Special Report 1
Public-Private Partnership and Smart Taipei
On September 11, 2015, the Mayor of Taipei City, Ko Wen-je, held a press conference on “First in the Nation: Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and Budget Visualization.” The Mayor announced that the city government would make its 2016 general budget information public and available on the internet. Graphics such as blocks and bubbles were used to represent and explain the information. The new policy has been well received by the media and netizens, featuring in 107 media reports, and obtaining 904 “shares” and 20,000 “likes” on the Mayor’s Facebook page, with over 546,000 Facebook users reached, while the visit numbers to the website and single press release page views both exceeded 500,000. These numbers testify to the success of budget visualization, achieved by the joint effort between the city government and online community.
Government 3.0: Transformation of Public Services
Partnership in Public Services and Model of Government Transformation
The concept of Government 3.0 has been put forward since 2013. Its objectives emphasize transparent government services based on Public-Private Partnership (PPP), better use of government resources and reinforcing democracy. The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, an independent charity that functions to boost the innovation capacity of the UK, proposed “collaborative technologies” as the key for the future of smart cities. PPP has thus become an approach adopted by cities around the world for government transformation and smart city development.
However, PPP relies on a platform that links public and private sectors. This is where the idea of “open data” comes in and serves as a basis for the Taipei City Government Open Data Platform established by Department of Information Technology in September, 2011. As of December, 2015, 785 datasets have been made available and reached 71 million downloads. Among them, open data regarding YouBike and bus services in Taipei City as a result of the joint collaboration between the Department of Information Technology and Department of Transportation have been wellreceived by the public and private businesses. The Department of Information Technology constructed a brand-new open data platform “Data.Taipei” in 2015, and created licensing standards for the convenient use of the public. At the end of May in the same year, the Department held the first “Taipei Open Data Hackathon,” in which the winning works, such as “King of Bus” and “Jill the Monster,” are good examples of applying open data to address administrative issues.
Joint Recue Efforts Bring Collaboration Opportunities
Division of Labor: from Tacit Understanding to System Transformation
On June 27, 2015, the explosion incident at Formosa Fun Coast caused injuries of varying degrees to over 500 people. Families of the injured were anxious to find out how bad their loved ones were hurt in this terrible accident and the hospitals they were sent to. With the number of people injured quite large and lack of information, many families were still left in the dark on the next day following the tragedy. The city’s Department of Social Welfare contacted the Department of Information Technology in an effort to learn whether an inquiry system could be made available for the families. The Department of Information Technology immediately started working on turning the list of names of the injured from PDF files into open data for public inquiry. DOIT also sought help through Facebook in hopes that the internet community could help develop useful applications.
Within an hour after receiving the list, the first inquiry system had been developed. In the next two hours, ten more systems went online. The system designs varied and complemented one another. Users could find what they needed while smooth internet traffic was ensured at the same time. DOIT also integrated and made the URLs of these systems available on the official website of Taipei City Government. One of the systems was accessed 300,000 times in eight hours by the public, showing the enormous amount of public inquiries handled by the systems.
After the explosion, the Department of Information Technology invited Taipei City Fire Department, the Department of Health, the Department of Social Welfare and the internet community programmers to join a discussion on the technical details of data interfacing in the event of disasters. The results of the discussion have had an effect on the city government’s emergency response and operations, and served as the basis for information exchange during the typhoon events that occurred later in the same year.
The “Open” Momentum Continues to Build up
From Budget Visualization to Crime Hotspots: Publish Information that Has an Impact on People
After the events of Formosa Fun Coast explosion and Typhoon Soudelor, the Department of Information Technology has gradually nurtured cooperation with the internet communities. “Budget.Taipei” is one example proposed in September, 2015. The public participated in lively discussions online, with more than 100 citizens making inquiries about budget details through “Budget.Taipei.” DOIT gathered all responses provided by the various departments of the city government before making them public in November.
Open data not only offers transparent information to the public but changes the Standard operation Procedure (SOP) of government services. At the same time, PPP assists in government service transformation. The Department of Information Technology has always been committed to providing information that is useful to citizens. From March to April, 2015, DOIT had reviewed roughly 1,000 pieces of data, of which 300 became open data; this number equals the sum of what was available from 2012 to March, 2014. In addition, information considered sensitive in the past (e.g. crime hotspots) is now available online with the assistance of Taipei City Police Department. The change has also been very wellreceived by citizens.
The departments of Taipei City Government must work closely together in order to take open data service to the next level. With the cooperation and monitoring from the private sector, the service will further ensure transparent governance.
PPP in Public Works
Taipei City Road & Pipeline Information Center and Communication among Collaborating Agencies
Public Works Department of the Taipei City Government established the Taipei City Road & Pipeline Information Center (RPIC) in July, 2015. RPIC collects information provided by road and pipeline offices from both the public and private sectors and uses an intelligent platform to gather real-time construction information. This has effectively reduced the negative impact of urban development on the roads.
RPIC consists of the Public Works Department, Taipei Water Department, Taiwan Power Company, Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd., fixed network operators, cable TV service providers and gas companies, etc. Staff members from these agencies and companies work together in a joint office. RPIC will coordinate pipeline construction projects involving one or more of the above-mentioned parties to avoid work delays or repeated road digging caused by a lack of communication across the collaborating agencies, thus reducing social cost. In the six months following the establishment of RPIC, except for municipal construction projects, the number of excavations in Taipei City decreased by 7%. From July through December 2015, 1,911 excavation applications were merged into 408. By reducing 1,503 unnecessary excavation applications (e.g. redundant pavement patching and repair), RPIC clearly demonstrates its efficiency.
Moreover, construction sites are filmed the whole time, with real-time images transmitted to the RPIC for monitoring purpose. When a situation comes up at the construction site, on-site personnel can use mobile applications to request for RPIC assistance. The real-time images help RPIC learn and keep control of the situation.
RPIC is planning on replacing aerial cables with underground cables. Relevant information of the task will be stored in a database. In the meantime, underground public pipelines will be surveyed and 3D map data created year by year. The more information we have on the city’s underground pipelines, the greater chances the number of unnecessary excavations due to lack of pipeline information can be avoided. Smooth information flow between RPIC and disaster prevention and rescue authorities will improve emergency management and make Taipei a safer city.
“Government resources are limited but private resources are abundant” is what Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je has always believed in developing a smart city. PPP allows the government to provide better public services despite the lack of resources. Adopting “intelligent” approaches is the best way to improve communication across agencies and boost government performance. The city’s public services have turned over a new leaf based on the ideas of PPP and smart city. Taipei City Government listens to people’s voices before reaching a consensus. Government resources are integrated with energy from the private sector. Through this process, we can build a better city while providing more effective services to citizens.