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Taipei mayor says smart initiatives minimize coronavirus pandemic disruption

City government says early preparation allows it to respond to crises quickly and efficiently

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Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (fourth from left).

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (fourth from left). (Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan has an advantage promoting smart cities, while the public and private sectors should work together to push ahead with digitalization and smart city renewal in the post-COVID-19 era, said Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) this week.

At a side event for the online Smart City Summit and Expo on Tuesday (Sept. 8), Taipei City officials and leaders of local ICT companies exchanged ideas about social distancing rules and smart city initiatives, which can help minimize direct contact and the spread of the virus. Experts agreed digital transformation is not an option but a necessity, while suggesting the nationwide 5G network, AI, big data, and other new technologies can power the smart cities of the future.

"Beyond COVID-19 lies a new normal and new opportunities," said Ko. "The city government has been proactively promoting digital public services and smart integrated payment platforms. At the same time it has been building up big data centers for years and creating a digital ecosystem, allowing the city to respond to crises quickly and adapting to post-pandemic life in a less painful way."

"The outbreak will change business as usual forever," he concluded.

Taipei’s Department of Information Technology Commissioner Lu Hsin-ke (呂新科) elaborated by saying the agency has integrated data collected from various city government offices into a system that was built before the pandemic. Pay.taipei, for example, is an online platform implemented to fast-track payment services such as utility bills and parking tickets.

"With the system, during the pandemic, the city government can quickly allocate medical resources to places in need, including the distribution of surgical masks to drug stores and other approved outlets under the national real-name mask rationing system," he added.

Participants also shared innovative ideas to boost the city's digital infrastructure and services, including dispatching medical prescriptions and drugs via drones.

A research report noted that it would be relatively easier to implement smart city strategies in Taiwan than other cities around the world, as cities in the country are generally smaller and demand for urban renewal is robust.