Hui-Min Chen, Chief Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Taipei City Government, Taiwan

By Medha Basu

Women in GovTech Special Report 2019.

How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

As the chief secretary of the Department of Information Technology in Taipei City Government, my responsibility is to promote Taipei’s policies regarding smart cities, helping to boost the convenience of citizens’ livesy, and enhancing the competitiveness for the whole industry through new technologies. In order to continue transforming Taipei City into a livable city, which can become a source of pride for its citizens, Taipei City Government declared Open Government, Citizen Participation, and Public-Private Partnership as its core visions in developing a smart solution-based ecosystem.

We also adopted a sandbox approach to encourage innovators to utilise Taipei City as their demonstration site, helping them to speed up the development of various solutions and providing citizens with an excellent living environment. We’ve conducted nearly 200 projects – mostly related to the application of IoT – including self-service garbage collection system (iTrash), autonomous vehicles, multimedia kiosk stands, smart streetlights, etc. I was excited to be part of these pioneering projects.

What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019?

The types of projects implemented by the Department of Information Technology span over a wide range of sectors. First, I’ll consider the nature of the projects and decide upon the tools to employ for promotion: whether online community marketing campaigns, international or domestic exhibitions to communicate with our citizens, or other formal or informal methods to raise public awareness. This is so that our citizens could have a concrete idea about the achievements of Taipei’s smart city policies.

For instance, the Smart City Summit & Exhibition with Taipei Computer Association takes place in March every year. Through our efforts, the event has become the largest professional exhibition of smart city solutions in Asia in 2019.

Furthermore, the Global Organisation of Smart Cities (GO SMART), which was launched by Taipei earlier this year, has become an important platform for sharing and exchanging experience or practices of smart cities. In the process of the establishment of GO SMART, I’ve served as a coordinator, overcoming obstacles during early stages of operation and making GO SMART an important network for building smart cities around the world.

With our hard-working staff putting in their top efforts, Taipei’s achievements have been repeatedly recognised globally. The Lausanne School of Management 2019 IMD Smart City Index has rated Taipei as the ‘7th Smart City in the World’. In the ‘Demand and Disruption in Global Cities’ report published by Jones Lang LaSalle or JLL, Taipei is also ranked the first among the other smart cities globally. We are very excited about these results.

For Taiwan, I consider my department’s work to be very pioneering. Our achievements are pretty impressive, being the best among Taiwanese municipalities, and I’m very proud to be part of it.

What is the best thing you have experienced in your career?

Taiwan is a liberal and democratic society; that is why Taipei’s public servants are subject to strong public oversight. Despite these pressures, I continuously receive solid support from my superiors and colleagues – both spiritually and financially – allowing our endeavors to proceed smoothly and provide citizens with better services.

I believe that as long as we work hard, we are able to achieve great results. Despite the past five years being the most challenging period in my professional career, these are still the best thing I’ve experienced in my civil service career.

If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2019, what would it be?

Despite our good intentions, when we implemented policies and experiments such as open data, multimedia information stations, and smart trashcans, we’ve run into misunderstandings with other departments and even city councilors. While we mean the best, miscommunications such as specialised technical knowledge and information asymmetry may result in additional work for others, causing unnecessary complaints.

An important lesson I’ve learned in 2019 is the importance of cross-department policy coordination. It is necessary to communicate with key figures of involved departments beforehand, as well as adopting a humble attitude when listening to their concerns and trying to resolve the problems. When these conditions have been met, we can arrive at conclusions quickly during the meetings, and have conclusions executed effectively.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2020?

I believe that AI and blockchain technology have reached a mature stage, and we will gradually apply them to suitable systems and application scenarios in 2020.

What are your priorities for 2020?

In response to challenges in the horizon, our department will have to handle more tasks next year. Therefore, as our responsibilities grow, we have prioritised several tasks in 2020, such as assisting with the introduction of the Enterprise Architecture and Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

These measures will help improve the city government’s integrity and provide a more comprehensive system management process.

What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2020?

Organisation restructuring, Enterprise Architecture and ITIL are the major projects to be undertaken in 2020. Although we have completed some of the required research in 2019, I believe that we will still encounter inevitable pressures once we officially embark on these tasks. As we continue to pursue our goals, we also look forward to becoming a benchmark for all levels of the government in Taiwan through this process.

What has been your fondest memory from the past year?

I’ve hosted a number of large-scale events in 2019, such as the Smart City Summit & Exhibition, Information Technology Month, and Smart City Fun Fair. These events have proved successful and received praise from both the public and city government officials.

Moreover, I’ve also represented the city of Taipei to several events or exhibitions, such as Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Global City Teams Challenge in Washington DC, Rome exchange tour, etc. While sharing Taipei’s achievements with other cities, we also take these opportunities to deepen our connections and strengthen city diplomacy.

For 2019, our efforts yielded great results both domestically and overseas. These memories are the things that will motivate me, and keep me engaged with my work.