The second Korean community on the 2008 list, Hwaseong and its new Dong Tan community incorporates the vision of the “U-City” where information access will be ubiquitous. The community is using IT to make its own construction a model of efficiency.
The Gangnam District lies to the south of the Han River, which snakes through South Korea's capital city from east to west. This district of 557,000 people contains 2.5% of Seoul's people but produces 25% of its gross domestic product. High-rise apartments make up 80% of its residential areas, and the district is home to the corporate headquarters of such Korean firms as POSCO and Korea Telecom, as well as the IT venture companies on Teheran Road, South Korea's Silicon Valley.
So it is perhaps no surprise that, if you wish to see how completely broadband and information technology can transform local government, Gangnam-gu (as it is called in Korean) is the place to go.
Getting an Early Start
Gangnam's development as an Intelligent Community began in 1995, when the district launched its first "electronic government" project. By 1997, the district had a local area network connecting government offices and a set of tax payment and other applications running on public kiosks. By 1999, the system could process all registrations, permits and other citizen applications electronically. Gangnam converted the system to the Web in 2002, and by 2006, Gangnam collected 264 billion won (US$280m) in taxes online, 15% of the total, and issued 2 million documents to citizens through the Internet or public kiosks. The system has made possible a 25% reduction in the local government's employment since 1995, saving 36.7bn won (US$39m), even as population and economic activity have grown sharply. In terms of what economists call "opportunity cost," Gangnam estimates that it has saved citizens time worth another 28.5bn won (US$30m). Just as important, it has minimized opportunities for corruption, because nearly every transaction between government and constituents (except those requiring the protection of personal privacy) takes place through Web-accessible platforms. As Koreans say, "no fungus grows in the light." Gangnam's system for providing access to public documents was adopted by the national government in 2002.
The years since 1995 were witness to an economic miracle in South Korea, which saw per capita GDP climb 71% through 2006. There was a matching broadband miracle as well. In 1995, only 1% of South Koreans used the Internet. Under strong policies from the national government, private wireline and wireless carriers deployed broadband networks that reached 14 million subscribers (28% of South Korea's population) by 2006, ranking the nation fourth in the world. They also enjoy some of the fastest speeds in the world, with 100 Mbps available for as little as 35,000 won (US$37) per month. Today, 3,000 Gangnam residents subscribe to Wibro, an advanced form of broadband that can be used even in a speeding car, while 8,000 South Koreans are using a digital broadcasting service to watch TV on their handheld devices during the commute to work.
Broadband for the People
Gangnam-gu was quick to seize on broadband as a means to make government more transparent, increase citizen participation, and even to help citizens who remained outside the local broadband economy. About 350,000 citizens are registered users of the district's Web portal, and 210,000 are subscribers to an email system that asks for their comment on proposed laws and regulations. They seem to take their responsibilities seriously. Recently, the district proposed installation of surveillance cameras in a particular alley in a residential district. A local human rights organization opposed the move on privacy grounds. When polled by email, however, 82% of residents supported the move and installation subsequently led to a 40% reduction in crimes in the area. One interesting aspect of the email polling system is that Gangnam uses demographic weighting to adjust the results. It compares the demographics of the citizens who vote (provided in the registration process) with those of the district as a whole, and weights the voting in order to make it reflective of the whole population.
The Web has also played a vital role in a public campaign introduced by newly elected Mayor Maeng Jung-ju in July 2006 called the Movement to Keep Basic Order. The campaign enlists citizens in reporting on public nuisances, from illegal parking to environmental violations, by phone and online. More important than improved law enforcement is the change it has created in public awareness. Within 10 months of the campaign's start, the average daily number of violations reported dropped nearly 9%.
