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Mayor Shares View on IT Strategy with Industry Players

Mayor Shares View on IT Strategy with Industry PlayersMayor Ko Wen-je attended the 2018 IT Service Industry Strategy Conference in the afternoon of August 28. He shared his views on the government’s smart city strategies with the other participants and audience, emphasizing the role of the government as a platform.
Citing examples such as the “Two Trillion and Twin Start Development Project,” he remarked that past efforts where government taking a direct role in supervising industries usually result in failures. He suggests opening up the city as a platform welcoming everyone to conduct experiment as an alternative, stressing innovation as the foundation of development.
Ko pointed out the tendencies of civil servants being conservative and avoiding innovation has its roots in several issues - especially an environment which does not permit civil servants to be innovative. He recalled a statement made by Fred Gibbons of Stanford University in attributing the low success rate of venture capital in Taiwan to the island’s emphasis on boosting success rate. The matter of fact is that venture capital is to create an environment where people are not afraid to fail.
That is why he seeks to change part of Taipei City Government’s culture by allowing them to make mistakes. Citing the decision on whether to suspend work and class during typhoon as an example, he stressed the importance of respecting the judgement of professional meteorology team.
He also recalled the mistake with the hiking event for seniors during Double Ninth Festival last year, where the turnout of 30,000 participants greatly exceeded original assessment – with only 7,000 souvenirs prepared. The incident taught him two things: elders use LINE as a way to connect with their friends and share information; and souvenirs with cash value reaching NT$450 are very attractive. None of the staff was punished for the incident, since doing so would make people fearful of doing things and destroy the basis for innovation – of which ‘not being afraid to fail’ is important.
On smart city policies, the mayor commented that the city government has selected 5 key industries as its focus for its top-down approach. These areas include public housing, transportation, healthcare, education, and payment. He also emphasized the importance on cybersecurity, noting that the highest concentration of cyber-attacks targeting the island took place on the opening night of the Taipei Universiade.
As for the bottom-up aspect, the city government plans to open up the entire city to everyone to conduct experiments. However, the key to achieving these objectives is to change the culture of civil servants. Therefore, he made comprehensive digitization as the policy of his administration, and he has hired experts from IBM to hold classes for senior officials and school directors.
Regarding the smartization of public housing, Ko stressed that Taiwan has the advantage in smart public housing, despite being ranked lower than US and Japan in the IT industry world ranking. Taipei City is currently building 12,000 units – the number reaches 20,000 units if counting joint-development projects with private partners. The total money invested into these projects top NT$100 billion, while the portion devoted to smart infrastructure and services consists between 3 to 5 percent of this sum – enough to stimulate Taiwan’s smart industries.
For transportation, the government will be working on traffic signs and parking which falls under its authority. For example, card-free utilization of public parking lots will be in place by the end of the year, and 4,000 roadside parking will be incorporated into smart parking mechanism managed by smart phone apps.
On smart payment, the mayor also added that he seeks to enforce the policy of EasyCard being the only accepted payment at the cafeteria and shop across Taipei’s elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as public institutions. His ultimate objective is eliminating all cash and coins inside Taipei City.
In his conclusion, the mayor emphasized the importance of starting from the inside and working out, as well as beginning with the public sector and extending into the private sector. He also believes that the key to digitization is economy of scale, and that is why the government should take the lead. The government also needs to shift its attitude from “working hard” to “working smart.”