We have now completed the first week of our Smarter Cities Challenge (SCC) assignment for Busan. Having arrived on the high-speed train from Seoul on Monday evening, we had a formal kick-off of the project on Tuesday afternoon with the Mayor of Busan, the Country General Manager of IBM Korea, a number of the key stakeholders and participants of the project and some Korean press. We received great coverage in the press for this initiative. Testament to this was shown when we were eating dinner at a quaint wine bar a couple of days later and our gracious host/owner of the establishment commented on his awareness of the project as he had seen coverage of the kick-off event and project. He was so delighted to have us in his restaurant, that he provided us with complementary food.
During the remainder of the week we focused on the information gathering phase of our SCC engagement, conducting interviews with a number of key stakeholders and organisations including the representatives from the Public Safety Department, the Disaster Centre, key Government ministries, First Responders, university professors specialised in different disaster types, as well as citizen representatives. We were very impressed with both the willingness of interviewees to participate in this project and share their key insights with us.
After several intense days of work, we took some time off over the weekend to engage in some extracurricular team-building activities. On Friday, had a great team dinner at the Raw Fish Market at Gwanganli beach, sampling a lot of local raw fish delicacies. That was an experience! On Saturday we took a 20 kilometre hike along the coastal part of the Galmaetgil trail near Busan providing us with some great views of fishing villages and importantly the lovely Haedong Yongung Temple. We finished the day off viewing the Busan Fireworks Festival from Gwanganli beach – this was by far the most impressive and memorable fireworks festivals I have ever seen.
On Sunday, we spent the morning engaging in a Corporate Social Responsibility activity with over 50 young Korean students (ages 12 to 16) studying English, which was organised through Busan English Radio. I was so impressed not only with the level of English proficiency, but also the types of questions they asked us – this was truly an inspiring moment for me to engage with so many bright young minds so eager to improve their English skills and interact with foreigners to broaden their horizons. We finished off the Sunday by going to Gukje Market, by the far the largest I have been to, with endless rows of small alleys filled with everything you can imagine to buy. I was able to do my obligatory shopping for my kids back at home and found some great small items, including a pair of socks with a Starbucks logo – perfect for my daughter who loves this type of paraphernalia.
Now, on to the second week of our engagement, with some more interviews planned, but with a main focus on examining the key issues we have identified and developing a set of recommendations and a roadmap to address these issues.