New Taipei City--A Metropolis Redefined
Transformation of the City
New Taipei City (NTPC) is a newly established municipality circling Taiwan’s capital Taipei City. The development of its predecessor, Taipei County, was largely dependent of and shadowed by the development of the capital. Over decades, the development of Taipei County, a local entity composed of 29 separate and loosely-connected townships, became marginalized and unbalanced in terms of infrastructure, economic development and service provided to citizens.
The reform began with the creation of New Taipei City in 2010. The vision of the city reform is to build a “Livable City” that meets and accommodate people’s needs, so that the citizens have best quality of every aspect of life. NTPC Government envisioned to create a friendly environment that encourages all citizens, the city’s most important asset, to be part of their city’s and community's greatest transformation ever. To fulfill this vision, the main common elements of the numerous city reform programs include (1)innovative policies, (2) effective governance, and (3) public participation.
Innovative policies: innovation is vital in dealing with urgent and persistent urban challenges. NTPC is a leading model for Taiwan’s cities/counties when its innovative policies are worldwide recognized, particularly those in areas of social welfare, regeneration of urban public spaces, food safety, sustainability, trade and investment and etc.
Effective governance: innovation requires effective execution. Strong leadership with political will transforms the bureaucracy tangled with laws and regulations into a team of efficiency, flexibility and adaptability. The City’s service delivery is also greatly benefited from information and communication technology, the largest industry in NTPC.
Public participation: citizens’ needs being at the center of all policy, public participation can benefit the reforms in two aspects. First, the public feedback allows City Government to review and adapt its policies. Second, public-private partnership consolidates and integrates all available resources to maximize benefits, such as Open Data initiative.
Priorities of the Reform
Among various challenges in governance that Taiwan and this City face, NTPC identifies 5 prioritized policy areas: energy, demography, economic development, urban revitalization, and public-private partnership.
Energy has always been a hot issue around the world. NTPC is home to 4 nuclear power generators in operation since 1979. For safety concerns, particularly after Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, NTPC has advocated for decommissioning of the generators by actively developing nature-friendly policies that mobilize all citizens to engage in energy-saving lifestyle. This has yielded significant results and began an energy paradigm shift.
Low birth rate and aging population are imminent problems for building a demographically balanced society that would nourish the development of communities. Based on comprehensive surveys, NTPC initiated key and groundbreaking structural reforms to create a city in which the citizens feel home, such as establishing senior citizens’ community centers and children daycare centers, enacting regulations for parent-friendly working environments, strong and effective social welfare outreach programs, as well as high-tech security systems.
The manufacturing industry had been the main sector of NTPC’s economics due to its relatively low cost in labor and land in past decades. However, as labor cost and land value increase, the City’s economic development risks being stagnant. NTPC prioritizes the transformation of its economics by introducing technology-based approaches to upgrade the conventional business to high value-adding industries, as well as by creating a platform for entrepreneurs to realize their innovative ideas. The City’s unemployment rate has dropped from 5.2% to 3.6%, the lowest in Taiwan.
The City’s urban landscape was fragmented for the lack of integrated planning and downtown-centric approach, and therefore has a negative impact on citizens’ life quality. NTPC’s urban acupuncture by small-scale interventions regenerates the vitality of the communities, such as remodelling spare public buildings to house daycare centers for preschool children and the elderly. Sports and community centers bring together the residents and strengthen the sense of community. Urban ecological restoration projects turn deserted street corners into organic green gardens, thereby improving life quality and city landscape.
With challenges coming in various forms, good governance is not possible without inputs of private sectors. NTPC’s reforms aim to deregulate and de-bureaucratize governance. Adopting actively flexible and adaptive approach allows public-private partnerships to integrate all resources available and to maximize the benefits of governance. Public-Private partnership also contribute to the City’s grand urban development projects, thereby enhancing NTPC’s economics.
Process of the Reform
The reform began with governmental reorganization. As the problems of governance at the time of NTPC’s establishment in 2010 were rooted largely on disaggregation of policy planning and disintegration of resources, NTPC’s headquarter was designed to function as the policy center for innovation and coordination, whereas a network of district offices was created to implement policies and to provide services to the citizens. This institutional arrangement allows better allocation of budgets according to the priority and urgency of citizens’ needs.
