The Role of Digital Power in Estonia and Taiwan in Combating COVID-19

18 Aug 2020

(Weatherhead East Asian Institute) Taiwan and Estonia are known as digital democracies. As both face threats from neighbors, their degree of digitization typically has been seen as a vulnerability. The DNS attack from Russia that Estonia faced in 2007 brought home the potential for cyberspace to be used as a domain of war. Similarly Taiwan has faced repeated cyberthreats from the People's Republic of China. Nonetheless, in their successful 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 strongarm tactics of authoritarian states. In this article we reexamine the digital vulnerability of democracies and put forward a conception of digital power to explain the success of Estonia and Taiwan in using their digital prowess to combat COVID-19. On the one hand their reliance on cybertechnology make them particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks, but on the other hand their digital power enhances their global stature and domestic capacity to address threats like COVID-19.

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Andrey Makarychev, Visiting Professor, Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies, University of Tartu, Estonia

Elizabeth Wishnick, Professor of Political Science, Montclair State University

Moderated by Andrew Nathan, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science, Columbia University