title: Disfactory's English article on CommonWealth Magazine
tags: Disfactory, 農地違章工廠
Disfactory's English article on CommonWealth Magazine
Invitation from CommonWealth
tracked in this GitHub issue:
可以參考 ael 之前申請 TICTeC 的介紹
length: 500-800 words
topic suggestions: latest projects by the Taiwan g0v community, how Taiwan can expand its role in international participation through civic tech engagements. open to discussion
form: single author or collaboration
授權 / License
CC BY 4.0 International by g0v contributors
## Target audience
- English speaking world
- Business magazine readers
- Not familiar with advocacy nor civic tech
## Title Brainstorming
Disfactory – save the farmlands by open source technology and crowdsourcing
> [name=ael] This is why we really need a good editor to help on the title lol
- Dissatisfactory with Illegal Factory Giving Rise to Disfactory
- How to combat government incompetence with open-source crowdsourcing project?
- With Disfactory, Nobody turn Everybody into Farmland Guardian
> [name=ael] I relly like this one, but we don't mention the Nobody culture.
- To combat government incompetence with open-source crowdsourcing project
Authors: ael, deeper
Contributors: SL, bdon, caleb
> [color=#5fb0d8] The article is locked for further copy editing. Please leave commments if you want to change anything :)
==[This is the cover photo]==
> A farmer with her crops surrounded by illegal factory in Taichung. Photo Credit: Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan.
> [name=deeper] I will put photo of one illegal factory on the farmland
Imagine you are a farmer in Taiwan. There is a factory down the road emitting loud noises and an acrid smell. You have already gone to the Department of Environmental Protection to file a complaint, but only got cold, bureaucratic responses. Also, the factory's owner is your uncle's friend in a local gang, so you're worried about the repercussions for reporting their factory. You search on Google: “Is it possible to anonymously report polluting factories?” Google suggests that you go to a website called [Disfactory](https://disfactory.tw), where you only need to upload a photo with a location pin to report an illegal factory on farmlands without revealing your identity. Once you report, the hosting non-profit organization, "[Citizens of Earth, Taiwan](https://www.cet-taiwan.org/)" (CET), will file the report and follow up with all the necessary paperwork.
> [name=caleb] I made some changes above, I think it tracks this?
> [name=ael] @caleb Thank you so much!
> [name=ael] we can add a diagram or several screenshots here to show the 3 step reporting process
> 3 steps reporting process of illegal disfactories on Disfactory
> [name=ael] add Disfactory on the photo
That is how you create a new pin on the map. In the past 13 months, there have been 812 cases reported by citizens on Disfactory, a crowdsourcing platform for reporting illegal factories on farmlands in Taiwan. The platform is co-developed by [g0v](https://g0v.asia/) (pronounced as “gov-zero”), a civic tech community, and [CET](https://www.cet-taiwan.org/), an environmental advocacy NPO (non-profit organization).
On average, Taiwan is losing 1500 hectares of farmland through illegal usage per year, with illegal factories accounting for the greatest usage, according to an [investigation](https://map.coa.gov.tw/farmland/survey.html) by the Council of Agriculture (COA).
> [name=ael] @deeper I want to double check with you on the unit. It is 1500 ares（公畝） or acres（英畝）?
> [name=alicia]according to an investigation by the Council of Agriculture (COA). —> do u have the link of COA’s investigation?
> [name=caleb] next sentence is a bit confusing: What is "the environment of food production?" I'd expect to see "have been polluting the environment, affecting food prodcution and adjacent residences" but I'm not sure if that's the intent
These factories have been polluting the environment of food production and adjacent residence. For instance, the waste water emitted by one electroplating factory will cost the farmlands nearby at least 3 years fallow and expensive remediation to remove the heavy metals absorbed in the soil.
Statistics of national pollution site
As of the end of 2018, municipalitieshad investigated and concluded the regulatory listing of a total of 7,253 farmland Control Sites (around 1,138.5 hectares)
9,335,853 square meters of polluted farmland Control Sites in 2020
They also present a tremendous fire hazard since they lack sufficient fire hydrants and constructed mainly by iron sheets that collapse easily. In the past 5 years, 8 firefighters were killed when battling the fire in illegal buildings on the farmlands.
> [name=caleb] interesting, why focus on firefighters specifically? Have there been instances of firefighters being killed by fires in illegal factories? I'd expect to see somethin glike "They also present a tremendous fire hazard, since they lack..." (this is something I feel very passionate about btw... fire safety!)
However, the Taiwanese government has been reluctant to inspect and punish these land-use violations.
> [name=SL] Intro of the issue
In 2016, the Taiwanese government passed a law, promising to take down illegal factories that are built on farmlands if the factories are being reported. However, there are a few challenges: 1. 2. 3.
> [name=caleb] My attempt:
> 1. There is not enough resources available for the government to track down all illegal factories on its own.
> 2. Crowd-sourced citizen reporting is a good way to fill the resource gap by an understaffed government agency, however, the reporting process is tedious and difficult to navigate, especially for people with low tech literacy.