NTPC also recognizes the value of the original networks of governance for listening to the needs of local communities in order to formulate responsive and adaptive policies. One Government initiative applies advanced ICT to create a platform for district offices as well as borough representatives to communicate with headquarter and between other offices or representatives on the project implementations and feedbacks of the local communities.
Another important process of reform is the transformation of the bureaucratic mindset of the government employees. The conventional “top down” mindset does not apply to this modern society, the City therefore introduced a feedback system for the citizens and users of services to rate and review how the government employees perform. NTPC Government also strives to create a working culture in which employees are encouraged to be innovative, responsive, and proactive, and feel proud of their input in building the City.
To ensure that city governance is accountable, members of the public, additional to councilors, are invited to be part of committees in major policy areas, such as urban and economic development planning, budget allocation, civil and religious affairs, environmental protection and etc. A city wide toll free hotline “1999” as well as “Write to your Mayor” system enable citizens to be heard in every stage of policy planning and execution. Open Government initiative not only makes public the data related to good governance for easy access, but also encourages citizens to reuse and reproduce such data in ways that are beneficial for public welfare.
The innovation starts with close observation of culture, social context and leads to effective policies and results. We provide 2 examples of the City’s innovative policies:
Happiness Protection Station: the City identified the problems that some children of disadvantaged families often do not have enough food, and that the existing social watch network had an oversight in locating those families in some urgent situations. The City developed with charity fund and over 2000 convenience stores the project “Happiness Protection Station” in 2011. Children of disadvantaged families or in urgent need of food can get free meal boxes in convenience stores. City’s Department of Social Welfare will then collect the data and reach out to the families in need. This project has been funded solely through charitable donation, and delivered through retail enterprises. Since the inception, the number of children to get meal boxes have gradually but significantly decreased to a steady level, while the social watch network can now provide better service to targeted families.
City wide energy saving campaign: nuclear power is often an answer to carbon emission reduction, but NTPC supports decommissioning of nuclear power plants for safety concern. NTPC’s solution to both low carbon and green energy is to create a nature-friendly environment by introducing a comprehensive program that boosts green industry development and changes citizens’ lifestyle. Since 2012, the City has replaced 220,000 street lights with LED lighting manufactured by local enterprises, saving 170 gigawatt hour annually compared with conventional high pressure sodium fixtures. Taiwan-made advanced metering infrastructures, or smart meters, are installed on government properties and major electricity consumers for better power management. NTPC-based automobile manufacturer Luxgen has a major role in the pilot project of government green vehicles, now ⅓ of which are electric cars. The most critical part is to lead citizens’ energy saving lifestyle. The City starts with power-saving advocacy in government owned properties, including office buildings and schools. Combined with spill-over effects and incentives such as awards, coupons or fee waivers, NTPC successfully mobilized groups of volunteers to lead a lifestyle of reduced power consumption in communities. The campaign has yielded significant results. Within the first 8 months, the City has seen 2.02% drop in city-wide power consumption compared with corresponding period of the previous year, while the City’s green industry benefits from such a lifestyle change.
The most significant environmental impact of NTPC’s reform is exemplified by retaining for 6 consecutive years “Taiwan’s Cleanest City” awarded by Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Agency. Though the power saving lifestyle campaign illustrated in the previous section, the City has seen 2.02% drop in city-wide power consumption compared with the corresponding period of the previous year, the most among all cities in Taiwan.
NTPC adopted eco-friendly construction methods and materials in building new public infrastructure construction including new MRT lines and stations, sport and community centers, schools, museums, libraries and social housing complex. The green buildings designed by world’s top architects, equipped with solar panels, water management facility, and temperature mitigating capacity, not only find balances between utility and city aesthetics, between urban development and ecological coexistence, but also generate strong public awareness of and support for green lifestyle.
The City works with local communities to revitalize the urban landscape. NTPC conducted a comprehensive survey in 2010 and identified the problems of old spare public spaces in bad management that could become blind spots for public safety and security. By introducing urban acupuncture projects, the City transforms these buildings into day care centers for children and senior citizens, among other purposes and invite volunteers of the local communities to beautify the surrounding areas and the neighborhoods, such as building organic gardens and improving cleanliness. Since 2010, the City has seen 320 hectares, a 1.8 fold growth in parks and green spaces in the high density urban areas of the City, while the City’s mountainous areas are preserved to be home for diverse ecological systems.
