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Lisa Smith8. April 20189 min read

A Portrait of the Smart City Chiayi, Taiwan

ICF Top 7 Intelligent Communities – Chiayi City

The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) releases an annual selection of seven different communities which it considers to have achieved a certain level of intelligence in the way they respond to the challenges of globalization and urbanization or, as the ICF prefers to call it, the Broadband Economy. The selection of communities for 2018 was released in February, and can be found listed on the bee smart city website. The Intelligent Community of the Year was chosen from among the Top 7 and announced at the ICF Global Summit in June.

Chiayi City, Taiwan - an incredibly 'smart' city!

In Chinese, 'Chiayi' means 'awarded for loyalty'. The city was given this name in 1787 by the Chinese emperor after a 10-month siege, to reward the bravery of its citizens during that time. Chiayi City, now a provincial city of around sixty square kilometers in south-central Taiwan with a population of roughly 270,000 people, is being recognized once again for a very different sort of achievement.

Just four years ago, Chiayi City was listed as having the worst air quality in all of Taiwan. Airborne pollution is directly linked to health complications such as impaired lung and heart function, leading to shorter life spans even after minimal exposure. The city’s Mayor Twu Shiing-Jer has an educational background in medicine and public health, and knew that resolving the air quality issue had to be a priority. He therefore oriented the goals of his government to the general improvement of life in the city, with one of the four ‘arrows’ of the city’s policies being to “Create Healthy Communities and Promote Longevity”.

As is recommended for all truly smart cities, the plan to move Chiayi forward is holistic and covers mobility, energy use, technology, healthcare, and cultural promotion – the latter especially through its International Band Festival, which has been a major attraction for the city since 1993. These strategic areas come under the umbrella of its four major policy branches, which also include city planning, transportation, and food security.

For its air quality problem in particular, this holistic strategy has meant a three-pronged attack of setting up the Air Box – a system of cloud-networked air quality monitoring stations, with publicly visible, real-time LED air quality readouts – initiating a public electric bike network to reduce polluting vehicle traffic –  a Metro-card-activated fleet of electronic vehicles able to travel 40-60 km when fully charged and with 58 charging stations installed across the city – and an environmental education program reaching out to the city’s schools and communities. The combined implementation of these smart city solutions has led to a reduction in airborne particulate matter of 12%, which is the most successful air quality improvement across all of Taiwan.

Dr. Alexander Gelsin - Managing Partner at bee smart city "The massive success of Chiayi City in air quality improvement shows how smart solutions as an integral part of a holistic strategic approach can make a smart city more livable for its residents and visitors alike. Other cities that face air quality problems due to particulate matter can learn from Chiayi City”,
says Dr. Alexander Gelsin, Managing Director of bee smart city.

Citizen Participation Improves Life in Chiayi City

Chiayi’s success in the application of smart city solutions and its goal to improve the quality of life for its citizens don’t end there. To turn itself into an intelligent community, its environmental education program is complemented by other education and training initiatives which aim to produce the next generation of digitally and technologically skilled citizens. On offer since 2017 are courses on coding and robotics, as well as both basic and advanced workshops open to the general public to foster the kind of digital innovation expected to strengthen the city’s economy. The city has also provided designated co-operative work spaces, including a center for industrial innovation, and organizes creative application competitions.

These courses and competitions, and any new smart city initiatives that may come out of them, are supported by additional enablers such as free WiFi in all schools and an upgrade to the broadband infrastructure right across the city, as well as providing 2,000 smart tablets to students in rural areas of the city to ensure better digital equality via access to software and the network.

Bart Gorynski - Managing Partner at bee smart city "The four arrows of Chiayi’s city policy offer a holistic smart city strategy upon which to build an intelligent community. Its success with regard to the city’s improved air quality prove that this type of strategy works
, recognizes Bart Gorynski, Managing Director of bee smart city.

After educating its citizens in digital innovation and providing nationally top-ranking broadband access, the next logical step is to provide people with the data they need to generate smart solutions. The city’s government took that step in 2016, launching an open data portal which now contains around 300 entries. bee smart city has recently described the benefits of open data - Chiayi City is a prime example for seizing these opportunities. It has also encouraged the uptake of its new digital offerings by calling for its citizens to vote on priorities and projects – an important step towards citizen participation in local government.

