Over the past five years, Taiwan has placed “smart cities” – urban centers that run on data collected through sensors and other electronic means – at the forefront of its national digitization strategy.
Smart city experiments are ubiquitous at both the national and local levels. The National Development Council (NDC) launched the Asia Silicon Valley Development Agency (ASVDA) in 2016 to incubate technical solutions useful for all municipalities, and in the same year Taipei began its Smart Taipei initiative. Each major city now also has a similar program.
These initiatives are part of a national vision of a “modern city” – one responsive to the needs of its citizens and based on advanced technology and a high degree of transparency. The projects mainly focus on connecting private firms with public needs, while educating the rest of the government on what the term “smart” should mean in practice.
Imbuing cities with technology has become a central part of the national strategy. At a 2018 conference, President Tsai Ing-wen described smart cities as a major catalyst for the next stage of Taiwan’s economic development. She commended domestic companies for actively investing in developing the artificial intelligence of things (AIoT), while citing the ASVDA project and other government efforts to create test fields to push that development forward.
ASVDA has taken the lead in the national digitization campaign. The agency’s stated mission is to “pursue a new economic model for sustainable development based on the core values of innovation, employment, and equitable distribution.”
“ASVDA functions like a cross-ministry platform,” explains Joseph Chun-ju Lin, a senior specialist at the NDC’s Department of Industrial Development. “It works with industries to pilot test new technologies for cities, get feedback, and eventually make those technologies advanced enough to export overseas, including Southeast Asian countries.”
Since another NDC department is responsible for urban planning as a whole, “our focus is purely on introducing new technologies into smart city projects,” Lin says. ASVDA has guided the application of more than a dozen successful smart city technologies, from city lights and parking to long-distance medical diagnosis.
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