Smart Gentrification?

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When I was walking around Dihua Street (迪化街) on Saturday, I couldn’t help wondering whether the Taipei City government has missed a trick in its gentrification of the area.

Don’t get me wrong: they’ve done a fine job of restoring the old Chinese and Japanese buildings that line the streets of the old commercial center of Taipei, not to mention making the area much more tourist-friendly by posting some very useful maps that show the most interesting sights to visit. I just wish they had gone one step further and digitized all that information and made it available on a smart phone app so that I didn’t have to stop every few minutes to make sure I was on the right track.

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Digitization would have other benefits as well not just for the visitor but the government and local businesses as well. Imagine being able to point your phone towards a building and being zapped with information about when it was built, the families that lived in it, and any major events such as murders that took place there. Or imagine being able to point your device at the sacks of exotic herbs, spices, dried fruit and other traditional dry goods in front of the stores along the street to find out exactly what they are and their prices.

The government would benefit too by being able to track visitor numbers and itineraries accurately in order to improve the traffic flow and eliminate sources of congestion. It could even team up with local businesses to promote their goods and services through the app and point people to the most interesting shops and restaurants. The possibilities are endless.

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The Taipei City Government may have missed a trick this time, but as the cost of and complexity of implementing such smart neighborhoods continues to decline I’m sure it won’t be long before it starts rolling them out throughout the capital.

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