Interviews and More Interviews – Data Overload Alert!

Team at Work 2 h

SCC Team Perth completed our scheduled interviews today and WOW are we relieved!  We held 24 stakeholder interviews in the past 6 business days and spoke with more than 60 people during the process.  We have gathered an incredible amount of information and taken down over 100 pages of notes.  Our heads are spinning from all the data!!!  It’s been a struggle,  but we have resisted extensive discussions regarding any of our formal recommendations that are floating around in our heads until we finish all the interviews to avoid jumping to any conclusions before we talk to all the parties involved.   We are really anxious to start those discussions tomorrow.   The team checkpointed with our City of Perth sponsors this morning and they think we are on the right track.   Yeah!

We did expand our view of Perth beyond our apartments and the Council House a bit over the weekend.  We took a great tour around the city of Perth and Freemantle and experienced some great historical sites and saw some lovely neighborhoods, parks and cityscapes.  After we returned, we decided to take the Waga Waga wagon and go up north a little further to visit the Indian Ocean and Hillary’s Port. It was a lovely drive and Luciano, our great team photographer, got some gorgeous shots!  The light was perfect!

Indian OceanHillary's Port

On Sunday, we attacked my bucket list and went to Caversham Wildlife Park…and we got to pet and feed the kangaroos (my life is complete!!) We also interacted with koala’s and wombats and saw about every native Australian animal you can think of…it was a wondrous place.  After a quick coffee, we headed off to a couple of local wineries to taste their wares and had a really beautiful lunch at Sittella.  We topped it off with a visit to the Whistler’s chocolate store (Yum!)

 Sooty Owl Deb and the Kangaroos q

It wasn’t completely fun and games on Sunday, however.  We spent some time during our drives working on our “fishbone” diagram and we got those up on the wall Monday morning so we could start looking at them and coordinating our recommendations…we are making a lot of progress and looking forward to really seeing our ideas gel into formal recommendations.   Down to business on our report tomorrow!

Jeff and the Fishbone

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SCC Team Perth is Off on Our Australian Adventure

Smarter Cities Perth

Five traveler’s from around the world have settled in and successfully completed our first week in Perth on our Smarter Cities Challenge assignment. We met with the Lord Mayor, Lisa Scaffidi, on Day 1 and it has been a whirlwind of activity ever since. I (Deb Bolk) arrived from Colorado USA on Saturday and my teammates, Li Jun Sun from Beijing China, Ian Watson-Jones from San Francisco, USA, Luciano Dallolio from Sao Paulo Brazil, and Jeff Wells from Melbourne, Australia followed close behind on Sunday.



Our IBM in country host, Liz Hampton from New Zealand was here to meet us with open arms and she and Camile Smetana have looked after our every need to help get us settled in and started on our work. The team at the City of Perth headed by Martin Mileham and Liz Handley have been outstanding and so helpful. They even brought in a new espresso coffee machine for us and Dillon has taken care of every detail to provide us with our every want and desire when it comes to lunches and snacks. We are being thoroughly spoiled!

We attended a lovely Kickoff Reception and tea hosted by the Lord Mayor on Tuesday and were introduced to the stakeholders and the press.

Launch Photo with Lord Mayor - Perth SCC

The team has been heads-down in interviews at The City of Perth’s Council House since then and has already gathered some great information on the city and some of the issues we need to address in our recommendations. We also took a tour of some major development sites at Elizabeth Quay, Riverside, and the Perth Link. In the evenings, we have experienced some really excellent restaurants. Jeff has taken us on the “scenic route” several times so we’ve gotten a few great mini-tours of the city. Several of us have made the climb up Jacob’s Ladder, which is right behind our apartments. The 242 steps take you up to Kings Park which is just beautiful and the sunrise over the City of Perth is just breathtaking.

Sunrise Perth Australia


To celebrate our first successful week, we loaded up in our big white van, which we have affectionately named the Waga Waga Wagon, and headed out for the train station right after work. We attended an Australian League Football (AFL) game and although we all got completely drenched through by a huge winter rainstorm, we still had a fantastic time. It was the first AFL game for many of us, so we kept Jeff very busy explaining all the rules when he wasn’t searching for rain ponchos for all of us. The Aussie’s are very serious about their football and it was fascinating to experience the fast-paced game, even if the home town West Coast Eagles were soundly defeated by their rivals the Richmond Tigers from Melbourne. It was a blast!