The most critical impact is that the citizens now live an environment-friendly lifestyle. Since the introduction of “per-bag trash collection fee”, the City sees a sharp drop in the daily volume of collected trash from 3,560 tons to 2,700 tons, that is every citizen produces 40% less garbage everyday. Government buildings and schools have banned single-use paper containers and plastic utensils. Moreover, NTPC provides healthy and safe organic lunch to pupils, mounting to a total weekly organic vegetable consumption of 34 tons. With strong advocacy at schools, children become the best ambassadors for leading a green lifestyle at home and in their communities, and often have the best ideas for improving the environment. Public participation and public awareness are now the driving force of future substantial impacts.
The existing social structure imposes stereotypes on gender roles, thus limiting the potentials that female citizens can fulfill and develop, which in turn leads to a complex problem of low birth rate and ageing population. The City has since 2011 opened 40+ public daycare centers for children and facilitated the establishment of more private-owned facilities that allow women to pursue careers. The City was first in the nation to extend paid paternity leave to 7 days, and enacted regulations for parenting-friendly working environment. The schools offer healthy and safe lunch of organic produce to pupils, and after-school care to whose parents still need to work after school hours. Hundreds of sports, community, and parent-child centers and parks and green spaces strategically invigorate the surrounding neighborhoods. The daycare centers have benefited over 4,000 families and more than 1.2 million users have visited the facilities for recreation and the female labor force participation rate has increased by 5% since 2010.
Participation and empowerment of women is an integral part of the reform. Projects of community regeneration, transformation of local traditional industry, the operation of community centers, and even the planning of construction are largely advised by NGOs for gender equality. Significantly more female volunteers partake community affairs, providing direct and insightful inputs. Newly constructed public buildings are now equipped with more toilets for women than for men. Moreover, the gender inequality index (GII) of NTPC in 2014 is 0.047, below national standard. While female citizens are increasingly more educated and qualified, the number of female senior government managers doubles since 2010, while the ratio of male-female senior officers drops from 3:1 to 2:1.
NTPC proclaims 2016 as the “Year of Gender Equality” with a series of projects aiming at promoting gender streamlining. The City has enacted guidelines to accept “same-sex domestic partner”, serving as proof of relationship for signing medical treatment consent forms only, while the national law still bans such partnerships. The gender streamlining not only promotes the social status of the women, but encourages male citizens to take up roles that are conventionally perceived as female, such as paternity, education, and nursing. The number of male government employees taking unpaid parental leave has quadrupled since 2010.
NTPC is home to 18,121 manufacturing factories and 207,340 corporates, representing 23% and 16% of Taiwan’s economic composition. The reform of transportation and urban planning realign the City’s industry of advantage, previously centered on the development of the capital city. The most significant result of such reforms is the creation of high-tech industrial parks and centers for innovation that help transform the conventional industry to value-adding industry. Now over 18,000 corporates have received consultancy of transformation. In particular the manufacturing business that has local legacy benefit the most from this reform, where the City leads comprehensive branding campaigns, such as YingGeShao for fine chinawares, whereas some transform to producing ceramic components for high technology and medical devices.
Combined with open data initiatives, introduction of “Start-up Accelerator Workshops”, and the platform of startup capitals, the City creates a nurturing environment for young entrepreneurs to realize their innovative ideas. Provided with office spaces and state of the art ICT equipment, the young entrepreneurs are encouraged to seek ideas from the community and test their innovations through government’s matchmaking and consultancy services. The workshops have housed 54 teams in the first year, 12 of which have received capital venture in the amount of over 1 million US dollars. Because the City is portrayed as young and digital, computer and online gaming industry emerges as a major business cluster as Softstar, Gamania and UserJoy Technology set up headquarters in NTPC. There are over 6,000 patent applications in 2014, or 18% of all Taiwan’s patent entries.
The reform programs enable good governance that is flexible and adaptive to attract private investment to start business and create supply chains in NTPC. The City has initiated 10 large scale urban development projects, ranging from retail clusters, television and filming cluster, digital media cluster, cloud computing supply chain cluster, electrical and optical cluster, and medical device industry cluster. These projects have in total accumulated investment of 750 million US dollars and created over 11,000 jobs, thus ranking the City on the top of Taiwan’s most invested municipalities.
