Taiwan’s ICT industry is expected to grow 3.96 percent in 2017 on the back of rising demand for high-tech devices from end-users. Realizing the need for digital transformation, Taiwan has recently launched its 8-years Digital Nation Plan, dubbed DIGI+, to develop its high-tech economy and propel digitalization among companies.
eGov Innovation speaks with Mr. Francis Liang, Representative, Taipei Representative Office in Singapore and Dr. Chiueh Tzi-Cker, VP and General Director, Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan (ITRI) to gain insights to Taiwan’s national digital strategies.
What is Taiwan’s Digital Nation Plan and how will it help transform Taiwan’s ICT industry?
Mr. Francis Liang:
Taiwan’s Digital Nation and Innovative Economic Development Plan (2017-2025), dubbed DIGI+, has been carefully designed to reinvigorate and expand Taiwan’s digital economy. Its goals are to increase Internet bandwidth, bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas, and raise Taiwan’s standing in the global information sector. The strategic plan is aimed at helping Taiwan attain a digital economy valued at NT$6.5 trillion (US$205.9 billion, 29.9% of GDP) and put the country among the top 10 in the world for information technology by 2025.
The government has announced that a budget of NT$11 billion will be set aside in 2017 and NT$20 billion each year from 2018 to 2025. This budget is being channelled into six development strategies: DIGI+ Infrastructure, the setting up of infrastructure conducive to digital innovation; DIGI+ Talent, the cultivation of digital experts; DIGI+ Industry, support for cross-industry upgrades via digital innovation; DIGI+ Rights, making Taiwan a country featuring digital human rights and an open-network society; DIGI+ Cities, making cities and rural areas smart: DIGI+ Globalisation, accelerating Taiwan’s global status in terms of digital service economics.
One of the facets of Taiwan’s Digital Nation plan is developing Taiwan into a technology hub in the region. To lend support to Taiwanese innovators, Taiwan Excellence made its debut participation in CommunicAsia in Singapore. Made possible by Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), the Taiwan Excellence Pavilion was made into a platform to bring Taiwanese companies closer to the members of ICT industry within the Southeast Asia region and help them make inroads for them to tap into this growing market.
How should governments work with technology start-ups and encourage innovation?
Mr. Francis Liang:
More than 97 percent of Taiwan’s economy is made up of SMEs. This makes Taiwan a great case study when it comes to helping out the tech start-ups and SMEs. In today’s digitally driven economy, the Internet and e-commerce have provided SMEs with new operating models thereby enhancing the speed and efficiency of their business operations.
At the heart of Taiwan’s Asia.Silicon Valley initiative is transforming Taiwan into a global technopreneurs hub. The setting up of local innovation and incubation centres or SMEs, lowering barriers to entry, funding grants, scholarships offered for high performers from international markets are some of the initiatives of the Taiwanese government all geared towards leading SMEs into the new era of innovation, invention and R&D.
For instance, Taiwan’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) encourages Taiwanese SMEs to step up their development of innovative new technologies and new products. Governments can also consider developing a platform for both the public and private tech companies to foster knowledge exchange and build relationships for potential partnerships.
Under its New Southbound Policy, the Taiwanese government recently made a pronouncement on its intent to increase collaboration particularly with the ASEAN and Australia and New Zealand markets for SME development. With Taiwan’s proven experience in crafting an energetic and resilient SME culture that has played a key role in Taiwan’s development as a nation, Taiwan is revitalizing SME initiative to tackle income inequality and promoting local economies.
At present, Taiwan is home to several start-up accelerators like AppWorks and Garage+ where entrepreneurial-minded individuals can turn for funding and promotion. International accelerators like 500 Startups and TechStars are active in recruiting teams in Taiwan. Some of the promising start-ups include Gogoro, an electric scooter manufacturer, Qsearch, a data analysis tool, and AirSig, an app that focuses on post-paper world solutions, and many are looking at them to revolutionize the global technology scene.
With this start-up revolution, it is important for governments to consider partnerships and supporting start-ups and SMEs to not only make the technology scene a more vibrant one, but also help to drive higher GDP growth.
What’s in store for Taiwan’s ICT industry going forward?
Mr. Francis Liang:
Taiwan’s ICT industry has been a cornerstone of its economic development in the last few decades. Going forward, Taiwan is taking a step further in developing its manufacturing efficiency-focused economy to an intellectual property-and innovation-driven economy. With the push from government towards more technological innovations, more SMEs and start-ups will be able to set their foot on the global technology arena. Taiwan’s digital national industry will hence be able to bring about transformative improvements and stronger research and development.
One of Taiwan’s key activity is the Asia.Silicon Valley initiative. It aims to establish Taiwan as the hub between the Asia region and Silicon Valley particularly in IoT development, and making the country a global centre for technological entrepreneurship. Microsoft and Qualcomm, for instance, have both made their decisions to launch their IoT research centres there.
Another interesting point is that the Taiwan’s government is putting a lot of attention on the New Southbound Policy, in which Taiwan seeks to strengthen its relationship with South Asia and Southeast Asia. With this, Taiwan promotes economic collaboration with its neighboring countries; share and complement human resources; improve quality of life in partner countries and expand its economic footprint.
What are some of ITRI’s most interesting recent projects? What will ITRI be focusing on in the near future?
ITRI has introduced several exciting, state-of-the-art technologies including an intelligent vision system for companion robots, and a remotely operated autonomous drone. In addition, ITRI has also just released a smart pesticide detector featuring micro optical inspection, which was awarded the COMPUTEX 2017 Best Choice Award.
In Taiwan and Asia, ITRI is promoting the NSOS or next-generation system software for smartphone technology. NSOS is designed to increase the added value of commodity Android phones. Some features of this project include: solving the BYOD security problem via smartphone virtualization; providing more personalized services via accurate inference of dynamic user interests; and offering more streamlined smartphone usage experiences via programmatic app control.
Specifically, the smartphone virtualization technology enables a physical smartphone to be used as multiple virtual smartphones, e.g., one for office use (more secure), another for personal use (more flexible but less secure), and the third for app trial (risky but free). This way, a smartphone user only needs to carry one physical device, and then uses it in different ways in different contexts, without interfering one another.