Chiayi is a provincial city of 270,000 in southcentral Taiwan, midway between Taichung and Tainan. Ninety-five percent of its economy is in the services sector – wholesale and retail, transportation and warehousing, and accommodation and food – which employs three-quarters of the workforce.
In 2014, however, Chiayi was ranked as having the worst air quality in Taiwan, and Mayor Twu Shiing-jer, a physician, has dedicated his administration to improving life in the city in this and many other areas.
Cleaning the Air
Working with ASUS, the city has established a network of cloud-connected air-quality monitoring stations called the Air Box. The results of measurement are displayed in real time on LED billboards on main access roads. The city has also installed solar panels on 38 public buildings, with another 38 planned for 2016, which will return tens of millions of New Taiwan Dollars to the general fund over 20 years as well as reducing fossil-fuel use. A public electric bike network, with 58 charging stations, is reducing automobile trips, while an environmental education program is reaching schools and community groups. In 2015, the city succeeded in reducing fine air particulate concentration by 12%, which represented the biggest gain in the nation.
Broadband, Open Data and E-Services
Chiayi government and private carriers have blanketed the city with 1,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, ranking second for density in the nation. Over an 18-month period, more than 1.5 million users accessed the network. To support adoption, it created a government-citizen committee to hold public hearings, seminars and online idea generation and voting on priorities and projects. At the urging of that committee, Chiayi will complete an open data platform by the end of 2016 offering more than 70 data sets. The city has also established an E-Service Counter that provides single sign-on to more than 500 applications used by 210,000 subscribers.
Innovating on Tradition
The city attracts more than 440,000 tourists every month, who contribute over NTD 1 billion every year through such events as the International Marching Band Festival (pictured above). Innovation in Chiayi has focused on finding ways to use its success in tourism to drive further growth in the economy. The city is home to Taiwan’s largest egg company, Chinyi Eggs, which ships nationwide. Recently, the company has transformed its Chiayi facilities into a “tourism factory.” The company already turns over more than NTD 1 billion but, with the help of government investment, is creating a new line of business opening up its processes to visitors.
Huashih Co. is a long-established firm that uses spices and herbal ingredients in the manufacture of cleaning and cosmetic products. It has collaborated with universities and the city to drive innovation in two directions. One is the in the application of biotech R&D to identify local plants with useful commercial properties and extract their active ingredients to create new products. The second is the creation of another tourism factory, where visitors can see how products are created and manufactured and buy them from a retail outlet.
Education and Training
Chiayi is also investing in the digital skills of its people. All schools have been equipped with Wi-Fi and a portal for student-teacher interaction and the sharing of lessons plans among instructors. Beginning in 2017, the schools will introduce specialized classes in coding, robotics and other technology fields. For the general population, the city has developed training courses in basic and advanced digital skills. For the business community, the city has invested in workshops on mobile payments and an Industrial Innovation Center focused on health R&D. As of 2015, over one hundred researchers and 18 enterprises were located there. The city is also driving collaboration between industry and the College of Management at National Chiayi University to develop training specific to the needs of local business.
Health technology is the city’s future in the eyes of Mayor Twu. His administration is creating a Community Home Medical Care and Palliative Care Network to address Taiwan’s aging population. There are now four hospitals and 33 clinics within the network, which aims to provide comprehensive care to the aged at home through a Smart Health Cloud Platform that already links in-home diagnostic equipment by 4G mobile to medical centers.
Like Intelligent Communities everywhere, Chiayi City is applying digital technologies to leverage its economic and cultural strengths while preparing for a more competitive future in the global broadband economy.