Given the pace of technological advancement and expanding opportunities in the Kowloon East as a test bed for Hong Kong’s Smart City, it is a welcoming development that great effort has been put forward to generate proposed trials in current Stage 1 Public Engagement by the Energising Kowloon East Office.
Openness in data exchange and cross-sector collaboration are the key enablers for new thinking and innovation. The ICT sector has raised concerns over certain issues and in particular, open data, user-centric development, privacy and security. The following views were solicited from a briefing session on 15th December, 2016 when EKEO was invited to present their plan on developing Kowloon East into a Smart City to the sector.
Open data should be a priority
Referring to ‘Open Data’ as mentioned in the ‘Vision and Framework’ of the strategic aspects, it was highlighted in the discussion during the briefing session that one core aspect of Smart City is to put people and openness at the heart of its design and operation. In fact, open data is the foundation of Smart City innovation from the successful experience of other cities.
For example by opening up bus arrival time data for civic participation, we can unlock the vast potential for new types of interaction between systems, physical spaces and the community in general to improve livelihood of the citizens. Co-creation by public, private and civil society can truly make a city smart.
Instead of locking the public data in apps, EKEO should establish a concerted effort with OGCIO and other government departments to open more raw public data and let the community to develop usages on it. To begin with, trial projects on open data should be implemented.
The government should actively seek collaboration with the private sector and leverage on the existing non-personal datasets in the possession of companies that are suitable for access by APIs, such as point-to-point traffic data from transport companies for better understanding of the transit demand for future planning.
APIs allow different software applications to communicate with each other and exchange data directly, without the need for human input each time. Measures to streamline open API should be considered so as to facilitate the participation and contribution of other data owners.
There should be incentives offered to data owners from the private sector to make data more accessible in a useful format to generate more value.
The release of the Kowloon East Mobile App displaying location of public facilities and other information related to East Kowloon is a promising progress, yet to move towards a truly transparent society in which relevant data is released, it is vital for the EKEO to look into the platform and data formats can best support data interoperability for developers; how to encourage the data owners to give access to community and support integration of real-time data; clarification of the law and the creation of sensible measures to ensure data sharing. These are the issues EKEO should take into account in planning the next stage.
User-centric city designing and planning
One of the key goals of Smart City is to leverage technological solutions to better quality of living, and this can only be achieved when we let the community to define the vision, look and features of a Smart City for it to become truly people-centric. Overpaying for proprietary technologies and lock-in without citizen participation should be avoided. Residents and users know the area from their day-to-day experience, their input on how to optimise resources to improve quality of life and increase efficiency of city operation and management should be considered as high-priority. Bringing citizens into the picture of Smart City development is crucial and should be emphasised.
The PoCs should focus on delivering user-centric services and user experience by engaging the local community through social impact assessment and needs analysis, to evaluate the aspiration of people living and working in the district and areas nearby.
Smart City should address digital divide and promote social inclusion, cater for the underprivileged and ethnic minority, also nurture talents and preserve the culture.
Privacy, security and data protection in Smart City
Understandably, ICT-infused devices and infrastructures will be heavily involved in developing Smart City which will enable extensive monitoring and controlling of the city maintenance, mobility, air and water quality, energy usage, citizen movements and more. In fact, some PoC trials in the consultation document already include installing CCTVs for crowd management and public opinion analysis by mining social media data.
Some attendees at the briefing section have raised issues about who has the legitimate access of the massive data collected, which data can be opened up to public usage, what is the appropriate privacy framework for the linkage of different data, the security concerns and so on.
Clear guideline on how the data collected through systems such as security camera surveillance will be used should be established with mechanism that addresses accountability to the public.
There should be privacy impact assessments to identify whether a specific technology or applications will involve a privacy risk and how it can be mitigated.
Ongoing penetration testing and security audits should be conducted upon the deployment of smart devices collecting data from citizens to minimise the security risks.
Some participants highlighted the importance of shaping the standards and protocols of the technologies to be used to drive Smart City development, such as the Wi-Fi equipments, the connectivity standards to support IoT development and more. As technological advancement is a rapid process, the government should consider whether to use emerging technology or other platforms to enable flexibility in adopting new technology. There are also views suggesting experimentation of integrating blockchain and IoT hardware solutions to solve IoT’s issues with identity, security, and interoperability.
Among all the views mentioned, the most reiterated concern was on what role the government should take in fostering Smart City development and a consensus view has been calling on the government to experiment innovations, setting priorities and standards, enabling co-creation and sharing of data for innovations. The above are the views and thoughts of the sector representatives in this Stage 1 Public Engagement, we appreciate if EKEO can take into account for consideration.