ICF Top 7 Intelligent Communities – Tainan City (Taiwan)
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.
Intelligent Community Tainan City, Taiwan
Taiwan’s oldest city dates back to 1590, when the area of what is now known as Tainan City was first settled by the Chinese. After being retaken from Dutch settlers in 1662, it became the seat of government and remained Taiwan’s capital until 1885. Today, it is still a major political, economic and cultural center for the country. But while Tainan City celebrates its rich past, it is also looking forward, investing in the future of its roughly 1.9 million citizens by placing a strong emphasis on their quality of life and their ability to participate directly in their city’s development. Like Chiayi City to its north, Tainan City, Taiwan, has been recognized as one of the most intelligent communities of 2018. Building its sustainable industries, offering free digital education, and demonstrating a strongly citizen-centric focus are what is putting it on the smart city map.
Sustainable Energy and Clearer Skies in Tainan City
Tainan City’s industrial scene is already a strong mix of the old and the new. Southern Taiwan Science Park, Tainan Technology Park, and Shugu LCD Park are just a few of the science and technology parks providing employment in the areas of optoelectronics, integrated circuitry and biotechnology – modern industries for a modern city. Green energy also represents a significant portion of the R&D going on in Tainan City, with solar energy accounting for nearly 40% of these endeavors, boosted by the government’s Solar City Initiative of 2011. The initiative saw the large-scale organization of solar energy enterprises and the implementation of solar energy solutions across the city, including rooftop solar energy harvesting, solar-powered communities and agricultural greenhouses. To promote the uptake of solar energy systems by businesses and other private investors, the city has created a ‘solar city service network’ to offer aid in the form of subsidies and calculations of the benefit of converting to solar energy. Over the next couple of years, the Tainan City government also plans to set up solar energy harvesting systems on otherwise unusable lands such as restored landfill and salt industry sites.
As well as growing these well-established green industries, Tainan City has been looking into its own urban environmental health. Air pollution is as big a problem for the city as for its neighbor, Chiayi City, and so in 2014 it created the Bright and Clear Skies program to focus on reducing levels of airborne particulate matter. This particulate matter is known to cause serious health issues, especially in sensitive individuals. As part of the program, inspections check that vehicle gas emissions are within the legal limits, but residents are encouraged to use public transport and to reduce personal vehicle use wherever possible. Washing of the roads using special trucks was organized to reduce the biggest overall source – road dust, kicked up by every moving vehicle – and the program also provides advice regarding dust-capture to businesses.
To properly monitor the air quality status through indicators such as humidity, temperature, and PM2.5 levels (a notoriously dangerous and inhalable size of particulate matter), the company Edimax is providing monitoring stations known as AirBoxes to be installed around the city in at least 214 locations. The data acquired by the boxes is represented visually, making it more immediately understandable, and is shared publicly online or real-time data can be accessed for any single AirBox via the free smartphone app ‘EdiGreen’. The installation of AirBoxes is part of a larger information exchange project, and an analysis of the collected data will also be shared with Tainan’s citizens to enable them to make better health and lifestyle choices.
Tainan City’s Smart Education Services
When it comes to digital education, Tainan City’s large population of senior citizens are well in focus. Bringing key government services online may hold great potential to make them more accessible to all residents, but this means nothing if a major group of the target users – those who could arguably get the most out of this digitization – are unable to work with the required new and constantly changing technologies. To remove this potential barrier, almost ten years ago, the government of Tainan City introduced free digital skills classes held in mobile classrooms, complete with teachers and all the required equipment and materials. Aimed at middle-aged and senior citizens, these mobile classrooms come to their students rather than the other way around, providing full accessibility to elderly and less mobile residents. A few years ago, they clocked up almost 3,500 attendees, nearly half of which were aged 60-70. Their curriculum focused on lessons in the use of smartphone technologies, including practical tasks such as making medical appointments or travel arrangements like purchasing tickets or booking hotel rooms, as well as the more broad and fundamental use of smartphone apps and e-commerce skills.