> 3. The illegal nature of factories means that citizens are afraid of repercussions by criminals for reporting illegal factories.
> [name=deeper] Thanks, I'll use them!
> Photo of a factory on fire in Puxing, Changhua. In this case, there was no fire hydrants within 1 kilometer radius. Photo Credit: National Association for Firefighters' Rights.
>[name=ael] Common Wealth Magazine featured illegal factories on farmlands as the cover story in 2016. Probably we can refer to it or use some of the materials.
> [name=caleb] re-added the full name with link and parentheses since it's been several paragraphs since CET was first introduced. Also, more linking to the website in organic locations = better SEO (search engine optimization) for CET
> [name=caleb] also oxford comma
> [name=caleb] what is meant by "legitimacY" in the following paragraph? You can "endanger" farmland in terms of public safety, but i'm not sure how you can endanger farmland in terms of legitimacy, well, in this case it's weird, but it sounds kinda strange to me. Like, a President could endanger his legitimate rule through his office by committing treason... legitimacy doesn't really go hand in hand with concepts around farmland for me
"[Citizens of Earth, Taiwan](https://www.cet-taiwan.org/)" (CET), an environmentalist group established in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in 2007, has been advocating for sustainable forestry, transition of petrochemical and mining industries, energy transition, and farmland preservation for more than a decade. Since illegal factories endanger the farmland the most in terms of pollution, public safety and equity, it is the primary concern in CET's farmland preservation campaign.
In 2019, [Factory Management Act](https://law.moj.gov.tw/ENG/LawClass/LawAll.aspx?pcode=J0030043) amendment mandated local governments' urgent action against unregistered factories constructed after 2016, such as suspending their electrical or water service, or even demolishing them outright. The abruptly added Article 28-1 was a concession to the environmentalists in balance to pardoning most of the existing illegal factories.
> The new article added in Factory Management Act in 2019. Screenshot from https://law.moj.gov.tw/ENG/LawClass/LawAll.aspx?pcode=J0030043 on April 30th, 2021
> [name=caleb] "incompetence" is a pretty heavy accusation to use here, like damn lol. It's basically saying the government is utterly unable to do anything at all. Someone incompetent should be fired :P
> [name=caleb] also "peasant" is a relatively outdated term to use. In the usa we use it only ironically when describing for example the uselessness of direct action when billionaires exist: "sure I voted but what does it matter what a peasant, jbezos and his friends will decide the election"
CET is worried that the law will not be enforced because of the reluctance of local governments and tight relationships among rural communities in Taiwan. First, there are not enough resources available for the government to track down all illegal factories on its own. Second, stopping illegal factory construction may provoke local interest groups' discontent.
CET believes that only massive reports from the citizens and disclosure of overall inspecting progress that can hold the government accountable. However, the official reporting process is frustrating and requesting personal ID, which puts reporters at risks.
> [name=ael] "dense relationships", do you mean "nepotist society"?
> [name=caleb] oh wow i didn't even think of that, so it's talking more about straight up corruption?
To mobilize reporting by citizens at scale, one CET staff member went to a g0v hackathon in 2019 in hopes of building something better than a confusing Google Form. With no prior knowledge of digital product development, there they found professionals in design, web development, geographic information system (GIS), and product management to join the project for the cause.
It was like building a team with various talents in the movie Ocean's Eleven except that no one gets paid and that everything is default open. Every meeting memo, every code ever written and every datapoint without personal information is open under open-source licenses. The online workspace such as Slack (an instant-message communication program) and weekly meetups are also open for anyone to participate in any forms.
> [name=caleb] eeeyyiiiiiike i feelik the oceans 11 reference miiiiight not be working very well here. Especially cause it's hella capitalist lol. And also they're criminal thieves.
> [name=ael] Help needed~ I do want to address other open source projects and how we benefit from open source communities, but I don't know how to put in the paragraph.
> [name=caleb] caleb's attempt:
> Despite no promise of renumeration, members of g0v organized a community project around CET's cause. Calling themselves "Disfactory" and armed with little more than a Slack channel on g0v's Slack server (an insant-message communication program) and a passion for open-source technology, volunteers have created several pieces of software to enable CET to achieve its goal of helping the government shut down illegal factories. Because of the open-source nature of g0v, every meeting memo, line of code, and non-PII datapoint is available under open-source licenses, and furthermore, anybody can join in the team's discussions on Slack, or attend one of their weekly meetups.
> [name=alicia] Some readers might not know what Slack is and it’s usually clearer to explain what it is when it’s first mentioned.
This openness enables loose but productive collaboration among more than 40 community contributors across 5 time zones –including 12 weekly active core developers– for nearly 2 years so far. Together, the team has spent their free time building a dashboard, a map to reported factories, and an admin page for CET staffs to semi-automatically follow up on all reports.
