Photo credit: DaveWilsonPhotography / Flickr
Can there really be a city that is fully “cyber” in this day and age? Are we at that point with our technology where we have that capability? The city of Taipei, China thinks so. In fact, it is already well on its way there. It has the largest Wi-Fi grid in the world, covering 105 square miles.
Tens of thousands of people use the 10,000 hot spots every day, and the entire city is expected to be covered by Wi-Fi by next year. This is all part of a promise the mayor of Taipei promised his constituents when he was elected in 1998. He’s been working on it ever since, and Taipei is now close to becoming the world’s first true “cyber city.” Its transformation is being done in four steps.
Harness the Power of the Internet
The first step in the plan for Taipei’s transformation was for it to fully harness the Internet’s power for the city. The citizens were urged to use the Internet and not the roads. This was because the city was already so crowded that there was no room for any new roads to be built.
Rather than getting people on the highway to go places, including work, the city leaders wanted them to get on the information superhighway to do the things they needed to do. Telecommuting and shopping from home were encouraged. Of course, for everyone to make full use of the Internet, it had to be made accessible to the entire city.
This part was implemented relatively easily, as Taipei is already the third largest producer of computer and communication equipment in the world.
Make the Internet Available to Every Citizen of the City
City leaders are looking at access to the Internet as a basic human right. They consider this a natural progression from our entrance into the Information Age. This is much like the right to own property and engage in business and trade with others was a natural human right that came out of the Industrial Revolution. The goal of city leaders is to give every citizen equal access to the Internet.
Convert the Internet into a Public Utility
Part of making sure every citizen has equal access to the Internet in Taipei is converting it to a public utility, the same way water, sewage, telephone lines, and electric power are public utilities that are available to all.
Being affordable and conveniently accessible to every citizen is a hallmark of a public utility, as well as it being something that is managed and maintained by the city. Taipei is already putting this public utility infrastructure for the Internet into place.
Create a Large Network That Covers the City
Private industry has been very cooperative with the public sector in Taipei in building a city-wide network of Wi-Fi hot spots using fiber-optic technology. This technology is providing the basic structure of the planned scope of the network.
The network will include a selection of different bandwidths that will allow data, voice, and video to be carried over the Internet in anyone’s home or business. People will be able to access these capabilities easily from wherever they are in the city.
The foundations of this transformation to a cyber city were laid back in 1994, when all the citizens in Taipei were offered free email accounts through the city. Today, over 240,000 residents have these free accounts. Over 300,000 have received free training on how to use the Internet. This is all in preparation of turning Taipei into a fully cyber-capable city.
This transformation will make things easier on citizens by freeing up roads and helping them become the most cyber-skilled people in the world. No other city on the planet is as close to being a true cyber city as Taipei, and that is because the city’s leaders laid the foundations of it long ago, when the Internet was new.
They had a vision of what the Internet could become and what it could mean for the people of the city. Today, they are making good on that promise and going forward into the cyber age.