Gangnam has also found innovative ways to bring the benefits of Web-enabled government to citizens who have never gone online. In 2005, Gangnam equipped its social service staff with wireless PDAs, enabling them to check information, make reports and request services while visiting clients. In 2006, it launched TV GOV, a set of interactive e-government applications running over the familiar medium of the television set. The system enables users to access services in 34 categories, as well as government news channels, cultural and arts channels, and specialized information for seniors, women and children. In 2007, the district began offering a service that placed wireless motion detectors in the homes of the elderly and triggered a remote alarm if the sensor failed to detect motion for an extended period of time. In 2008, the service will be extended to provide citizens with the option of wireless location tracking for young children or the elderly suffering from dementia. These are the first of a set of "ubiquitous technology" services that the district expects to introduce in coming years to further improve the quality of life of its citizens.
Education Online and Offline
Korean culture puts a premium on education. The success of the broadband economy in Gangnam has both added to educational requirements and delivered new ways to meet them. To equip citizens with digital skills, a program called the Regional Information Classroom has provided classes on computers and the Web to over 400,000 citizens in their middle and senior years. Additional instruction is available via programs on TV GOV.
Education is a major expense for families with children in South Korea, and low-income students are at a substantial disadvantage. Gangnam offers several programs to lower this barrier. The district offers over 100 online lectures from a famous private academy for only 20,000 won (US$21) per year to more than 335,000 registrants. It has opened digital libraries in the empty classrooms of elementary schools, providing access to 330,000 electronic books not only in those schools but nationwide to more than 133,000 students in 123 communities. The district also has a partnership with the University of California at Riverside's International Education Center to deliver ESL (English as a Second Language) instruction to students in the district. Knowledge of English is considered so important that it assigns native English speakers to work in its schools and operates an "English Experience Village," in which students interact with native English speakers in real-life situations.
This vast array of programs takes a great deal of investment. Gangnam also invests directly in business development. Its Small & Medium Business Development Fund invested 4 billion won (US$4.2m) in 32 technology companies in 2006. It also underwrites the activities of local nonprofits dedicated to business development, child welfare, sports and conservation. But in addition to the intangible returns of good governance, the community sometimes receives a direct return that also makes headlines. In 2004, Saga City in Japan awarded a US$2 million contract to a Gangnam company to build a complex software platform. What Saga City wanted, and was willing to pay for, was Gangnam's e-government system.
Labor Force: 496,490
Intelligent Community of the Year 2008
Smart21 2006 | 2007 | 2008
Top7 2006 | 2007
The story of many Intelligent Communities is of boom times followed by bust in the second half of the 20th Century. For Whanganui, on the southwest coast of New Zealand’s North Island, the best of times may lie ahead. Bypassed by national rail lines in the 19th Century – which led to the closing of a railways workshop that was a major employer – it was bypassed again by broadband providers in the 20th. Though rich in natural beauty and culture, Whanganui ranks near the bottom of the New Zealand index of social deprivation. That is a reputation the city has begun to change.
Spreading Broadband Awareness
In recent years, Whanganui has secured a high-speed, open-access, fiber-to-the-premise network for the city, with sixteen retailers now providing services over fiber. Many neighboring towns and regions, however, continue to struggle with low quality broadband and dial-up speeds, and Whanganui still has its own rural broadband gaps to fill. To address this issue and help the region as a whole, representatives of the Whanganui Digital Leaders Forum, led by Mayor Annette Main, visited the New Zealand central government to advocate for a national investment in fiber networks. The representatives proposed at those meetings that the government should consult with communities across the country to discover the highest areas of need, as communities are know their own needs best. The Mayor of Whanganui also asked neighboring mayors to support a cross-regional approach to fiber expansion to help raise political understanding and support for these proposals.
From 2014 to 2015, Whanganui ran a pilot program called “About Us,” which provided a free online presence for local businesses. The project has since been improved and expanded based on the pilot and offered cross regionally as #GetDigital. The GetDigital project offers a free online presence for all local businesses, a free online learning community, access to cloud solutions for each community’s needs, a page on local success stories with video content, a page on local workshops and events, and a digital engagement dashboard to track each community’s progress. In the eighteen months since implementing this project and the cross-region strategy, broadband use has nearly doubled in Whanganui, according to New Zealand’s largest fiber provider.
