If you have ever eaten a bowl of instant noodles, you owe a debt to Momofuku Ando, founder of Nissin Foods and inventor of this staple of Asian fast food, who was born and raised in Tainan City. This city of 1.9 million was the historic capital of Taiwan and the cultural heritage of centuries remains one of Tainan’s most important assets that drives a thriving tourist industry.
Tainan today, however, is about much more than the past. It is home to multiple science and technology parks including the Southern Taiwan Science Park, Tainan Technology Park and Shugu LCD Park. The tenant rolls are dominated by optoelectronics, integrated circuits, green energy and biotech companies, which together with more traditional manufacturing generate more than half of the city’s economic activity.
Partnering for Progress
Tainan’s government supports industry in multiple ways. Its Small Business Innovation Research program promotes and subsidizes R&D by smaller companies and incentivizes universities and research institutions to partner with them on commercialization. It has adopted a national program called Dual System Training, a carefully structured co-op employment and apprenticeship system. It accepts high school graduates and guides them through four years of work-study with Tainan employers that generally leaves them debt-free and employed upon graduation. Tainan entered the program in 2012 and by 2016, it had involved 6 universities and 37 companies, and admitted 250 students. Retention rates at partner companies hover around 80%.
Government also invests in broadband as a promoter of quality of life for employers and citizens. Adoption of fixed broadband already exceeds 95%, leaving little room for improvement. The government’s focus instead is on applications that can transform living and working in the city.
Disaster Prevention in the Taiwanese City Most Prone to Flooding
Tainan faces many challenges, including overcrowding, pollution, and disaster prevention. Rather than tackling each issue separately, the city government has used data from multiple organizations to improve city safety in all three areas at once. Tainan is the most flood-prone city in all of Taiwan, according to a report from 2014, and rains in recent years have become more concentrated and destructive during the summer months. To combat these troubles, the Water Resource Bureau has used big data to set up a disaster warning and prevention system, including sensors and beacons to warn residents throughout the city when floods are likely.
Tainan’s warm climate and heavy moisture also make it an ideal breeding ground for dengue fever. The city has experience five outbreaks in the past century. To protect its citizens and contain future outbreaks, the Tainan government is currently working on the LINE Chatbot, which combines two city services into one for easy access and use. The Chatbot will provide subscribers with daily news about community events, construction warnings, competitions, job fairs, and health warnings. It will also use the data collected from its subscribers to keep up-to-date records on any confirmed cases of dengue fever, what treatments have been administered, and all locations where patients are being treated. The Chatbot will serve as a first line of inquiry for anyone experiencing dengue-like symptoms, allowing residents to ask questions and get a basic health evaluation before making an appointment with a doctor.
Mobile Networking Project
Since 2009, the Tainan city government has provided free digital skills classes to middle-aged and senior citizens to help them make use of the city’s newer digital services. Topics include basic smartphone usage and applications, e-commerce, smartphone usage for travel, and smartphone usage for scheduling, including medical appointments, hotel booking and ticket purchases. The classes are taught in a “mobile classroom” environment in which teachers drive to the students, bringing all their class materials and equipment along, so that less mobile residents can still take part. In 2015, 3,428 residents attended at least one class, with the 43% of students being citizens between the ages of 60 and 70.
The Mobile Networking Project has developed a partnership with the Department of Health to improve quality of life and medical care for Tainan’s senior citizens. By offering classes on smartphone usage, the project gives residents easier access to the wealth of medical information available on the Internet and has also streamlined the appointment booking system for those seeking medical aid.
Air Quality Monitoring and Transparency
Tainan launched the Bright & Clear Skies program in 2014 to improve the quality of air by reducing particle pollution in the city. Particle pollution is created by a wide variety of daily activities, including factory production, driving vehicles, construction work, road dust, and many other sources. The program targets eight major source of pollution, including enforcing more rigorous vehicle inspections to prevent gas emission violations, advising local businesses on dust-capturing equipment, and encouraging residents to drive less and use public transit. Road dust is the largest source of particle pollution in Tainan. Dust particles on the roads are thrown up into the air by each vehicle that passes along a paved surface. In addition to encouraging citizens to use more public transit, Tainan has organized road-washing trucks throughout the city to minimize dust on major roads.
To ensure that air quality continues to improve, the Tainan government will be installing 240 air quality detection AirBoxes, donated by Edimax, throughout the city. The AirBoxes detect humidity, temperature, and multiple pollution figures, including PM2.5 levels. Edimax plans to collaborate with the Academia Sinica and Taian City to analyze data collected by the AirBoxes, and the city will set up a visual representation of the findings for general audiences. All citizens of Tainan will soon be able to access the visual representation and the indexed data online at airbox.tainan.tw or through an app on their smartphones.
The Open Government Initiative
In March of 2015, Tainan launched the Open Government Initiative to increase citizen participation in local government and ensure that all citizens are aware of the government’s activities and the services available to them. The Initiative includes three major sub-projects: Open Gov Tainan, Data.Tainan and the Open 1999 Service.
Open Gov Tainan (opengov.tainan.gov.tw) is the Open Government Initiative’s main online portal. The portal features video of government meetings as well as minutes and other relevant documents from those meetings, a public discussion forum for community issues, a proposals and suggestions section and a copy of the mayor’s public schedule. The Open Gov portal also includes links to the other two sub-projects: Data.Tainan and the Open 1999 Service.
Data.Tainan (data.tainan.gov.tw) was originally set up in June of 2014. It is an open data platform that makes large amounts of government-collected data available online. The Open 1999 Service is a phone hotline, website, and mobile app service rolled into one. The Service is an access point for citizens to report ordinance violations and submit service requests with all reports and progress on those requests available online to the public. Since implementing the Open 1999 Service, Tainan has seen a 50% decrease in response time to violation reports and service requests.
In an ever-changing world of new technologies and the challenges that come with them, Tainan has focused first and foremost on its people, providing education, easy avenues for participation and a better standard of living to lead the city as a whole into a brighter future.