Putting a strong emphasis on the health and wellbeing of senior citizens, the Department of Health in Tainan City has collaborated in the creation of another set of classes in the use of smartphones, this time specifically to teach the city’s older residents how to access medical information and make medical appointments online. With such measures, the government hopes to improve the quality of life and healthcare access for its older citizens.
Those living in rural areas are also targets for Tainan City’s digital education initiatives: Digital Opportunity Centers, initially established in rural areas in 2006, offer a similar curriculum to the mobile classrooms but with a slightly different focus. Health education and the use of digital tech are taught alongside network marketing to support farmers and other rural businesses seeking ways to reach a broader market.
“Tainan City, Taiwan, encourages the ongoing digital and technological education of its citizens, and its many initiatives for startups and small businesses support their entrepreneurial endeavors.”, recognizes Bart Gorynski, Managing Director of bee smart city.
On offer to the city’s younger generations is a different type of digital education: a number of ‘maker bases’, creative spaces with very low rental prices that have been repurposed to allow Tainan City youth the opportunity to get hands-on with new technologies for the purpose of solving challenges for the community. Launched by the city government’s Workforce Development Agency, these bases provide access to software and machinery relevant to Tainan’s local key industries, including 3D printers, metal casting and woodworking equipment, FabLab, Makerspace, Hackerspace, TechShop, as well as virtual reality tech. The hope is that these spaces will encourage Tainan youth’s innovative spirit and turn them into ‘makers’, enabling them to take part in literally building their own future. The five topics of focus in the maker bases are multifunctional clothing, the Internet of Things, agricultural technology, manufacturing (which runs in collaboration with local vocational schools), and a broader theme that investigates how science and engineering can construct a smarter life.
For those with an entrepreneurial streak – especially those looking to scale up and startup – local universities Chang Jung Christian University and Kun Shan University have set up a course in digital entrepreneurship and marketing to support students with networking, product visibility and even potential funding.
Combined, these programs mean that anyone of any age living in Tainan City who has an idea can readily get support to build it, test it, market it, and find interested partners within the community to scale it up.
Tainan City Puts the ‘Community’ in Intelligent Community
Tainan City has demonstrated a strongly citizen-centric approach to its application of technologies and smart solutions, with a clear quality-of-life focus and a drive to equalizing its citizens’ access to information, services, tech, and the required funding to make things happen.
“Tainan City, Taiwan, has demonstrated a strongly citizen-centric approach to being a smart city. Residents of all ages are supported to learn new digital skills, and technologies are applied to directly improve the quality of life in the city.”, says Thomas Müller, Co-Founder of bee smart city.
As well as all of the educational programs and networking initiatives outlined above, the Tainan City government is building strong collaborative links directly among its industry and educational institutions through two additional programs. For those who have completed high school, Dual System Training provides four years of dual work and study with a local company. Run across Taiwan, this apprenticeship-style program provides financial support to the participating student as well as solid employment opportunities upon graduation, with around 80% of students continuing on at the host company after the completion of their studies. At least six universities and thirty-seven companies are currently involved.
Focusing a step further along in the chain of industry, the Small Business Innovation Research Program offers financial support to smaller research and development enterprises and provides incentives for larger research institutions to become their commercial partners.
Both of these programs encourage partnerships and networks to strengthen Tainan City’s education and business ventures and its economic future.
Further enablers which help this intelligent community to connect include the government’s plans to improve its already impressive broadband connectivity through an expansion of the city’s free WiFi hotspots, exploiting the 4G technology available in traffic light control boxes throughout the city. Buses, parking lots and digital signage at almost 3,000 locations now also provide WiFi connectivity to the mobile Tainan City citizen.
Learn about Tainan City as an Intelligent Community!
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iStock, Tainan city night skyline - by fototrav