As an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team we are in Taiwan to help the county of Pingtung address their challenges integrating and optimizing the use of renewable energy technology.
Counties in Taiwan are similar to states in the US, smaller government jurisdictions, led by a leader called a Magistrate. Pingtung County occupies the southern tip of Taiwan between the Pacific Ocean and the Strait of Taiwan. The county is one of the poorer in Taiwan rooted in aquaculture and agriculture industries with less resources than most Taiwanese counties, yet through the vision of one man, Magistrate Chi-Hong Tsao the county has set forth on a compelling course for the future.
The driver for change came in 2009 when Pingtung County experienced the devastating effects of Typhoon Morakot. Representative parts of the county such as Linbian Township sit below sea level and much of these low lying areas were destroyed by the Typhoon. While not damaged in the Typhoon, Pingtung is also challenged with having one of Taiwan´s three nuclear reactors in its county. The county foresaw too much future risk after the typhoon´s impact and Japan´s Fukushima incident to not push to become more energy self sufficient and reduce vulnerabilities in its energy infrastructure.
The crisis from the typhoon led to a new day in Pingtung County with the leaders dramatically rethinking the way they operate — from economics, to environment, to energy management, to urban development and management to citizen well being. Progress in these areas has been made in the years following the catastrophe. Public and private initiatives have included significant deployments of photovoltaic farms, fuel cell technology development, biogas initiatives, and policies established to govern the ecological use of land.
However, the way in which these important pieces fit together in the Pingtung County vision for the future is still being developed. The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team will work with Pingtung County to develop a strategic roadmap for the short and long term time horizons and one that utilizes the excellent progress made to date. Additionally, the IBM recommendations will clarify the vision and the way in which the County’s citizens play a part in that vision for future quality of life improvements, economic stability, and reduction in ecological vulnerabilities.
Earlier this week we had the project kickoff at the Pingtung County Town Hall, Magistrate Tsao gave an empassioned speech about the devastation he and his citizens experienced with Typhoon Morakot, the rebuilding process undertaken, and the vision he has for the future. His great passion shows through remarkably and clearly left a mark on the IBM team with the responsibility we all have.
IBM Taiwan Country General Manager Jennifer Hwang followed the Magistrate and talked about IBM´s commitment to Taiwan and to Smarter Cities programs around the world. Pingtung County embodies the spirit, energy and commitment to execution that we as IBM share with our company, our people and our Smarter Cities Challenge program. Jennifer reflected on the wonderful opportunity we have as IBM to help Pingtung County with this important initiative.
Pingtung County arranged for local school kids to share the day with us and perform a number of traditional dances. The kids were as passionate as the Magistrate and did such a fantastic job. The IBM team was entranced and thoroughly enjoyed the dance of these kids.
Following the kickoff and press conference we took one last set of pictures before we launched into work knowing the challenge and opportunity ahead for all of us. It was very clear that this is important to Pingtung County and critical in the eyes of the Magistrate to build the future for his citizens. The IBM team is ready for the challenge.