(10 October 2018, Hong Kong) Chief Executive Carrie Lam today released her second Policy Address and announced that a $28-billion funding will be provided for I&T development. In response to the 2018 Policy Address, IT Legislative Councillor Charles Mok pointed out that the government continues to set out more funds but the progress of the 8 major areas of I&T development issued in last year’s Policy Address is still slow. He was concerned that the money-driven initiatives benefited more on long term R&D and re-industrialisation but little on front-line tech workers and ICT companies.
The 2018 Policy Address has adopted some of the proposals raised by Mr Mok. In particular, new initiatives were released to foster the development of Smart City and open data, and reform the government IT procurement policy. However, it was disappointing that no new policies were issued on tech talent nurturing, STEM education and review of outdated regulations.
In the past year, the government has announced new measures to boost R&D spending, attract foreign tech talents, and provide support to tech SMEs and startups. This year, apart from the additional $500-million funding to intensify the use of technology within the government and a new “City I&T Grand Challenge” programme, there was a lack of practical measures to support the digital transformation of Hong Kong. Mr Mok hoped the upcoming Budget will address the inadequacy in this area.
Comments on the proposals adopted for Smart City development and I&T application in this year’s Policy Address:
1. A new programme of “City I&T Grand Challenge” to invite different sectors to provide technology-based solutions on livelihood issues. Mr Mok believed it will encourage the society and ICT sector to involve in policy-making but the vetting should be made transparent and fair.
2. Mr Mok has called on the government to build an online platform in a bid to match the people and companies for the government’s digital projects. The 2018 Policy Address announced that a pro-innovation government procurement policy will be released in April next year and a Smart Government Innovation Lab will be established to co-ordinate and facilitate the promotion of Smart Government, including inviting the industry to submit proposals for IT application and product suggestions for various public services. Mr Mok welcomed the new policies but hoped the government will consult tech startups and SMEs on the new measures.
3. All government departments will draw up and publish annual open data plans by the end of this year. Mr Mok called for more resources and manpower to support the initiative and the government should regularly issue progress report on open data.
4. Real-time transport data: Apart from calling on the public transport operators to open up real-time operational data for public consumption free of charge, this year’s Policy Address also included support to develop a data collection system and mobile application for green minibuses for providing real-time arrival information of green minibus routes. Mr Mok urged the government to request the MTRC and bus companies to issue timetable on the release of real-time transport data.
5. 5G development: Radio spectrum with a total of 4,500 MHz in various frequency bands for assignment to mobile service operators will be released next year and the government will proactively open up appropriate government premises for the installation of 5G base stations by mobile service operators. Mr Mok urged the government to expedite the spectrum auction and also to facilitate the vetting process of 5G base station installation by mobile service operators.
The innovation and technology industries are still accounting for only 0.7% of Gross Domestic Product (“GDP”) in 2016, with an increase of merely 0.1% from that of 2008. The employment under I&T industries is still accounting for less than 1% of the total number of employees. “The government has poured almost 100 billion dollars towards innovation and technologies over the past few years, yet we don’t see the concrete KPIs that measure the success or effectiveness of these new initiatives. The government should improve the transparency over the KPIs, and let the public know how well those money is being spent”, said Charles Mok.
Charles Mok also expressed concerns over the lack of support for internationalisation of Hong Kong’s technology sector. Facing unpredictable and complicated economic situations amidst the trade war between China and the United States, the Hong Kong government should support local SMEs to go global rather than only to focus on the Greater Bay Area. Since Hong Kong’s value towards the GBA is precisely its international status, Mr Mok urged the government to provide more policy support for enterprises to expand its market outreach globally. In his policy proposal, Mr Mok suggested establishing an innovation center at regions such as the Silicon Valley and other innovative economies, to strengthen the ties between Hong Kong technology sector and its counterparts & investors in other innovative hubs of the world.
To conclude, Charles Mok pointed out that the work of reviewing outdated laws that are hindering the adoption and development of I&T is seriously lagging behind, and the work of departments are often towards the opposite. He urged the PICO to strengthen its collaboration with the I&T sector and issue the scope of regulatory review as soon as possible for public consultation.
Charles Mok seeked to continue his advocacy together with the ICT industry to call for more policies and resources that will support the growth of innovation and technology sector in the upcoming Budget next January.