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[Press release] Charles Mok’s response to the 2017 Policy Address

(11 October 2017, Hong Kong) Chief Executive Carrie Lam today announces her first Policy Address and in contrast to previous policy proposals by the government which focused more on setting out funds and infrastructural projects, this latest proposal has seen initiatives of new government management structure and also in building up the software for innovation and technology to grow. IT Legislative Councillor Charles Mok believes the new government is trying to meet the public demands.

For the 8 major areas in innovation and technology proposed in the Policy Address, namely more resources for research and development (R&D), nurturing a talent pool, venture capital, scientific research infrastructure, legislation review, opening up data, government procurement and popular science education, Mr Mok believes they have in general responded to the demands of the ICT sector. For instance, the sector has long called for solutions to tackle the low R&D spending in Hong Kong. The Policy Address this year has set goal to double the percentage of R&D expenditure of local GDP from current level 0.73% to 1.5% in five years, however, the goal is believed to be conservative. Measures to encourage young people to engage in R&D and to attract top overseas scientific research institutions to Hong Kong are also demands from the sector but the implementation details and the schedule will be crucial to the effectiveness of the initiatives.

Another new measure from the government is to provide telecommunications companies with financial incentives to encourage the extension of fibre-based network to rural and remote areas. Mr Mok supports such proposal and believes this will help people living in those areas to improve their Internet speed. He also urges the government to announce the implementation details and KPIs for evaluation.

On reforming the current government IT procurement policy, the Chief Executive mentioned that she will set out innovation and technology as part of the criteria and will not award contract only by reference to the lowest bid, so as to encourage local technological innovation. Charles Mok considers it a good proposal but calls for the government to communicate more with ICT SMEs and startups to understand their concerns and difficulties in meeting the tender requirements.

The Policy Address also mentions that the Education Bureau will soon complete the drafting of a supplementary document on “Computational Thinking – Coding Education” for use by schools and will provide more training on STEM to teachers. Mr Mok welcomes the initiatives but calls for the government to offer flexibility to schools for implementation.

On reviewing outdated legislations to facilitate innovation and technology, Carrie Lam proposes a new “Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Unit” to work with all bureaux to proactively review the policies and legislation to bring them up to date and remove red tapes in order to foster the development of new economy. This is encouraging and Mr Mok anticipates more engagement with stakeholders and the government to study regulatory experience of other cities/countries on ride-sharing, short term rental and other sharing economy models. He expresses the importance of setting KPIs and looks forward to facilitate further dialogues between platform companies and the government to tackle structural issues.

However, apart from innovation and technology proposals, the Policy Address has evaded political issues: fixing the social rifts, reconciling the relations between the administration and the legislation, restarting political reform and handling the Article 23. Charles Mok believes the Chief Executive should be more responsible in facing up the challenges.

5 areas the latest Policy Address still fall short of:

  1. Lack of upskilling effort for workforce and recognition of ICT professional qualifications.
  2. Lack of support for continued education in ICT.
  3. Open data policy lacks substance.
  4. Lack of mention for “Freedom of Information” law despite positive attitude on Archives Law.
  5. Public transport subsidy via Octopus has neglected the latest trends of e-payment.

10 key policy recommendations from Charles Mok in August:

  1. Tax incentive for companies to increase R&D investment and for overseas corporates to establish R&D centres in Hong Kong.

  2. Implement Digital Marketplace to facilitate the participation of SMEs and startups in the government’s IT contracts.

  3. Reform the government IT procurement arrangement, establish a Public Digital Service Lab and Institute of Digital Skills for Civil Servants to encourage the government to use technology and innovative solutions to improve public services.

  4. Develop a blueprint in using innovative and technology for industrial transformation.

  5. Nurture more IT talent via Technology Associate Program, Innovation and Technology Upskilling Fund, and Data Science Education Fund.

  6. Re-launch the preparation work to establish the IT professional qualification framework.

  7. Reform the Continuing Education Fund and encourage citizens to take up ICT courses.

  8. Improve open data via formulating an Open Data Strategy, setting up Open Data Facilitation Office and an Open Data Institute to foster public-private partnership.

  9. Review outdated laws and establish a Technology and Law Reform Committee.

  10. Foster the development of Smart City, including setting out development strategy on gerontech, implementing Smart City Sandbox and facilitating the development of automated vehicles.

Office Of Hon. Charles Mok, Legislative Councillor (IT)