Anti-Pandemic Policies in Estonia and Taiwan: Digital Power, Sovereignty and Biopolitics

Andrey Makarychev, Elizabeth Wishnick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Taiwan and Estonia are known as digital democracies facing threats from neighbors exploiting the vulnerabilities stemming from their degree of digitalization. Nevertheless, in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan and Estonia have highlighted the strengths of digital democracy in combating a non-traditional security threat without employing the strong-arm tactics of authoritarian states. The goal of the article is to distinguish between vulnerability in cyberspace and digital power and put forward a conception of digital power to explain how Estonia and Taiwan were using their digital prowess to combat COVID-19. We argue that on one hand, their reliance on cybertechnology makes them particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks, but on the other their digital power enhances their global stature and domestic capacity to address threats such as COVID-19. The article starts by engaging with the ongoing academic debate on the concept of digital power and its political core. In the next section we adapt this concept to the policy practices of digital governance in Estonia and Taiwan. Lastly, we look more specifically at how investments in the IT sphere and e-governance were helpful for the two countries during the initial stage of the COVID-19 crisis. In conclusion, we highlight the paradox of two democracies choosing to extend the reach of the state into society through the use of digital tools to combat COVID-19. We further note that the pandemic provides a new biopolitical understanding of vulnerability and power in the digital realm.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112
JournalSocial Sciences
Volume11
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Biopower
  • COVID-19
  • Cyber
  • Democracy
  • Digital
  • Governmentality
  • Pandemic
  • Responsibilization

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