The Taipei City Government’s efforts in the Smart City development have continued for years and were recognized by multiple international parties. In 2006, Taipei City received the ICF (Intelligent Community Forum) Global Smart City award, making us the first city in Taiwan to receive this honor. In the 2021 Global Smart City Index released by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne, Switzerland, in November 2021, Taipei stood out among 118 cities and ranked 4th in the globe, which is 4 places higher than in 2020. Such achievement put us ahead of well-known international cities such as Helsinki, Copenhagen, Geneva, and Auckland and recognized us as one of the digital cities that have international competitiveness.
With the principles of “government gives the tests, the industry gives the answers” in heart regarding the application of technology, the Department of Information Technology of Taipei City Government introduces creative energy and resources from the citizens to implement smart city solutions. Among them, blockchain technology possesses characteristics such as openness/transparency, decentralized management, difficulty to plagiarize, etc., which make it an excellent solution in various areas. Through cooperation with the central government, local governments, industries and other parties, the Taipei City Government aims to provide the citizens with high-quality diverse services.
Introduction of Blockchain Technology: A Decentralized Platform of Transparency Built by the Government and the Citizens
In order to improve the transparency, convenience and security of our municipal public service applications, the Department of Information Technology of Taipei City Government collaborates with ThunderCore, a blockchain startup through the Taipei Smart City Project Management Office (TPMO), to build a public-private collaboration platform based on the technology’s characteristics of transparency/openness, difficult to tamper with, full traceability, etc., that has credibility and a fault-tolerant mechanism to provide the reliability and security the municipal government needs.
ThunderCore utilizes the characteristics of blockchain technology - the time stamps and the inability to be tampered with - and operates it using decentralized servers (also known as “nodes”). TT chain, the next generation of ThunderCore’s public chain platform, is a dedicated node for Taipei City’s deployment. TT chain boasts excellent computing performance, highly-secured operation and low cost, etc., which give us an edge over functionality tests such as data uploading, creating backups, searching, etc. With all these different nodes, the information held by Taipei City Government will become decentralized. Then, we can establish various services that will make citizens' lives more convenient or build a data verification system based on it. To name a few, we can store voting data or lottery data on the chain.
Take the lottery system for instance: Government units distribute public resources using a lottery mechanism, and one thing we are concerned about the most is that citizens often worry about unjust quota-assignment or prearranged drawing results. Through a smart blockchain contract with a verifiable random function mechanism, the citizens can verify it using transaction account, on-chain time and hash value based on the smart contract website address and make the lottery process completely transparent, from the rule announcement to the revealing of results. This way, the government’s affairs can be examined and verified by the public. On the other hand, regarding the voting system, i-Voting enables the citizens to look up public records on the platform anytime via blockchain technology. Everything involved in a voting event can be verified on the public chain, from the process to the result. This is a realization of our “Open government, public participation” concept.
As Taipei City Government continues to think about how to promote applications that can really help our citizens utilize the innovative blockchain technology, we are looking for proposals from the public to engage in POC (proof of concept) regarding smart city applications in the Taipei city so that the public can verify the achievements the blockchain applications have completed. In the past, the Taipei Smart City Project Management Office (TPMO) has developed a digital citizen card embedded with Tangle ID in a collaboration project with the IOTA foundation and BiiLabs, a startup company. The integration of blockchain technology can keep Taipei citizens’ digital data safe from risks of being tampered with and reinforce people’s trust towards using government services.
“Care Info Integration Platform” Built with Blockchain Technology that Makes Cross-hospital Telemedicine Sessions More Convenient
According to the National Development Council, the percentage of the elderly population in Taiwan reached 14.56% in 2018, becoming an aging society. We’re looking at a 20% elderly population percentage in 2025 according to their estimation, making us a Super-aged society by definition. In the face of an aging population in the future, the gap in the demand for medical resources will continue to expand. The geographical inconvenience for rural areas makes those resources harder to reach, making telemedicine a trend worthy of further cultivation. To solve the problem the medical personnel operating in remote areas face which is the difficulty of making medical records inquiries, Taipei City Hospital built the Care Info Integration Platform powered by blockchain technology as a part of the research project commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in October 2020. With this platform, medical institutions are able to directly access the records across various systems that are authorized by the citizens via smart contract. Powered by blockchain technology, the decentralized design of the platform made exclusively for storing medical records not only reduces the information security risks the centralized way of data storage often is exposed to, but also makes the care services more efficient and the quality of medical care higher.
