People have lived along the Tamsui River in what is now New Taipei City (NTC) for 5,000 years, yet the city is only four years old. It was created in 2010 from the county surrounding Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei, and its founding Mayor Eric Chu set out to transform a loose collection of suburban cities and rural land into a unified metropolis.
NTC had been shaped by its relationship with Taipei: it was a residential district and location for traditional and often highly polluting industries, and its transport network was oriented to move people and goods into and out of the capital. Many of those industries, like ceramics and glass-making, had been under severe competitive pressure for decades from China and lower-cost countries. NTC faced the need to develop a knowledge-based economy to power its future.
The Future is Broadband
Massive investment went into high-speed roads and rails to unite the doughnut-shaped city, but the real focus has been on broadband. Partnering with the private sector, NTC has boosted network deployment and promoted cloud-based services for government and business. The household penetration rate is at 91% with 87% on 100 Mbps service. With education the single largest budget line, NTC has connected more than 300 schools, put tablets and computers into classrooms and retrained teaching staffs. Taking advantage of the density of convenience stores, NTC has facilitated the installation of more than 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots.
Still, one million citizens are on the wrong side of the digital divide. To help them, the city offers training classes, mobile computer classrooms and Digital Opportunity Centers where visitors can try the latest technologies. More than 420,000 people have received digital inclusion services and household computer ownership has grown from 89% to 92% over five years.
Knowledge Drives Growth
Executives and employees are an equal focus. A Knowledge-Bridge project has driven industry-university collaboration projects and provided talent and job matchmaking. It is credited with lowering the unemployment rate by a full percentage point. NTC has identified seven strategic industries – from green tech and bio tech to optoelectronics and culture – for development, and its SME Service Group offers counseling, support for business development and R&D subsidies. Just three of NTC’s business parks, each focused on a different industry cluster, have attracted US$1.5 billion in investment, added US$2.5 bn in economic value and created 22,400 jobs. In the Xizhi District, a cloud-computing development called U-Town has attracted 2,300 businesses, created 80,000 jobs and generated more than US $30 billion in economic activity.
Even traditional industries have found new life. Factories that once manufactured commodity ceramics and glassware are now producing art pieces that are marketed globally by city government. What was once a modest cultural event in the mountainous district of Pinxi is now the Sky Lantern Festival that has been rated one of the 14 must-see cultural events in the world. Meanwhile, NTC has moved hundreds of public services into the cloud to break the constraints of bureaucracy and realize the Mayor’s vision of “One Government” where dozens once operated.
Brain Gain: How innovative cities create job growth in an age of disruption
In their third book, ICF’s co-founders take on a central issue of our time: how to balance two essential demands of the Digital Age economy – innovation and employment – to create communities that thrive. Brain Gain: How Innovative cities create job growth in an age of disruption is a survival manual for cities and regions on how to build economic prosperity and meet social challenges in an age of technological change.
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