Taipei city government turns on VOIP system

The capital of Taiwan is pushing the technology envelope once again, this time turning on VOIP Internet phone service in government offices and schools across the city.

On Thursday, city government offices, the Taipei City Council, and 234 schools throughout the city switched to VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) systems from traditional phone lines, an official said. The entire effort is expected to save the city NT$400,000 (US$12,340) per month in phone bills starting from early next year.

VOIP technology allows users to route voice calls over the Internet, bypassing traditional telephony systems and reducing charges. The most popular type of VOIP software people use on PCs for free PC to PC calling today is from Skype Inc., but companies and schools can also build an entire network that looks and acts like a traditional phone system, but still sends calls out over the Internet.

Taipei built its system with help from corporate members of a local organization developed to promote Wi-Fi and VOIP in Taiwan, IP Phone Open Exchange (IPOX) 070, as well as TeleSynergy Research Inc., of Sunnyvale, California.

One added feature the government included for citizens is a tab on its home page that users can click to make Web calls directly to a government Citizen Call Center, the 1999 hotline. A user needs to be on a PC running Windows 2000 or XP, have a microphone and earphones, and a download of ActiveXPhone from the city’s Web page. The link is to the English version of the Web site, but the hotline may or may not go to an English-speaking operator. The Citizen Call Center is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and provides government information and an enquiry service.

It’s the second major technology success for the city this year. In June, Taipei inaugurated the largest Wi-Fi network in the world, with 90 percent coverage of the city’s 2.6 million people through 4,000 hotspots.

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