The WeLearn Charitable Trust was established in 2015 to facilitate education through collaboration between digital educators and local companies. WeLearn has organized a pilot project connecting student devices to a fixed wi-fi network with the help of a local wi-fi company. Three schools will be taking part in the trial, which will be run free of cost to determine if it is an effective solution. Discussions are currently underway with hardware providers. Tawhero, one of the founding schools of the WeLearn Trust, aims to provide 1:1 devices to students and free Internet access 24/7 so that students can take their devices home and continue learning there. As of now, the school provides 24-hour free wireless Internet connectivity for community usage and encourages the community to come to the school grounds for access. Three classrooms so far have 1:1 devices (mostly Chromebooks) for their students, and the school is working to increase this number.
WeLearn has also been in discussions with The Mind Lab, a pioneer in digital and collaborative learning, and also with Unitec, a leader in applied vocational education. Together, the organizations are offering an applied, progressive and blended postgraduate qualification program for teachers, specializing in digital and collaborative learning. The program introduces new teaching methodologies and practical knowledge of digital tools. As of November 2016, thirty-four teachers from twenty different Whanganui schools have enrolled in the Mind Lab’s program to complete its Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital and Collaborative Learning).
The Innovation Quarter
Whanganui’s planned Innovation Quarter is a major part of its regional growth strategy. The initial framework will consist of four sectors or “quarters” – the incubator quarter, the creative quarter, the agribusiness quarter, and the aged care and health innovation quarter. The facility will be a hub of collaboration where corporate, local businesses, education providers, and local artists and specialists all interact and form strategic partnerships. The Innovation Quarter will be attached to a town center library and central transport hub for easy access. To make this center of collaboration a reality, the Whanganui District Council has included the Innovation Quarter in its ten-year plan (2015-2025).
One of the Innovation Quarter’s most integral components is the Maori Business Hub, which creates opportunities for local Maori businesses to meet and network with each other across a range of industries. The Maori Business Hub is intended to be a renewed version of the 2003 Whanganui Maori Business Network, which closed in 2007. The hub will serve as a place for learning, sharing knowledge, creating alliances and bringing a uniquely Maori perspective to business in Whanganui.
The Innovation Quarter will provide many educational and economic benefits. Collaboration among the quarters in a centrally organized hub will allow Whanganui to attract blended programs from Auckland University of Technology and the Universal College of Learning as well as international education providers to the region, allowing students to stay local while learning. The Innovation Quarter will also be able to develop applied learning programs that are more in tune with private sector needs, which will help residents find more local quality employment opportunities. On the economic side, a central hub will help new businesses to grow more quickly, providing an ideal environment for entrepreneurship.
Digital Access for Those Most in Need
Computers in Homes is a digital inclusion project that focuses on digital literacy for parents and guardians. This ensures that whole families gain an understanding and appreciation of technology as parents pass on knowledge to their children. At a cost of $50, the program provides low-income families with free training, a computer, twelve months of subsidized Internet access and technical support. From 2013 to 2014, the Whanganui Computers in Homes program assisted 117 families, resulting in 130 new Computers in Comes graduates. These families represented about 10% of Whanganui’s families that do not currently have access to a computer or the Internet.
Stepping Up is a program that provides free, community-based computer and Internet training programs for adults. It is a suitable follow-up program for those that have participated in Computers in Homes. Stepping Up provides a number of training modules (called digital steps) for those with basic computer knowledge who wish to expand their skills in one or more areas to improve their work and home life. The training modules generally take no more than 2.5 hours to complete and are delivered by local training providers and libraries for ease of access. As of July 2016, Whanganui has delivered a computer, Internet connection, and twenty hours of course training to over one thousand families in the region. The city intends to increase Stepping Up coverage in libraries in Whanganui, Rangitikei, and Ruapehu in the coming year.
Since being named a Smart21 for the first time four years ago, Whanganui has become an example to cities across New Zealand and begun to build a reputation very different from its past.
