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Use and management of public sector information

Following is a question by the Hon Charles Peter Mok and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (May 13):


In 2011, the Government launched the portal, Data.Gov.HK, for release of public sector information (PSI) in digital formats for re-use by the public free of charge. The information on the portal is provided by various government departments and public organisations with the aim of stimulating community creativity and ingenuity by enabling the public to make use of PSI data to develop innovative and practical applications for bringing convenience to the public and benefiting the community. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether an interconnection mechanism is in place among the various policy bureaux, government departments and public organisations for the integration of PSI data released through Data.Gov.HK and the facilitation of the shared use of such data; if so, of the details; if not, whether the authorities will study the feasibility of setting up such an interconnection mechanism;

(2) whether it will consider putting in place an interconnection mechanism among the various policy bureaux, government departments and public organisations for the shared use of closed data, so as to improve work efficiency and encourage users to make use of the data to develop new applications;

(3) whether the various policy bureaux and government departments have adopted common standards for the management and analysis of various kinds of PSI data at present, so as to enhance the Government’s electronic services and upgrade the quality of public services; if they have, of the details;

(4) of the respective numbers of courses on information technology topics, such as big data analysis, data management, etc., among the induction courses, continuing education courses and e-learning resources as well as the external courses under the Training Sponsorship Scheme organised by the authorities for civil servants in the past three years; whether the authorities will allocate additional resources and manpower to provide more trainings in PSI data for civil servants;

(5) whether it has studied adding requirements on the collection, management and release of PSI data when granting franchises, licenses or service contracts to public utilities, telecommunications service providers, public transport operators and the organisations providing education, financial and social services, so as to promote the application of PSI data and develop Hong Kong into a smart city; if it has, of the specific details;

(6) whether it will study hiring private companies to assist the various government departments in the management and analysis of PSI data and engagement of the advisory services of such companies; and

(7) whether the authorities will provide subsidies for developers of applications to assist them in developing new products using PSI data, so as to encourage more talents to join the telecommunications and information technology industries and promote the development of these industries?



My reply to the seven-part question is as follows:

(1) The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) has established the one-stop portal to release public sector information (PSI) in digital formats. The portal, built on the open source CKAN platform technology, collects and releases PSI from different departments in real time. The datasets are all available in digital formats (including CSV, JSON, RSS and XML, etc.), with some also released with application programming interfaces to facilitate downloading, processing, meshing and use. The platform and data formats of the portal are widely adopted by PSI websites in other advanced digital economies (such as the United States, Britain, Singapore, etc.).

PSI presents good potentials for development: the more datasets, the greater the benefits. Therefore, also allows non-governmental organisations to upload their PSI for re-use. At present, datasets provided by the MTR Corporation Limited and the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation are available on the portal.

(2) Government departments share and exchange data as and when necessary to enhance operational efficiency and quality of public services. For instance, OGCIO has integrated the data on addresses of buildings and streets across the territory for sharing among different departments to facilitate fast and accurate searching and verification of addresses, significantly reducing the costs of updating and maintaining the address database.

This notwithstanding, as some internal data within the Government involve personal privacy or confidential information, and different government departments have different business needs and operational modes, sharing of data will only be considered having regard to actual circumstances. If sharing of data is considered necessary, the departments concerned will determine the scope of data to be shared and work out the operational arrangements, subject to consent of the data subjects and compliance with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.

(3) OGCIO promulgated the Interoperability Framework for e-government in 2002 to provide guidance on the standards and formats of data for integration and sharing within the government. Under the Interoperability Framework, various types of data can be seamlessly exchanged and shared to facilitate the development of e-government services, despite the adoption of different IT systems by departments. The Interoperability Framework defines the specifications and standards of various types of data, including country and area code/designation, name, address, identity card number, marital status, and other information in relation to lands, works, trade and health records, etc.

(4) In the past three years, the Government through OGCIO arranged over 50 training courses on big data analytics and data management, and provided related online learning resources for government staff. The Government will continue to strengthen its training on big data analytics and data management for government staff.

Regarding the release of PSI, OGCIO has issued guidelines and arranged seminars to brief departments on the new policy of releasing PSI in digital formats and introduce to them in detail the technical arrangements for data management. OGCIO has also set up a dedicated team and a hotline to provide technical assistance for departments.

(5) The Government has no plan to mandate operators to release PSI, but encourages public bodies and non-governmental organisations to release in digital formats the PSI they collect and produce so as to spur creativity and create business opportunities. At present, information on train stations and services released by the MTR Corporation Limited and accessibility facilities collated by the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation are available on the portal.

(6) Government departments collect and produce a vast quantity of data in their day-to-day operations. In order to enhance operational efficiency and public service delivery, where necessary departments will procure data management system and related services in the market to manage and analyse various data.

(7) The Government’s aim of releasing PSI is to facilitate application developers to develop innovative products. OGCIO has been proactively promoting the use of PSI among application developers through various channels, such as publicity campaigns and a series of promotional activities like talks, training courses, application development competitions and exhibitions. At the same time, OGCIO publicises application developers and their PSI-based products through media interviews and feature articles. OGCIO also showcases mobile applications and solutions using PSI datasets on the portal. We believe that application developers are generally sensitive to market demands and business opportunities. At this stage we have no plan to provide funding support to them.
Ends/Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Issued at HKT 14:05

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