At the AFL Game

Tomorrow holds a chance for us to do some more exploring! It will be great to take a short break from the interviews and see some of the sights around the area! The Lord Mayor promised me at the receptions that I would get to see a kangaroo during my visit, so I’m really counting on getting a chance to pet one and maybe cuddle a koala!!


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Tainan – Success

Today, team Tainan wrapped up our project with a presentation of findings and recommendations to Mayor Lai Ching-Te and his senior staff. We made seven recommendations on how to improve Tainan transportation through Technology, Communication, and Governance – TCG, also the acronym for Tainan City Government. Our final written report will be completed and translated in the coming weeks, but today was a very positive report-out and endorsement for our work.

I found today very emotional. Three weeks in Tainan flew by. Five strangers, leaders all but not transportation experts, were picked to lend our problem-solving skills to a city looking to be “smarter.” We had over 40 meetings and 12 site visits, conducted research through on-street interviews and social media, met with leaders from Cheng Kung University and industry, and ate our way through Tainan. This morning, in just 30 minutes, we were able to distill all that down to seven bullets.

There are so many people to thank, and I will never remember to name them all. Irv did a good job in his previous blog entry – to our local leaders Lisa and Anny, our travel manager Red Daddy, our professional translators Tina and Valeria, our sponsors in Tainan Mr. Chang and Ms. Hong, Mayor Lai and his leadership, IBM CGM Jennifer Hwang, our communications team, our colleagues who shadowed our project, the local IBM client leaders, … everyone was amazing. I am not sure what tomorrow will be like when I can’t head down to breakfast for some noodles and dragon fruit, don’t have a bus waiting for me, and am not saying “ho jia” (delicious) about some amazing new xiolongbao or danzai mien. So, Xie xie – thank you – to all of team Taiwan, and see you again soon.

More on Mayor Lai’s Facebook page: link

Team Tainan - IBM Smarter Cities Challenge

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Last evening in Tainan

Its our last evening in Tainan and I have mixed feelings as we all pack-up for traveling out tomorrow afternoon. My suitcase is full of gifts and souvenirs our team received from the City of Tainan. I had never imagined about such a warm welcome and hospitality during these three weeks.

The entire stay was  full of exciting events and activities. So many meetings and discussions, trips around the city, lunches and dinners at restaurants, biking, walking the streets and so on. The number of places to eat and variety of food in Tainan has been absolutely amazing, The two vegetarians in our team (that includes me) had absolutely no reason to complain about eating options. It was a wide variety of vegetarian dishes that we got to choose and eat in these three weeks. Am planning to try making some of them when back home!!

Our hosts, from IBM Taiwan, have been so wonderful to all of us. We had a small meeting today to say thanks and how they made a difference to our entire stay. We as a group could not have been so productive without the good care taken by Red Chen.  We fondly named him Red Daddy!!! Will miss Lisa Chen with whom I went out for a few post-dinner walks in NCKU university campus that was near our hotel. Special thanks Anny Tseng who has been so warm and caring and  Tina and Valeria who have such wonderful language skills and did a great job of doing all the translations.

Our SCC Team Tainan, with whom I got to work so closely in last three weeks, has been so high in energy and focus that we could complete most of our work well in time. Wonderful memories to take back of the shared experience of these three weeks.  Thank you  Ed Brill, Donna Painter, Irv Lustig and Hari Madduri.






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Hospitality and Gifts

I spent tonight packing my two suitcases and had many bags of gifts from the city to pack away, in addition to the gifts I purchased for my daughters and my girlfriend.  We received gifts from the Bureau of Transportation (twice), the Police Department, National Cheng Kung University, Hayashi Department Store, and the Mayor’s office.  Today, the Bureau of Transportation gave us personalized gifts, including a printed photo album of all the activities we did, a DVD that I have yet to review, a personalized mug, and a personalized baseball cap.  I have been overwhelmed with the hospitality of the city during our visit and pleasantly surprised by all of the gifts we have received.  I look forward to sharing them with my family when I return home and all of these gifts will help preserve some great memories from my visit.

