If [our next CE] can start looking at our government and civil service that way, with the boldness to make changes where they are needed, it will go a long way beyond just making Hong Kong a smart city. Our government may finally be able to tackle some of the core conflicts our society face.
In recent years, cities around the world are rebranding themselves as smart cities, through the use of information and communications technologies, to try to provide better city services in areas such as transportation, energy and the environment, to improve government services provision and the quality of life for citizens or visitors to these cities.
Hong Kong has joined this smart city bandwagon relatively late, as our current chief executive did not propose to make Hong Kong a smart city until his 2015 policy address. But surely it was better late than never. But what has happened since?
for a long time, not enough has been done in the way of using technology to improve citizen services in Hong Kong, or to use technology to solve the problems Hong Kong faces as a modern city.
In 2015, our government announced that they will develop KowloonEast into a smart city district. The Kowloon East Office under the Development Bureau hired a consulting firm. Almost two years later, this year, they published a report that suggested a few ideas for trials, including a mobile app to help you walk around East Kowloon, and a smart crowd management system using CCTV surveillance cameras, and so on. Up to now, what we have is a colorful brochure about things to come.
In 2016, after the establishment of the Innovation and Technology Bureau the year before, the new bureau announced that it would hire another consulting firms to draft a blueprint for Hong Kong as a smart city. To this date we are awaiting the result of this grand plan, expected in later this year. In the meantime, to be honest, not much has happened, other than many seminars and powerpoint presentations.
In fact, these were not the only consultants our government has hired to study this same topic. Only in 2014, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau also commissioned yet another study and public consultation for our Digital 21 strategy with the title of “Smarter Hong Kong, Smarter Living.” Nobody remembers or talks about that study anymore. So, we have had three consultancy studies in less than four years’ time. In the meantime, again, not much has happened.
Recently, our Transport Department has started a test for parking meters to accept some credit cards, in addition to only Octopus. Great. That was only something you could do in other cities for almost twenty years. Today, in cities such as London, New York, LA or in Australia, you can use mobile phone apps to pay for parking meter fees even remotely. Our government officials told us it can’t be done, because they couldn’t get electricity power to the parking meters. What an excuse!
Second, according to a consortium of city governments in the U.S., a smart city is about developing technological infrastructure that enables it to collect, aggregate, and analyze real-time data to improve the lives of its residents, with explicit policies regarding smart infrastructure and data, a functioning administrative component, and community engagement. In other words, data is at the core of any smart city strategy.