> One Disfactory meetup in Taipei
> Photo credit: Oriyar
> [name=ael] I picked this photo because there is CET logo and Taiwan on the back. There are other photos with more participants. Welcome to upload other photos~
> [name=caleb] need some definitions before what's meant below: "spots updaed (i changed to "reports by users" but i'm not sure)," "places newly found" (does this mean "factories that the government didn't know about?"), "government inspected sites updated" (does this mean, sites that were reported through disfactory, that have since been inspected by the government?)
From March 19th, 2020 to April 30th, 2021, there are 812 sites reported, of which 531 sites are new to government's inspected records. Out of 308 reports CET has filed to the government, 8 factories were tore down. The rest are still hold in administrative process. CET and other advocacy groups keep pushing the government on the issue and have some progress on, for example, requesting open data in machine readable formats. Furthermore, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has tightened the admission of electricity application on the farmland as a respond.
> [name=ael] Current version is a little bit hard to digest. We can draw an infographic or reduce the numbers mentioned in the paragraph?
> [name=ael] my open-ended revise
> From March 19th, 2020 to April 30th, 2021, there are 812 sites reported, of which 531 sites are new to government's inspected records. Out of 308 reports CET has filed to the government, 8 factories were tore down. The rest are still hold in administrative process. CET and other advocacy groups keep pushing the government on the issue and have some progress on, for example, requesting open data in machine readable formats.
> [name=ael] May we depict the impacts more than how many factories were tore down? What else?
> [name=caleb] ah just saw ael's updated verison, that makes more sense yes
The number of factories that have been demolished is just one metric to measure Disfactory's impact. With the long-term goal of advocacy, impact, and capacity building, Disfactory is experimenting in new collaboration models of advocacy. The digital platform serves as a vehicle to mobilize micro-civic participation for both awareness and aggregated data for further applications. An open, data-centric culture then could be slowly embedded in advocacy strategies at organizational levels. Most of all, the Disfactory team has developed a kind of cozy and open collaboration dynamics between an agenda-driven NPO and independent, open-source community participants.
The ongoing challenge for Disfactory is to engage more citizens in the initiative against illegal factories on farmlands. A developing idea is to build a "spot the difference" game on satellite images for the crowd to mark new factories built after 2016 – which by law should be demolished– from over 50,000 suspected sites.
> [name=alicia] Maybe Find Differences or 'spot the difference' game is more straightforward? Well,it’s minor 🙂
It is always a long way from one citizen's action to overall society changes. Disfactory attempts to make that journey shorter, less bumpy, and less lonely – with open collaboration and some helps from technology. It is a large field, and we are planting a seed to harvest a flourish civic tech and digital democracy ecosystem.
**More information on Disfactory**
- Disfactory introduction Page (Mandarin)
- Disfactory reporting page (Mandarin)
> [name=ael] Did we add i18n?
- To join Disfactory on Slack (Mandarin and English)
1. Go to https://join.g0v.tw
2. Join #disfactory channel
- Meeting notes (Mandarin)
- Source codes (Mandarin and English)
- Community discussion of this article (English)
- I heard that the project https://github.com/Disfactory/findTaiwanLegislator was created for Disfactory, maybe it's interesting that this kind of "civic API" can be shared with other projects too? -B
- I think it's interesting that the Disfactory project is a app for the general public (users may not be familiar with g0v) -B
## Deleted paragraphs
> Only showed in edit mode.
- > original paragraph by @deeper
> In respond to the above challenges, CET staff went to the g0v hackathon in July, 2019. They could find collaborators to develop a crowd-sourced citizen reporting system that could fill the resource gap by an understaffed government agency and meet the privacy the victims need simultaneously.
- ~~**3. How we collaborate @ael => I think we probably don't have space for this**
~~- Collaboration between NPO and open source community: fluid, boundary? agenda? engagement?
open source community
advocate NPO with advocacy agenda and organization
It is not just finding a group of volunteers who know how to code. It is not just interdisciplinary.
It is a mix of two cultures.
It is one of a kind project that survives over 18 months.
It's also an experimental collaboration model.
Disfactory project is done in collaboration with an NGO
Project has grown beyond one Hackathon
agile + milestone
- Open and grassroot
organic open community where every contributor can initiate new features and changes on the website design.
In technical structure, the system is designed to be modulized, easier to remix different parts of the system into other projects in the future.
civic tech can be of the people, by the people, for the people
> [name=ael] close with a good quote or story?
> - Limitation for advocacy
> - reflection
> - Sustainability
> - What we need from civil society or the government?
From March 19, 2020, the day Disfactory was launched and also the day before the Factory Management Act came into force, until April 30, 2021, the system has attracted 812 reports by users, which consists of 531 places newly found, and 281 government inspected sites updated. CET itself has filed 308 reports and is responsible for 8 factories being torn down. The rest are still in an administrative cycle, which is kept moving by pressures from civic groups, direct calls to the local government, and face-to-face lobbying in the central executive branch of the government.
(There is a consession to pardon most of the illegal factories (this might be uneccesary to include. ))(in fact caleb recommends against it, it's a distraction from the following point)