Smart21 2013 | 2014 | 2015 |2016 | 2017 | 2020
Kazakhstan became an independent nation in 1991, following decades of Soviet rule. The small provincial city of Astana became its new capital six years later. Since then, Astana has rapidly swelled in population, reaching 877,000 in 2016.
Kazakhstan is the size of Western Europe but has a population of only 18 million. Its capital city rises from the plains, full of signature buildings funded by the country’s rich resources of oil, natural gas and high-value minerals. Over the past 16 years, the city has absorbed $30 billion in investment and seen its gross regional product expand by 90 times.
Wi-Fi Broadband for All
Investment has gone into more than bricks and mortar. A free Wi-Fi network, launched in 2011, serves 26 public areas of the city with up to 10 Mbps per user. It is accessed by a half million unique users per month. As with most Wi-Fi systems, however, service quality is uneven, and the city encourages users to leave reviews on a tech support telephone number to help government identify problem zones and target them for upgrades. The city bus network uses 3G to connect Wi-Fi hubs on its buses, which attract more than 1,000 users per month.
Education is an issue important to Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Astana’s university, founded in 2010, has attracted a number of foreign academics to its staff. It is the most prominent of 44 institutions of higher learning in the city. The national government also makes it possible for school graduates to study overseas, all expenses paid, if they return to Kazakhstan to work for at least five years after graduation. Many of these foreign-educated young people make their home in Astana and contribute to its growing culture of innovation.
Technology is reaching into the public school system through student-teacher web portals, distance learning, specialized classes in 3D technologies and one-to-one laptop programs. The city also holds free classes in sign language for the families of deaf residents.
In 2012, city government created an innovation organization called Astana Innovations JSC to implement the mandates of a national program, Informational Kazakhstan 2020. It has helped drive a variety of e-government projects including a Smart Clinic management system for health clinics and a Smart School program that keeps parents informed about their children’s progress via text message and issues chip-based identity cards that control access to facilities, act as library cards and let kids pay for meals at school. Over the 4 years from 2008 to 2012, Kazakhstan rose from 43rd to 38th place in the UN’s E-Government Survey. Services include electronic document management, procurement, tax payments, e-customers and the issuing of licenses.
Astana Innovations has also developed interactive urban planning tools, based on French technology, that help envision the impact of new infrastructure on citizens’ lives. A hackathon launched in 2014 produced 16 projects that received cash prizes for further development, and a Startup Weekend produced 20 business plans that competed for cash awards.
Kazakhstan is an arid country, but Astana has exploited its position on the Ishim River to make much of the city a green zone. Since 2011, government has planted hundreds of thousands of trees as windbreaks and sown vast acreage with perennial grasses. As much effort goes into conditioning the soil and finding resistant strains that can thrive in the salty, dry conditions.
Making Astana greener is a public priority. Every year on Green Day, city workers and citizens turn out to clean the city, and capital residents joined in the planting, putting down more than 3,000 seedlings in just one year.
In much of the developing world, breakneck growth has meant a sharp decline in quality of life. Astana is determined to move in the opposite direction and create a thriving Intelligent Community on the desert plains.
Smart21 2015 | 2017
Shiojiri is in the center of Nagano, a mountainous inland prefecture that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics. Famed for its scenery, hot springs and fruits and vegetables, Shiojiri also has a manufacturing base focused on precision and electrical machinery, which includes small-to-midsize companies as well as the factories of name-brand companies like Seiko and Epson.
The city faces the threat of long-term decline due to the rising age of its population and declining birth rate. As its population shrinks, so does its tax base, while social welfare costs rise to serve the needs of an aging society. It faces another danger as well, the ever-present risk of earthquakes from a major fault line running north to south through the prefecture.
