How Taiwan’s Largest Telco Supported the Country’s Rapid Pandemic Response
Taiwan’s response to the pandemic has been exemplary—and technology plays an indispensable role.
Relying on its digital and networking infrastructure, the government:
- Identify pandemic-affected citizens.
- Mobilized emergency services.
- Contained the spread quickly during the pandemic’s height.
As Taiwan’s largest telecommunications service provider, Chunghwa Telecom (CHT) was instrumental in the country’s rapid response. It built an epidemic prevention platform and kept its network running to connect those who agreed to be monitored.
Despite avoiding a national lockdown, the challenges faced by Taiwan’s small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) was significant. And the pandemic shined a light on cracks in business operations and management, raising urgency for Taiwanese SMEs to digitally transform.
Serving more than 600,000 SMEs—nearly half of Taiwan’s 1.4 million SMEs—CHT sees tremendous untapped economic potential in helping these organizations digitalize, transform, and scale-up.
The pandemic stoked Taiwan’s fire for digitization, where companies might have been resistant to such change in the past.
“Taiwan’s enterprises have been slower in adapting to cloud technology. … But they have finally stepped forward in the last two years and are starting to think about the idea of being a ‘digital first’ business,” said Hsueh-Lan Wu, vice president of CHT’s Enterprise Business Group.
And it is a good thing they are. As of three years ago, McKinsey reported inconsistent adoption of digital technologies in Taiwan.  Sectors like service and manufacturing were slow to digitalize, while sectors like government and finance were fairly advanced. For the past decade, Taiwan’s economic growth rate also lagged behind the global average. Because of this, it’s crucial for Taiwan “to use whatever innovations it possesses” to drive growth and break this trend.
As cities shuttered and employees moved to remote work, the impetus for change was clear: Digitalization matters. And digital transformation can save livelihoods and keep communities connected.
SMEs in Focus
CHT believes that cloud innovation is vital for resiliency, particularly for SMEs. The cloud also enables organizations to fully utilize cloud-based services like AI, IoT, and big data—applications where in-house expertise is likely lacking.
“We have an important mission to help our SME clients benefit from cloud technology,” said Wu. “By creating a better cloud service, keeping abreast of developments, and integrating standards for SMEs, our customers can utilize new technologies faster and remain focused on their own business development.”
Leading by Example
Even as Taiwan’s SMEs become less reserved about digital transformation, expertise from bigger players is key. And how better to demonstrate the process of digital transformation than to do it yourself?
“In 2019, Chunghwa Telecom started a three-year transformation plan. The pandemic has accelerated the intent for transformation and allowed CHT to clearly outline our priorities,” Wu said.
For CHT, Wu explained that transformation goes beyond revamping infrastructure and includes a thorough research stage, too: “Our research institute has developed a number of analysis and AI systems to detect network degradation and instability to maintain a consistent high-quality network. The internet, open-source software, business support systems, and CRM information systems are important in the digitalization process of Chunghwa Telecom.”
As a century-old enterprise with legacy systems, transformation must be conducted with great care, one step at a time. CHT’s collaboration with VMware in areas of cloud performance, automation management, and data security helps enterprise customers:
- Reduce IT running costs.
- Improve competitiveness.
- Improve scalability with CaaS.
Next, CHT is embarking on its “Wide Alliance” program. By devising new 5G solutions and connecting IoT devices for clients in Taiwan, CHT leaders believe these advancements will help the company and its clients better understand customers’ needs.
The Journey’s Just Begun
Understanding that technology will continue evolving is at the heart of CHT’s own digital transformation and its aspirations for Taiwanese SMEs. And keeping up with the changing landscape is the bare minimum required for survival.
“The development of technology is borderless. The telecommunications industry needs to stay alert to technology trends and adapt according to the clients’ needs. Most importantly, we must place clients at the core and fulfill their needs. This is important to keep an enterprise alive,” said Wu.
The pandemic radically altered what it means for both governments and businesses to thrive and grow. Building a positive future will only come with digitalization and an openness to change. And CHT is prepared to step up to the role.
“CHT has more than 20 years’ experience in helping companies and the Taiwanese government in digitalization,” said Wu. “We hope that moving forward, our capabilities can be shared with other governments through collaboration and mutual sharing with local telecommunications companies.”
Ultimately, CHT believes that technology must serve our communities as we trek towards recovery and resilience. As Wu said, “Using technology to serve people must be the common goal we share with our partners. And we hope to work hard to achieve this goal together.”