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SCMP 18Oct2018

 

 

More action need to boost Carrie Lam's IT strategy and spark innovation in the city

 

From Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's policy address, we see the government's continuous commitment to information and technology (IT) development with HK$4 billion earmarked for the required infrastructure for re-industrialisation. On the other hand, we should not forget the software needed for IT development.

 

First, data is seen as the "new oil", a key material for the digital economy. The chief executive has mentioned requiring "all government departments to formulate and publish their annual open data plans by the end of this year". But no timeline or detailed plans were available as to what data to open to the public or when it will be opened.

 

In fact, the government has collected a large amount of data and should take the lead in opening access to the data, by means of a common spatial data infrastructure. The US, Singapore and countries in Europe have long had this kind of platform. But ours will not be fully operational until 2023. This is likely to weaken Hong Kong’s leading position in IT development.

 

Second, though we plan to upgrade the digital capability of our civil servants through job training, it would take eight years to build the civil service college while our neighbour Singapore plans to spend only five years to train 14 per cent, or 20,000 of its civil service officers in data analytics. We need to speed up our programme.

 

Third, a new smart government innovation lab will be set up. It should collaborate with the existing data studio set up by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks to optimise its effectiveness.

 

Fourth, our policy to attract overseas IT talent is ineffective, and countries around the world are competing fiercely in this field. The response to the Technology Talent Admission Scheme launched in June this year was said to be lukewarm. At the same time, the incentives for enterprises’ research and development are not attractive enough. As a result, our talent bank is yet to fill up.

 

Lastly, the chief executive has promised to raise the R&D expenditure from 0.73 per cent of the GDP to 1.5 per cent in five years' time, and has been setting a goal of HK$45 billion a year. However, only HK$28 billion has been earmarked this year. Are we going to make up for the outstanding HK$17 billion later?

 

    

 

Dr. Winnie Tang
Honorary Professor, Department of Computer Science, The University of Hong Kong