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. 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.
Also in 2015, Chiayi City established the “Solar Photovoltaic Setup and Promotion Team” and the “Renewable Energy Committee.” The city’s location on the Tropic of Cancer makes it an ideal place for solar energy development, and the city has currently installed solar panels on the rooftops of 38 public buildings with 32 more expected to be outfitted by the end of 2017. The currently outfitted public buildings are capable of producing 3.6 million degrees of power annually and are expected to earn Chiayi NDT 77 million in revenue over the next 20 years.
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, online idea generation and voting on priorities and projects. At the urging of that committee, Chiayi also completed an open data platform in 2016, which contained 279 information entries as of August 2017, with many more on the way. The city has also established an E-Service Counter that provides single sign-on to more than 500 applications used by 210,000 subscribers.
To further spread E-Service access throughout the city, the Chiayi Transportation and Tourism Department is currently in the process of introducing intelligent bus stops with 4G WiFi services available on their buses. The city has also equipped its 59 neighborhood directors with tablet PCs connected to the city’s open data platform and E-Service applications, allowing them to function as mobile service stations for their neighborhoods. These directors can now help residents with information inquiries, online application usage and city surveillance reporting, among other services.
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 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.
Chiayi City was known as “The City of Forest” during the Japanese colonial era, due to its flourishing wood industry. After operating for 50 years, the city’s local Shunyi Wood became De Lin Intl and set up a tourist factory called Wood Lover. The company cooperated with the Cycling & Health Tech Industry R&D Center to develop interactive entertainment services for the tourism factory. Through the partnership, De Lin Intl also set up sensors, gyroscopes, pressure sensors and temperature and humidity sensors in the woods to learn more about how visitors experienced the woods and what actions interested them to improve the quality of the factory tours.
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.
To encourage youth training and development in particular, the Industrial Development and Investment Promotion Committee of Chiayi has worked with Wufeng University and the Chiayi Youth Entrepreneur Association to hold the National Youth Creative Application Competition. The competition includes high school and college-level student teams competing on creative projects designed to teach them business values. The government has also begun setting up co-working spaces to encourage young entrepreneurs to mingle and share ideas as well as find investors. Idle spaces are being renovated throughout the city to provide better co-working environments, including the “KY 3-27 Co-Working Space,” which is the first publicly operated co-working space in the Yunlin-Chiayi-Tainan region. The space provides training and consultations as well as courses in business registration, taxation, laws and related regulations and business planning.
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.
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