Broadband and Citizen Services
City government is tackling both of these risks through long-term investment in fiber-based broadband and efforts to build a software industry to supplement its manufacturing one. Shiojiri’s efforts in broadband date back to 1996, just two years after the release of the first commercial Web browser. City government introduced its own municipal ISP, which built a user base of 10,000 subscribers. The city was well positioned when, a few years later, the national government introduced a regional broadband infrastructure program. Shiojiri used grants from the program to expand the network, add Wi-Fi nodes, and introduce specialized services to protect the population in the event of disaster, from an environmental sensor network to mobile information services. The city was even able to equip its bus network with GPS and make available real-time route information to travelers via mobile phone.
The Incubation Plaza
The city exited the broadband business in 2012 when a private-sector carrier agreed to assume operations. The 130-kilometer network now reaches 100% of the city’s population as well as serving Wi-Fi hotspots at the central rail station, community facilities and parks. Among these facilities is the Shiojiri Incubation Plaza (SIP), launched in 2007, which attracts and nurtures outside companies specializing in embedded systems, the industrial software that runs the precision machinery Shiojiri companies manufacture. SIP is now home to 14 software companies new to the region. The city has also used its network to encourage better marketing and distribution of farm products, which has created new employment in agriculture, and to develop community projects around child care support, senior citizens, the library and youth engagement. Based on these successes, Shiojiiri has a long-term plan to continue growing its economy and engage citizens in building a better future.
In a nation with thousands of years of recorded history, the city of Ichikawa is a newcomer, having been founded as a residential suburb of Tokyo only in 1934. Since then, Ichikawa has benefited economically from its location near Tokyo Central Railway Station and Japan's primary international airport at Narita. Population grew strongly as a result, reaching nearly a half million people today.
But like the overall Japanese economy, Ichikawa has found itself challenged to continue that growth as manufacturing and high-tech industries, which spurred the last growth wave in the 1970s and 1980s, stumbled in the 1990s. The decade-long recession and deflation that gripped Japan until recently forced its local communities to innovate and adapt in order to survive. ICF recognizes Ichikawa for applying the principles of Intelligent Community development to charting a new course for its citizens and local businesses.
Ichikawa Business Plaza
The most visible sign of change in Ichikawa came in 2002, when a group of institutions led by the city's government opened Ichikawa Business Plaza. This was the community's first experiment with business incubation. The building provided broadband-enabled office space for small office, home office (SOHO) companies and larger enterprises, as well as public space offering PCs and a regional data center for the use of surrounding communities, nonprofit organizations and residents' associations. Managed by the Ichikawa Life Network Club, the Plaza currently has 29 companies as tenants, and offers them advice on finance, law and business issues through a network of advisors from universities, the Chamber of Commerce, and business owners in the region.
The Business Plaza became the core of an expanding series of programs designed to create a culture of use for broadband and information technology. The Plaza developers' timing was good, because Japan was just beginning serious and widespread adoption of broadband that would put the nation into third place worldwide, behind South Korea and Canada. This created demand among citizens for the offerings emerging from both the public and private sectors.
Broadband and its Applications
Shortly after deregulation in the 1980s, the city and local companies established the Ichikawa Cable Network Company to provide TV service. With broadband demand growing in the late 1990s, the cable TV company introduced a broadband service via cable modem in 2000 at lower prices than the incumbent NTT. By 2005, broadband subscribers on the cable network had grown fivefold to reach 9,000. Total broadband penetration in the city now exceeds 46%, compared with a national average of 39%.
The Chiba University of Commerce (CUC), located in Ichikawa, has a Faculty of Policy Informatics, which focuses on the use of IT in solving social problems. CUC has partnered with the government to create distance education programs over the Internet. The city was also chosen by Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for a model project to develop a new system connecting public and school libraries to open up research resources to citizens. An e-government project called 360+5 has made many government services accessible online and installed Internet-access kiosks at public locations as well as 600 convenience stores. In 2001, the city started training classes for residents and citizen groups in information and communications technology and by 2005 had provided training to 30,000 people.
Public safety has been a hot topic for citizens, and in 2005, the city began installing video cameras in public locations and launched an online Ichikawa Safety e-Net program in cooperation with neighborhood associations. The e-Net allows citizens to report crimes and concerns through mobile phones and PCs, and distributes weather and disaster information.
