure of an information society. Impacted by digitalization waves, libraries in Taiwan should continue their striving towards the following modernization goals:


Ø      To digitize their special collections so that they can be widely available to the general public;

Ø      To create institutional repository so that publications from colleges, universities, and research institutions can be made available for open access;

Ø      To pool together several libraries to purchase e-books, e-journals, and databases so that they can readily be accessible to the general readership as soon as possible;

Ø      To construct a portal for information services, linking related knowledge bases so that enquiries can be answered with spontaneous responses;

Ø      To construct supporting facilities for e-Learning and to encourage learners to use e-libraries and digital collections.


Internet allows libraries to closely collaborate between/among themselves and with other non-library institutions, as librarians expand their domains and services from library in-house collections to Internet resources and other digital archives. Digitization and modern technologies help libraries to disseminate information, deliver their services, and narrow the gaps easily neglected by commercial information agencies. Digitization and its related enterprises inevitably entail greater social responsibilities. Situated in the cutting edge of this digitization trend, we need to consider responsively what roles librarians are to play and discuss issues about information communication, access and availability.




ELNP (2005), ¡§About ELNP¡¨, National Science and Technology Program for e-Learning. Available at: http://elnpweb.ncu.edu.tw/english/english1.htm (Retrieved: 20050611)


e-Taiwan Project Office (2005), ¡§e-Taiwan Project Introduction¡¨. Available at: http://www.etaiwan.nat.gov.tw/group/application/etaiwan/index.php (Retrieved: 20050610)


FIND (2005/05/05), ¡§e-Taiwan Program was revised in 2004. The Infrastructure, e-Society, e-Industry, e-Government and e-Opportunity plans form the core initiatives of the e-Taiwan Program¡¨. FIND (Focus on Internet News and Data). Available at: http://www.find.org.tw/eng/news.asp?pos=0&subjectid=6&msgid=165 (Retrieved: 20050610)


FIND (2005/01/08), Taiwan Government proposed "M-Taiwan Program" to promote a ubiquitous network and e-services in Taiwan. (2005/1/18). Available at: http://www.find.org.tw/eng/news.asp?pos=0&subjectid=6&msgid=164 (Retrieved: 20050610)


NICI (2005), ¡§The ¡§M-Taiwan Program¡¨ hopes to build Taiwan a ¡§Brave New Mobile World¡¨. It enables people to access multiple ICTs anytime, anywhere - it promises a better m-life. Available at: http://www.nici.nat.gov.tw/content/application/nici/m_intro/index.php?sel=m_intro.htm (Retrieved: 20040610)


National Science Council (2003), ¡§e-Learning National Project in Taiwan¡¨, (PPT file). Planning & Evaluation Div., National Science Council, 2003. Available at: http://france.nsc.gov.tw/france/e-learning921201_summary.ppt (Retrieved: 20050610)


NDAP (2005), National Digital Archives Program. Available at: http://www.ndap.org.tw/ (Retrieved: 20050610)


Witten, I.H. (2004). ¡§Digital Libraries: Developing Countries, Universal Access, and Information for All¡¨. In Chen, Z., et al. (Eds.), Digital Libraries: International Collaboration and Cross-Fertilization. Berlin: Springer. pp.35-44.

Originally presented at the American Library Association International Relations Committee 2005 Program on June 27 in Chicago.
Submitted to CLIEJ on 11 July 2005.
Copyright © 2005 Chao-Chen Chen

Chen, Chao-Chen. (2005). "Going Digital: Taiwan Experiences," Chinese Librarianship: an International Electronic Journal, no.20 (December 1, 2005). URL: http://www.iclc.us/cliej/cl20joyce.htm