In addition to the hospitality offered by the different city departments, the graciousness of our local IBM hosts, Lisa Chen and Anny Tseng, has made our visit very comfortable.  In addition, Red (Daddy) Chen, who works for the local vendor hired by IBM, has taken care of all of the logistics, including picking restaurants for us and ordering (too much) food when we went to different Chinese restaurants.  When I go back home, I’m not looking forward to doing my own food shopping, cooking meals, cleaning a table, and doing my own laundry. I do look forward to eating less food so I can lose some of the weight I have gained.  If only I could take back some of the fantastic mangoes with me.  I will miss that the most!

It is amazing how during a short 3 week period you bond with a group of fellow IBMers that you’ve never met before as you spend day and night working, eating, and drinking together.  In addition, I have made new friends from halfway around the world, and I know that if I am fortunate to ever make it back to Taiwan, I have people that I can visit in this very friendly country.

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Tainan – Typhoon Matmo

Team Tainan has been focused this week on completing our recommendations presentation and written report, but the last 24 hours have had an unanticipated twist. We had a “typhoon break” today, in local language, due to Typhoon Matmo passing through Taiwan.

A typhoon is the same weather phenomena as a hurricane or a cyclone, just called a typhoon in the western Pacific Ocean. This particular storm is a category 2, with sustained winds of 100 km/h and above.

The island of Taiwan has high mountains towards its eastern side, so the winds ahead of the eye were rather light. At several points yesterday, it was hard to believe we were in the typhoon’s “red zone.” During the night, though, the wind picked up and throughout the day today, successive bands of high wind, horizontal cloud and rain, and heavy showers passed through. From our workroom on the 22nd floor of the hotel, we watched relatively quiet streets and each wave of the storm.

Life went on somewhat as normal in Tainan, with many retail stores open and cars and some motorbikes on the streets. By late afternoon, the rain had stopped, just as was true almost every other wet day of the last week. The wind is still noisy up here, but at street level we walked back from dinner as we have many nights.

Being confined to the hotel today gave us a lot of extra time to work on our report and presentation. We are feeling pretty good about our work heading into a readout tomorrow and our final meeting with Mayor Lai on Friday morning.

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Thirsty in Tainan? Have a drink, maybe of your choice.

I’ve travelled all over the world – 65 countries at last count. Something that keeps me exploring is how different the world can be at times. Today, I’m writing about a trivial but fascinating difference – what the Taiwanese choose to drink and when and how they drink it.

Our team has learned that beverage consumption is different in Taiwan, in several valuable lessons.

1) Coca-Cola products and other soda – rare to non-existent. Yes it’s a bad habit, but I tend to have one Diet Coke/Coke Light/Coke Zero in the morning where many normal adults choose to consume coffee. Caffeine delivery is required, and this is my choice. Here in Taiwan, I have yet to find a restaurant that serves Coke Zero or Diet Coke. Even regular Coke is pretty rare. Pepsi is non-existent. There isn’t a local equivalent like Inca Cola in Peru either. It’s just not a drink of choice here.

The only real place to find Coke Zero is in a supermarket or at 7-11. Which leads to lesson 2:
2) 7-11 and its competitors are ubiquitous, every few blocks in the cities…but…even they don’t major on cola or similar. It’s mostly about tea. Lots and lots of tea. Some juice, some coffee and other beverages, but mostly tea.
Drinks sold at 7-11 in Tainan. See what’s missing in that picture? Soda pop. There might be carbonated apple juice from time to time. But mostly not.

3) What can you find besides tea? Juice. Lots of juice. Yesterday, Irv and Anjana and I had lunch in a place that served mostly tea, but also passionfruit juice. Interestingly, it was mixed to order – how much sugar you wanted and what size etc. Then, the plastic cup came out with the juice – and a sealed lid on top. Many stores have the heat-shrink plastic machines to seal their drinks.

One juice we’ve had a few times is smoked plum juice. When I first saw it in the store, it didn’t sound that good. But it was served at a dinner last week, and it was really nice and refreshing.


4) We’ve also struggled with wine. Beer tends to be readily available, but wine, especially white wine, is uncommon. Perhaps it is because of refrigeration costs, but it also seems likely to have to do with local tastes. Mixed drinks are *never* consumed at a meal, only in a bar… or, in some cases, at the night market.

5) It seems like beverages in general are often considered something to be consumed after a meal. We went through a whole lunch over the weekend without anything to drink ever being placed on the table. Somehow this worked.

6) Thankfully, our hosts got me a case of Coke Zero from the supermarket. Tainan has been survivable as a result. :-)

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