Media City Ichikawa
One of the city's latest projects is Media City Ichikawa. Visited by 100,000 people each month, this facility aims to create a culture of use for broadband and the IT services it delivers. In the Media City, a Central Library provides access to books, research, music and videos online. An Audio-Visual Center offers an expanding archive of AV material from citizens and government agencies, as well as audio and video editing suites, music and video studios and an auditorium seating 260. To build the collection, the city hosts contests for the best audio-visual work. The Central Playhouse offers children playground equipment, books and PCs as well as classes, while an Education Center is devoted to training teachers in information and communications technology.
These efforts at continuous improvement have attracted both public and private organizations to locate in Ichikawa. The public/nonprofit sector is represented by the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, the Department of Engineering of the University of Tokyo, and seven universities and colleges including Tokyo Management College and Chiba Institute of Technology. Private-sector organizations include the technology division of Sumitomo Metal Mining, a TDK Corporation technical center, the Electronic Material Research department of Nissan Chemical and the R&D Center of NTT Communications. The total workforce in information and communications industries has grown from 57,000 in 1990 to 73,000 in 2005, seven times faster than overall population growth.
Labor Force: 239,322
Smart21 2006 | 2007
The urban core of Jaipur sprang from the mind of the Maharja’s architect in the 1700s, when it was founded as the capital of a princely state. Infrastructure has been a focus there ever since, and Jaipur is distinguished from most Indian cities by its modern road network, efficient airport and dozens of colleges, institutes and universities. State and national governments have financed major upgrades to the electrical grid as well as big build-outs of broadband infrastructure. Its diverse manufacturing sector is the largest exporter of gold, diamond and stone jewelry in Asia but also produces a wide variety of consumer and industrial goods. But what may distinguish Jaipur most is a bottom-up economic development strategy led by technology entrepreneurs. Mentored by Naren Bakshi, a retired serial entrepreneur, local tech entrepreneurs have banded together to boost tech-led growth in the region. They have educated state and local officials on the vital importance of technology, leading to the overturning of regulations that classified computers as luxury good and that banned women from working after sunset. Their networking group now includes more than 100 companies employing hundreds of people. Emboldened by their example, traditional industries have adopted ICT to make themselves globally competitive, and India’s largest tech firms as well as financial institutions have located hubs in the region.
The community is experiencing tremendous growth and has become a destination for IT businesses. Its vision is to become a complete knowledge hub by 2020, building on its current broadband network and, realizing the gap that remains in the community, to offer access to every citizen through a technology organization managed by the State government.
Founded in 1404, Tianjin is the biggest seaport in northern China, which functions as neighboring Beijing's gateway to the sea. With a strong industrial base, the city saw GDP growth of nearly 16% from 2003 to 2004, when its total output was worth US$36.3 billion. Now Tianjin and the national government have combined the port, industrial and free trade zones into the Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA), with the goal of creating one of the world’s most advanced urban centers at an estimated cost of US$146bn. The core strategy relies on overlaying ICT on the government, business and residential life of TBNA, which is already home to 27% of China’s scientific and technology talent. A fiber backbone network extends 32,000 km and broadband now reaches 300,000 households or 50% of all Internet users. Large-scale investments have gone into e-government, electronic port logistics, public safety systems and ICT automation for business. But it is in connecting young people to careers that TBNA may have set an example for the world. A multi-level program equips students with an Employment Services Card, which records their participation in career guidance and internships. It qualifies them for entrepreneurship training, in which more than 1,000 business people train 3,000 students per year, as well as subsidies and loans for start-ups. The government even pays 60% of minimum wage for up to 12 months to subsidize the hiring of young people by local companies.
