Smart City Winner: Taichung City, Taiwan

2013 Intelligent Community Award goes to city offering free broadband, free Wi-Fi hotspots

Taichung City, an emergent Taiwan city rising with Asian regional prosperity and innovation, won the prestigious 2013 Intelligent Community award last week. With a “triple helix” of collaboration among government, business, and the area’s universities, Taichung’s victory is the second triumph for a Taiwan city since Taipei won in 2006.

Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), the New York-based independent think tank focusing on broadband-economy development, chose Taichung City from among its “Top 7” finalists, and over 400 applicant communities overall. Last year’s winner, Riverside, California Muni Wi-Fi Lives — the first U. S. winner in a decade — handed on the award to its Asian successor at the ICF’s “Summit 13: Innovation & Employment in the Intelligent Community” in New York City.

As with Riverside’s winning formula, Taichung won by collaborating across the board in high technology, workforce development, digital inclusion, arts, innovation and social capital. Along with the local governments, hundreds of corporations cooperated with the region’s 17 colleges and universities to build the community, emphasizing job growth, green development, and cultural and arts enhancement.

Under its mayor, Chih-Chiang (Jason) Hu, they set out in 2002 to become “the next Singapore or Seattle.” Integrating the city with the surrounding rural area in one metropolitan region, in the last three years they have created employment at the level of 958,797 gross jobs, with a net 72,681 new jobs. The region reports that of its gross job rate, 665,435 workers “depend on ICT.” These job figures are remarkable given the population of 2,675,940, with half living in the rural sector. The unemployment rate was 4.4 percent, as of 2011.

The city and its telecommunication vendors, plus an intensive industrial economic presence, have provided fiber and 4G WiMax broadband service to 90 percent of the population. Low-income residents are given broadband connections for free, and public libraries all have fiber connectivity and extensive computing facilities. The city is covered with free wi-fi hotspots. Connection tiers for paying subscribers are at impressive levels of 10Mbps, 20Mbps, 50Mbps, 100Mbps.

Visionary of the Year: From Blackberry to Quantum Physics

The Intelligent Community Forum also feted Mike Lazaridis, Founder and Vice Chairman of Blackberry, as ICF’s Visionary of the Year 2013.

While still a computer-science student at Canada’s University of Waterloo, with $15,000 borrowed from his parents and matched by a college innovation grant, Lazaridis co-founded Research in Motion, now renamed Blackberry after its lead product.

Like Bill Gates and many other technology entrepreneurs, Lazaridis has moved on in a different direction. He has funded the Institute for Quantum Computing with 200 researchers at his alma mater university, and he is investing under the rubric of his company Quantum Valley Investments [see “Is Quantum Computing real?”]. He said at the awards ceremony that he wants the Quantum Institute to be the new Bell Labs of its era.

Leadership Achievement: A Brave New World Rises on the Regional Horizon

A common theme is appearing on the Intelligent Community radar — the rise of regions as a catalyst for development rather than countries.

For example, the Intelligent Communities Lifetime Achievement Award, only the third given in the organization’s history, went to Dana McDaniel, Deputy City Manager of Dublin, Ohio, a Columbus suburb, and a previous Top 7 Community.

During his long association with the region, McDaniel also serves the Ohio National Guard as a Brigadier General, where he was deployed with his unit into the Middle East. For 20 years, he has been instrumental in leading Dublin and the Columbus region in progressive economic development on a broadband infrastructure basis.

Their approach has culminated in the Columbus metropolitan region becoming Ohio’s biggest city, larger today than Cleveland or Cincinnati.

This is a strategic phenomenon that is seizing global attention: Effective change leadership at the regional community level, and the rising power of “Citistates.” It is an increasingly attractive business development target that global vendors IBM and Huawei have taken aim at.

With gridlock at the national level worldwide, ambitious leaders, companies, and populations are building a new world on the regional or metroplex horizon.

ICF co-founder Louis Zacharilla said, “The rise of Taichung over the past decade has been a well-planned, unwavering act of collaborative team-building under the vision of a mayor, Jason Hu, who left his post as Taiwan’s Foreign Minister and went ‘local.’”

“Mayor Hu was determined to put Taichung in a league with the world's great cities, both economically and culturally” Zacharilla observed. “Taichung and Mayor Hu will be known for having brought to the world’s attention a city few heard of, but who are an example of Intelligent Community development for the 21st Century.”

Besides Taichung, the complete list of 2013 intelligent city finalists includes:

  • Columbus, Ohio -- United States [third Ohio community in Top 7]
  • Oulu – Finland [second time in Top 7]
  • Stratford, Ontario – Canada [second time in Top 7]
  • Tallin -- Estonia [fifth time in Top 7]
  • Taoyuan County -- Taiwan
  • Toronto, Ontario -- Canada

The 2014 Intelligent Community of the Year competition opens with nominations in July 2013 with the deadline in fall 2013. Seven new finalists will be announced at the Pacific Telecommunications Council's January 2014 conference in Honolulu. The winner will be named in New York City in spring 2014.

Gillette is professor of information and communication sciences at Ball State University and a senior research fellow at the Digital Policy Institute. He has written extensively on ICT leadership and management, and worked in academic, industry and public policy organizations.

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.