Knowing its own strengths, Chiayi City has especially called for suggestions on how to leverage its already healthy tourism industry. As one example, Chinyi Eggs, the largest egg company in the country, is opening its doors to tourists to become a 'tourism factory'. With the aid of government funding, it will allow visitors to observe its processes. Another planned tourism factory is that of Huashih Co., which will allow visitors inside to see how it manufactures its cosmetics and cleaning products – and, of course, allow them to purchase some of these products directly from the factory. The additional money coming in from these endeavors is expected to further strengthen the city’s economy.

Citizens of Chiaya City are also encouraged by the city’s Planning Department to take action both to personally avoid and to help prevent disasters. The city is cleaning up its more dangerous areas, such as closing underground pathways which are known to flood due to heavy rains. It has also established smart control systems, such as the Disaster Prevention Action App, which allows the community to check for warnings and report potential problems, increasing citizen safety.

Healthcare Solutions in Focus for Chiayi City

The application of new smart city solutions in Chiayi City echoes the strong policy push for improved healthcare for its citizens. As a result, Chiayi City’s healthcare programmes have gained their own recognition: it has the best healthcare resources among any city in Taiwan.

The new Community Home Medical Care and Palliative Care Network, created by the government, has four hospitals and thirty-three clinics signed up so far. The network is intended to target the city’s ageing population, aiming to bring comprehensive healthcare to the aged in their own homes through the use of another smart solution, the Smart Health Cloud Platform. This platform links diagnostic equipment located in the home to medical centers via 4G mobile networks.

Thomas Müller, Managing Partner at bee smart city“Chiayi City has placed a strong focus on the promotion of healthcare and digital services, including strengthening its WiFi infrastructure. Coupled with its educational programs, this empowers its citizens to take part in improving their lives and to participate in the next generation of smart city solutions and services”
, concludes Thomas Müller, Co-Founder of bee smart city.

Smart city solutions oriented toward helping young families include the provision of funds and education to guide and support new and expecting parents, with programs such as the ‘Good Mother Class’ and the ‘Good Father Class’ teaching nutrition and healthcare for pregnant women and their unborn children. Chiayi City is also developing parks and recreational spaces to be safer and cleaner and to encourage greater use of shared spaces by families and the general community, and it is strengthening its support of childcare services and encouraging gender equality both at home and in the workplace, where it offers flexibility of working arrangements for both parents. In the workplace, the city is also looking to improve equality in positions of power and influence, making the city a more inclusive place to live and work.

Chiayi City – An Intelligent Community

While healthcare and equality are strong foci of the city’s government, there are some new technology-based smart city solutions already in place covering the other ‘arrows’ of the city’s policy strategy. In 2015, the ‘Solar Photovoltaic Setup and Promotion Team’ and the ‘Renewable Energy Committee’ were founded to promote the generation and use of renewable energy in the city. Solar panels are being installed on public buildings, reducing their reliance on fossil fuels. Chiayi City is also starting to introduce smart bus stops, which offer 4G WiFi services.

As well as supporting other smart city initiatives, the government has applied some digital smart city solutions of its own, offering smart government services electronically via an E-Service Counter to potentially reach more of its residents. The E-Service Counter allows access to over five hundred applications with a single login, and currently has around 210,000 subscribers. Police services are also being made available online, with fourteen iPatrol Cars and twelve police stations linked in 2015.

As with its successful air quality improvement, however, the greater vision of Chiayi City is of “an ecosystem of intelligent solutions”, a strategy strongly promoted by bee smart city. Most of Chiayi City’s smart city solutions are not so much about relying on new technologies as they are about orienting the city toward sustainability and a healthier, greener future. The city is transforming its agricultural program toward diversification and public plantations, and wants to increase R&D in its local secondary industries such as biotechnology, which should also enrich employment opportunities for its citizens. For example, Huashih Co. will not only open up to tourists, but is also collaborating with research institutions to discover local plants with commercial potential, building upon the city’s biotech R&D expertise to extract active ingredients from the plants and apply them for the creation of new products, creating new local industry.

Learn about Chiayi City as an Intelligent Community!
Learn more about the incredible solutions that have been implemented in Chiayi City and the other leading Intelligent Communities of 2018 and discuss their strategic approaches towards becoming more livable and prosperous places.

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Lisa Smith

Lisa Smith holds a PhD in chemistry from the University of Melbourne, where she studied a mixture of arts and sciences. She has worked as an editor for Wiley’s materials science program since 2010, and works on both fiction and nonfiction writing and editing projects in her spare time.