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Smart City Winner: Taichung City, Taiwan

Jay Gillette | June 12, 2013
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.


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