In 1980, Taiwan’s National Science Council set up the nation’s first science park in Hsinchu City, as a means to create a domestic high-tech industry. Today, the 500 companies in Hsinchu Science Park employ 150,000 people and generate US$16.6 billion in total revenue. More than 10 percent of those companies are spin-outs from one of Hsinchu’s many universities and research institutes. The 2008-09 financial crisis hit the Park hard as demand slackened for the semiconductors its companies produced. Leading companies like TSMC, UMS, Acer and Chimei Innolux shifted investment into higher-value products and services; the integrated circuit design business grew 9 percent from 2008 to 2009. These steps led to employment growth of 11% and production growth of 25% from 2006 to 2011, leaving Hsinchu with a 2012 unemployment rate of just 4.2 percent.
The Challenge of Sustainability
Today, under Mayor Hsu Ming-Tsai, the city’s challenge is to translate economic success into civic success: to make Hsinchu City a sustainable Intelligent Community with a high quality of life, where innovation is a part of people’s daily lives. Government and business are pursuing the goal on multiple fronts. Global Mobile Corp, the dominant wireless provider, has extended 4G wireless to 97% of the city, while Chungwha Telecom has made 100 Mbps fiber service available to 64% of residents as part of the national M-Taiwan program. Digital education has gone mainstream. The city was the first in Taiwan to implement e-learning platforms – the e-Book Schoolbag and e-Book Reader – which now reach nearly 60 schools. A new cloud-based English teaching platform was launched in 2012 to help students learn the international language of business in school and at home. Hsinchu City government has put a smart card into the hands of 120,000 residents that lets them take the bus, pay parking fees, borrow library books, shop and receive discounts from more than 30 participating vendors. Data collected from users is helping the city adjust bus schedules and measure how efficiently services are delivered across Hsinchu. City government has also launched an Intelligent City Project Office, which is promoting initiatives like the smart card to involve citizens closely in the city’s continued transformation. In December 2013, the city squeezed past the capital of Taipei to take the top rank in a “Better Life Index” published by Kainan University based on economic, social educational and citizen participation measures.
Smart21 2013 | 2014