(18 Jan 2017, Hong Kong) Legislative Councillor (IT) Charles Mok response to 2017 Policy Address as below:
The 2017 Policy Address states that Hong Kong “must consider how to enhance its overall competitiveness, including offering tax and financial concessions, and other policy support measures to attract innovation and technology enterprises from Hong Kong, the Mainland and overseas”. However, what was presented was merely a recap of ongoing initiatives with only a handful of new initiatives that have not yet addressed the most pressing needs of our technology industries —— resolving the manpower shortage problem concerning the ICT sector, stimulating demand of local IT services and products, reforming the STEM education, and reviewing outdated regulations that are thwarting innovations. These are the changes we have yet seen despite the Innovation and Technology Bureau has established more than a year by now.
The proposals to develop the Hong Kong/Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park in the Lok Ma Chau Loop, to build an InnoCell in the Science Park to provide accommodation, and establish an Inno Space with the Hong Kong Productivity Council have failed to attend to the most pressing needs of start-up companies which face challenges in finding talents and expanding their businesses.
On Smart City, the proposed Common Spatial Data Infrastructure and the Smart City Blueprint to be announced later this year are only at the very nascent stage. It is disappointing that incentives to encourage public and private organisations to open more data and API for reuse is sorely insufficient.
While I welcome the Policy Address has acceded to my suggestion to improve government e-services by allocating $500 million to ITB for enhancing public service using technology, having the right personnel at the helm who understand innovation and technology to undertake the project is crucial. The new intelligent booking system that the Leisure and Cultural Services Department will develop should be user-centric to improve user experience.
It has been a major criticism that the government has not formulated a long term IT manpower strategy and devised suitable policies to train the next generation of technology workers. These are the crux of the challenges that the ICT industry is facing but same as previous reports, the 2017 Policy Address ignores the issues and includes only one-off grants and subsidies to promote STEM education. It has failed to focus on the more important issues such as training support to teachers, more substantial support for schools to promote STEM and more.
There is only one new measure targeting start-ups this year which is to offer them more office space but what entrepreneurs need is for the government to review the outdated regulations that have prevented innovations from thriving. It was mentioned in last year’s Policy Address that the government will review the hired car permit but little progress was made. As suggested in my policy proposal, I urge the government to quickly implement regulatory sandbox for start-ups to experiment on new technology and improve on the government procurement policies to foster the development of start-ups.