Delivery of services
While one government employee has to serve 89.72 citizens, the lowest ratio in Taiwan, NTPC has to allocate its human resources to provide better services for its wide-spread citizens. Since 2010, NTPC has vigorously transformed its service from paper-based to cloud-based. Now both the citizens and all agencies can access the central and highly-secured database for transaction of business. The City was the first to apply such technology to improve administrative efficiency and service delivery. The Smart City project has been consecutively recognized as one of the world's top seven smart cities since 2014, and awarded by World e-Governments Organization of Cities and Local Governments (WeGO) for its achievement in closing digital gap.
The e-delivery of service is also notable in the use of cloud computing technologies to build a network connecting databases of all its 29 administrative districts to streamline the services offered to its people. The amount of time and cost for transportation spared through the digitalization of service channels, processing and data management is self-evident. Most important of all, the City can allocate its human resources to deliver services to people that do not have access to e-services: the elderly in disadvantaged rural areas. Mobile service teams with computers, printers and access to central database, are dispatched according to schedule and on demand to communities and neighborhoods to provide services to the citizens with limited or no access to the Internet, thereby ensuring the quality of services regardless of geographical and technical limitations.
The toll-free service hotline “1999” both serves information inquiries and citizens’ feedback mechanism. While service hotline is a common solution for service delivery for many cities, the City has optimized the user experience by establishing comprehensive standard operating procedures. Usually within 15 minutes after 1999 call center registers citizens’ requests or questions, the competent authorities will respond. The call center maintains 99% satisfaction rate even when it has to process over 100,000 call requests monthly. With the service hotline and required responsiveness, the general public has easier access to the government, thereby reducing corruption and enhancing transparency and review mechanism. This has significantly improved the trust of the public in governance and NTPC Government.
The role of Dr. Eric Liluan Chu, Mayor of NTPC, is crucial in the reforms and the City’s transformation. His strong leadership promotes a vision for New Taipei City, and consolidates resources of all kinds necessary for the achievement of that vision, including the development of urban planning, policy formation and innovation, and fiscal soundness for sustainable growth. As the City was reorganized from 29 loosely connected townships, the role of mayor is particularly central to lay down the foundation and governance style for this new municipality. Having extensive experiences in both local and central government, Dr. Chu has balanced the need to attract new investment and support business expansion with good social and environmental policies, and has made government agencies more responsive and accountable to citizens, with particular attention to allowing more voice and influence to disadvantaged groups that generally have little representation.
Dr. Chu’s strong political will and leadership is also valuable for policy innovation and implementation. The Mayor has been seen as a trustworthy and reliable politician, therefore major private sectors are willing to work with Dr. Chu in close partnership. For example, many social welfare policies are largely funded by private sectors and charitable organizations. His leadership is particularly vital in times of disaster relief, while timely and effective coordination with local and central government and other stakeholders is critical for emergency response and consequent aftermaths.
Not only the brain behind the policy innovation, the Mayor is but also the chief spokesperson and advocate for policy marketing. He supports local initiatives aimed at providing benefit to the city and its diverse communities, highlighting relevant causes and helping members of the local community to receive the recognition they deserve.
There is a range of bodies involved in the development of New Taipei City: the Mayor, local and central government, businesses and sub-regional partnerships. For the Mayor to provide the strategic vision and objectives within which these organizations can operate, and to ensure that resources are being channeled efficiently, each needs to understand the Mayor’s strategic role and understand their potential role in supporting his objectives.
Factors for Success
The success factors of the reform programs are leadership, innovation, effective governance and participation and support among the public. As a newly created special municipality, the Mayor’s leadership is instrumental to all reforms. The strong political will and support from the Mayor offer the government officials to come up with innovative policies that address the challenges the City faces. The smart use of advanced ICT not only improves service delivery, but also provided impetus to local digital industry. Moreover, as top level commitment is critical to institutional resistance, the City is willing to be flexible, responsive and adaptive, thereby ensuring the effectiveness and efficiency of governance, and creating rooms for innovation. Finally, the public participation and support is the most important factor for successful reforms. While the reforms are citizen-centric, the City sees positive and fulfilling organic cycle of support, participation and benefits in most reform programs. City’s strong advocacy and marketing skills successfully consolidate public support.