The Ministry of Science and Technology（henceforth referred to as the Ministry) has long been encouraging professors and researchers to form interdisciplinary teams as a way of the universities’ commitment to social responsibilities to aid disadvantaged communities with appropriate technologies. Under this backdrop, the Ministry will hold a press conference of "The New Reciprocal Era: Community Practices of Time Bank" (henceforth referred to as the time bank project) on May 14th, 2019 in Taipei. From 2019 to 2021, the project team with hybrid of humanity and technology researchers will develop the time-bank app and experiment on how to encourage the urban and rural Taiwanese civilians to exchange their needs and reciprocate their services. More importantly, the team will work on how AI and Blockchain technologies might potentially facilitate their reciprocal transfers.
The Imbalance of Service Exchange in Time Bank Practices
Taiwan became an aged society in 1993, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs even officially announced that we are heading to a super-aged society. In order to satisfy the needs for healthcare and caring for elders, multiple collaborative mechanisms are in crucial demand to fill the gap left by insufficient policy supports. The most urgent task is to connect community and social networks to tackle the impacts of aging trends.
Edgar Cahn, the American economist, proposed the concept of Time Bank in the 1980s. He suggests that exchanges of services between individuals should be paid by an appropriate currency, which is time. Taiwan has been promoting time banking since mid 1990s by NGOs and local governments. One of the problems that many time banks face is the uneven exchange in which saving time outweigh withdrawing time, and this obscures the difference between time bank system and volunteer system. Meanwhile, the exchange is limited to local areas and difficult to cross boundaries.
To Encourage Cross-boundary Reciprocity via “App of Taiwan Time Reciprocity”
The project is going to develop an app called “Taiwan Time Reciprocity” that is based on the Community Exchange System (CES), which has been applied by over 97 countries and 1,000 communities. The project will integrate technologies of blockchain and artificial intelligence to accommodate the needs specific to Taiwanese cultures.
The blockchain technology in this project will use open-sourced Ethereum to develop the app and smart contract. It will also use the program developed by the project to deal with time coins and achievements system in the app. Regarding the AI in this app, it will analyze both the supply and demand sides of a community and to efficiently match both sides via algorithms and machine learning.
This app will include three main characteristics: 1. The scenario/game to integrate virtual and reality. 2. A customized exchange platform. 3. Cross-boundary exchange. After completing the development of app, the project team will release the technology of the app to Taiwanese society for further application.
Combining Community Practices, Knowledge Inheritance and Local Innovation
The Project has cooperated with teachers and students of Jhih Shan High School at Daxi to develop a reality game. In the future, along with the support from a technical team, the game will go virtual and try to attract users to devote themselves to the service exchanges. Meanwhile, based on different local contexts, the app will design, with the shared structure, exchange platforms of local characteristics. The ultimate goal of the project is to establish exchange networks that cross communities in order to popularized “Taiwan Time Reciprocity.”
This project will integrate technologies of blockchain and AI to develop the app. In order to testify the app, the project will cooperate with the National Museum of Taiwan Literature and Jhih Shan High School at Daxi, in order to understand how local teenagers and volunteers at museums use the app. In the beginning, this project aims to help local teenagers to participate in the community activities and to create a chance to match them with varieties of local businesses via a reality game based on Daxi. These businesses include woodcraft, tea shops, dried bean business, and restoration of old buildings. The reality game will not only help pass on local knowledge but also encourage young students to participate in a reciprocal economy in local communities. Moreover, the platform of the app will facilitate cross-museums exchange mechanism, provide a more convenient way to calculate service hours, and create more demands, which is to change current imbalance between service/time change.
The Ministry supports the interdisciplinary project that includes researchers from information science, humanities, social studies, and community studies to start a 3-year practice project. It aims at producing software based on human needs, and promoting “Taiwan Time Reciprocal App” supported by the technologies of blockchain and AI to enhance the habits of reciprocity in daily life. The project also pursues to fulfill potentials of various service exchanges, which will truly implement technology into Taiwan society. This project aims at encouraging people to employ time with a brand new energy to bring about a new reciprocal era in Taiwan with distinctive Taiwanese characteristics.
Professor Shenglin Chang
National Taiwan University Graduate Institute of Building and Planning
Ms. Shu-mei Wei
Department of Humanities and Social Science, MOST