Founded in 1404, Tianjin is the biggest coastal city and largest seaport in northern China. It functions as neighboring Beijing's gateway to the sea, and is one of four Chinese municipalities under the direct jurisdiction of the central government. This city of 11 million has a strong industrial base in automobiles, pharmaceuticals, metallurgy, petrochemicals and such new fields as environmental services, and saw GDP growth of nearly 16% from 2003 to 2004, when its total output was worth US$36.3 billion. The city added 214,500 new jobs in 2004, 18% more than the prior year and saw per-capita income rise 14%.
The municipal government has nonetheless set its sights on building equally powerful information technology and service industries, and has eagerly embraced broadband and IT as means to make government more efficient and responsive, and business more productive. Northern China has been late to the Internet and broadband revolution, and there is a clear sense of urgency in Tianjin's efforts to catch up. Tianjin was among the Top Seven in 2005, and for the second year in a row, ICF recognizes the city for its aggressive application of the principles of Intelligent Community development in the unique political and economic environment of China.
From 20,000 to 2.7 Million in Two Years
Tianjin's Intelligent Community initiative is focused on broadband deployment for citizens, business and government; on e-government applications to make government more responsive and efficient; and on development of new high-tech industrial zones. The goals in its current five-year plan are to provide broadband access in 100% of the 12 km2 (4.6 sq. mile) city, have 80% of households own a PC and 55% of residents become Internet users, and have total broadband penetration reach 60%. Collaborating with telecom carriers, cable TV companies and equipment manufacturers, the city has deployed 20,000 km (12,500 miles) of optical fiber in multiple interconnected networks. The city had 2.7 million Internet subscribers at the end of 2004, up 35% from the prior year. (At the end of 2002, only 20,000 people in all of Tianjin used the Internet.) Broadband subscribers totaled 600,000 or 5% of the total population. A newly completed telecommunications hub in Tianjin provides switching and control for networks that connect the nine provinces of northern China.
Though part of the Beijing metroplex, Tianjin contains large rural areas where farming is the predominant industry. A “village to village” program has, with help from satellites, connected nearly 4,000 villages to the Internet and has helped to transform rural life. One small company, Jinmao Co. Ltd. In Wang Zhuang Village, was founded with the equivalent of US$62 in 1984 to manufacture manual agricultural tools. After setting up a Web site in 1996, the company began receiving orders from throughout China and expanded its products to include painting, cleaning, gardening and other tools. Their products are now available in five of the six biggest furniture chains in China, and the company's sales have reached US$18 million.
Online Government, Health Care and Customs
Tianjin's e-government programs have focused in increasing efficiency, improving connectedness and centralizing information on residents. To date, the city has implemented 600 e-government applications, including public finance, taxation, city planning, housing, commerce, education and justice. Proposed government policies are posted to the Web so that citizens can offer comments before the policy is implemented. Over 250 departments use the network for internal management. The broadband network also links the city’s 210 hospitals and clinics, and an online payment system settles almost all healthcare charges. A Distance Tax Collection System allows taxpayers to check their accounts and make payments online, while a Port Information System expedites customs clearances for ships' cargos in Tianjin's port. Cash transactions are gradually being replaced by three network-access cards – bank, bus and social security – that residents use to manage their financial and transportation needs.
In China, a Resident Registration System controls internal travel and residency. Tianjin recently introduced a second-generation system designed to reduce the inconvenience to residents of re-registering at district offices whenever they change housing. The former manual process, requiring visits to multiple offices, has been reduced by data networking to a single visit.
50% of Total Exports from Technology Sector
The city's latest project is the Digital City industrial park, designed as a home for China's fast-growing software, electronics, biotech and new-energy industries. Now under construction on 10 km2 (3.8 sq. miles) of land, the new park will become home to a sector that saw a 32% increase in total revenues from 2003 to 2005 and which now produces 50% of the city's exports.
The pace of Tianjin's transformation is set by many factors, from the sheer scale of effort required to have an impact on its large, urban-rural population to the willingness of the central government in Beijing to embrace change. Measured by how far it has come in a short time, Tianjin is a notable success. Measured against the scale of its ambitions, the city still has far to go.
Labor Force: 5,500,000
Top7 2005 | 2006