Lenchiang County, commonly known as the Matsu Islands, is an archipelago of 5 major islands and 31 islets. Matsu is situated in the northwest of Taiwan approximately 250km from Taipei. Expanding on its traditionally service-based economy, Matsu has focused mainly on growing its tourism appeal over the last few decades, emphasizing its many cultural sites such as the Matsu Folk Culture Museum, Ching-Kuo Memorial Hall and War and Peace Memorial Park Exhibition Center as well as its natural treasures like the Matsu Island Bird Sanctuary that spans eight islands. To improve its appeal to tourists and the lives of those who call the islands home, Matsu is bringing modern comfort and conveniences to its population as well as visitors in the form of better connectivity, digital access, healthcare improvements and much more.
The Matsu Links
Over the last decade Matsu has created Internet links to transfer patient data to teaching hospitals and specialized hospitals in the Taipei area. Though it is over an hour from major Taipei hospitals by medivac helicopter, Matsu now can start general diagnosis at the county hospital and transfer the diagnostic results instantly to Taipei so that doctors there can be prepared with the patient's information and provide better care for the patient upon arrival. This service is used twice a month on average and has already saved numerous lives and improved the quality of medical care available to residents.
Promoting the "Smart Learning" Project
As a remote island community, Matsu is committed to closing the digital divide and information gap between urban and remote communities. Matsu's "Smart Learning" project helps them do this by focusing on resources and training for students. There are 133 free public Wi-Fi hotspots in Matsu, covering all public libraries and middle schools. The libraries also provide free access to computers with broadband connection. To facilitate usage, the community holds semi-annual basic training courses in computer skills.
Over 6 years of the program, Matsu schools have provided one tablet PC for every student, one desktop computer on campus for elementary and junior high school, and one desktop computer for every two students in senior high schools for digital learning on campus. As part of the "Smart Learning" project, Matsu focused not only on digital access for students, but their wellbeing too - creating a happy learning culture using in-class games and activities. Matsu is cooperating with National Chi Nan University (NCNU) and the Tainan University of Technology (TUT) to create a better digital learning environment. Programming resources from NCNU are used to enhance data collection; big data analysis is then performed to understand students’ learning experiences, and teaching suggestions are provided to help instructors make decisions about whether a student needs further attention or not. TUT also designed a graphical user interface to help students focus on learning and to improve their interactive digital learning environment on campus.
Since its first submarine data transmission cable linking the islands to Taiwan was completed in 1999, Matsu has completed two more submarine fiber optic cables in 2012 and 2014. Matsu is committed to digital access and has 34 4G cell towers and hundreds of signal amplifiers across the islands—which are only 29.2 sq km total—providing nearly 100% cell coverage. Household access to wired broadband is 95%, compared to a national average of 62%. Matsu's next broadband infrastructure project is to upgrade the free Wi-FI system to 100MB/s downstream in densely populated areas and commercial districts and to add Wi-Fi hotspots to the inter-island ferries for all visitors. A task force has been set up to build a solid foundation for the upcoming 5G system to make sure that Matsu keeps pace with the next generation of digital connection.
The Low-Carbon and Sustainable Island Program
Matsu is creating an energy-efficient, low-carbon community while making sure to maintain its status as an attractive eco-tourism destination. As part of the low-carbon and sustainable island program, Matsu is educating and supporting residents in the installation of efficient shower heads, toilets and other water appliances that can conserve water. Additionally, to better conserve electricity, the authorities are encouraging households to replace light fixtures, bulbs and home appliances with models that bear the Green Mark, and to turn lights and appliances off when not in use. At the same time, they are educating the people to reduce food wastes and recycle household garbage. Public buildings that were replaced since 2010 all meet green building requirements for environmentally responsible practices and resource efficiency.
Matsu has replaced street lamps with energy-saving fixtures and has begun teaching community environmental education programs that focus on carbon-reduction concepts. Matsu’s public recycling system is ranked first among Taiwan’s waste-recycling programs. Matsu also has the lowest rate of automobile ownership in Taiwan, which is attributed to its effective free bus system for local residents. Matsu has 200 electric scooters available for rental to reduce pollution and traffic congestion as well.
Famous for its mussels, a stop at the Mussel-tasting Festival is an essential part of any summer tour of Matsu. Matsu has pioneered the usage of new ocean-farming technology to build a sustainable mussel farming industry. Marine research shows that mussels are filter-feeders that eat tiny organisms from the sea water, which gradually cleans the water. The four local mussel farms producing up to 300 kilograms of mussels per day not only make Matsu's signature food sustainable but also make nearby ocean waters cleaner at the same time.
The number of domestic and foreign tourists to Matsu has increased from 144,500 in 2015 when Matsu initiated the Matsu Eco-tourism Travel Plan to over 200,000. Matsu has reduced the price of its buses to $1.50 USD and has added real-time bus schedules via GPS tracking and comprehensive electronic signage at all bus stops. Visitors have access to the same real-time public transit information on the web, accessible via iMatsu free Wi-Fi hotspots available at many bus stations and all ferry ports. Matsu has also set up an array of weather sensors to make up-to-date air quality, temperature, wind direction, etc. available to visitors. Due to demand for tour guides outpacing the number of trained tour guides, Matsu has begun encouraging students to participate in junior guide short-term training tours. Matsu has also prepared an extensive recorded self-guided tour system available to backpackers at the Nangan Airport or any Matsu visitor center.
Green spaces in Matsu offer residents and visitors great opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, backpacking and camping. Surveys show that Matsu has approximately 24 square meters of park and green-belt space per person, ranking the islands number 1 in Taiwan. Matsu Geopark is part of Taiwan’s geopark network. Eighty-six percent of the islands’ area is covered by trees, and they are full of geological features, historic military tunnels, ocean landscapes, and traditional stone houses. Visitors can walk around one of the islands within a single day. Matsu has taken the steps to protect its natural beauty for today’s residents, tourists and future generations while making the islands an ever-more-efficient and pleasant place to call home.