International visitors will now be able to access the “iTaiwan” Wi-Fi service during their stay in Taiwan, the Tourism Bureau said yesterday.
Lai Ping-jung (賴炳榮), director of the bureau’s planning division, said that the service was launched in 2011 to meet the rising demand for Internet access in public places.
“Currently, the service has about 4,400 hotspots around the nation that grant people Wi-Fi Internet access in places such as scenic spots, public transport systems and government agencies. However, initially, only residents could access the service,” Lin said.
As the number of international visitors to the nation has reached 7 million per year, Lai said that the bureau decided to work with the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission to give tourists access to the service as well.
Lai said that the service was officially opened to international visitors on Wednesday last week, though the bureau did not publicly announce the new measure until yesterday.
He added that prior to the expansion of the service, the bureau had received several e-mails asking about iTaiwan after Chinese-language media reported on it earlier this year.
Lai said that about 250 international visitors registered to use iTaiwan between Wednesday last week and Monday, most of whom were from Hong Kong, China and South Korea.
Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong also offer a free Wi-Fi service to international tourists.
“We find that they often need to use Wi-Fi to call their families using Interntet telephone services or to access instant messaging applications like Line,” Lai said.
To access iTaiwan, international visitors need to go to the bureau’s visitor information centers, which are located nationwide. There, they must present a passport or entry permit to center personnel to apply for an account number with which to activate the service. They can then use the Wi-Fi system wherever they see the iTaiwan hotspot icon.
Lai said that Taipei has a similar wireless service called Taipei Free. Because iTaiwan and Taipei Free have a free roaming mechanism, users registered with iTaiwan can use the same account number to access Taipei Free and vice versa, he said.
The Taipei service has about 6,000 hotspots, Lai said.
The commission said that making the service available to international visitors would not increase the maintenance or operational costs of iTaiwan.
Commission records showed that the service was accessed by 19 million people last year.