Care Info Integration Platform built by Taipei City Hospital, Lienchiang County Hospital and Lite-On Technology jointly became the Telemedicine App. By authorizing medical personnel to obtain their medical records with the app, citizens’ medical info such as daily physical self-measurements, regular appointments, emergency treatments, hospitalized records, discharge treatment records, etc., can be looked up in the system by the personnel in medical facilities such as clinics or hospitals.
The Telemedicine App was field-tested in Lienchiang County. A citizen of Matsu is able to make an appointment with a doctor in Taipei City Hospital’s Telemedicine Department and have a remote consultation with a doctor in Taipei through video call without leaving Matsu at all. This can greatly make up for the gap when there isn’t a physician specialist in Matsu available. On the other hand, if a doctor in Taipei needs to make an inquiry about a Lienchiang patient’s medical records, he or she can ask for the citizen’s authorization while using the blockchain-based medical records inquiry system before looking at the patient’s medical records from their appointments in other hospitals of a specific section. This will not only help doctors who are performing telemedicine sessions understand their patient’s status better in order to make the remote / cross-hospital appointment session more convenient, but also provide medical services for patients without the limitation of geolocation and time. Other than that, this will greatly benefit the integration of patient big data and improve our medical systems' operation efficiency.
The Insurtech’s “Insurance Claim and Medical Data Platform”: a New Convenient Option for the Policyholders
According to the Taiwan Insurance Institute, the average Taiwanese holds more than 2.5 insurance policies. That means in situations where you need to file a claim with different insurance companies, other than the wasted cost on the paper work, it can create an administrative burden for medical institutions too. Therefore, Taipei City Government and the Life Insurance Association have developed the “Insurtech” based on blockchain technology. By uploading certificates of diagnosis and medical receipts digitally to the Insurance Claim and Medical Data Platform, Insurtech can significantly improve the efficiency of administrative affairs for both policyholders and insurance companies through the “shared documents/single-application” feature.
This platform aims to establish a stable scale and resource ecosystem system by forming a 3-way communication/ecosystem between hospitals, insurance companies, and policyholders. In addition to the 14 insurance companies including Taiwan Life Insurance, Cathay Life Insurance, China Life Insurance, Fubon Life Insurance, etc., that have been included in the first phase, there are 7 more insurance companies that will be included in the future. On the hospital side, Taipei City Hospital, Cathay General Hospital, Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital and Wanfang Hospital have joined this medical documents-sharing project, which makes more than 90% of the insurance information available on the platform. There’s more: with the participation of the key hospitals in Taipei City, the platform will be able to provide the policyholders with a one-stop insurance claim experience with high efficiency.
Due to the high coverage of the platform, if a policyholder has multiple medical insurances from different insurance companies, whenever they file a claim, all the insurance companies that are on the Life Insurance Association’s platform will be notified too and issue payments of the claims if applicable. This saves the time for the policyholder to file claims one company at a time and the commute between hospitals. In addition, the security blockchain technology offers can keep the policyholder’s personal information safe from security risks as well as keep their privacy for them. Insurance Claim and Medical Data Platform will be releasing a 2.0 version in the future. In addition, the Insurance Passbook app scheduled to go online in 2022 Q4, will enable the policyholders to manage all their policies under the same interface, which is part of the digital transition process of the medical insurance industry made possible by new technology applications.
Making attempts with both new technology and field experimenting, Taipei City Government boldly adopts blockchain technology to improve the digital services and public governance of Taipei City. With the introduction of this technique, Taipei City Government aims to build an environment with complete transparency and trust for the citizens where we can build applications that can make our lives more convenient. With that, Taipei City Government will continue our dedication to making Taipei City smarter and better.