Smart city vision promising

Smart city vision promising

Chief Executive Carrie Lam

My Government’s smart city vision is as clear and compelling as the benefits it promises. We have embraced the smart city and the innovation and technology (I&T) that will power it to ensure that our economy remains strong and diverse deep into this 21st century. No less important, we see the smart city as a critical means to providing the people of Hong Kong with a high quality of life.


That said, we have no time to waste – not if we want to turn Hong Kong into one of the world’s smart cities. Which is why in my October Policy Address I announced that we would advance the timetable for the publication of the Smart City Blueprint and invest initially $700 million to push ahead with key infrastructure projects for smart city development. This is also why I personally chair the Steering Committee on Innovation & Technology, with membership comprising the Chief Secretary for Administration, the Financial Secretary and 10 bureau secretaries to oversee the implementation of the initiatives. I am glad to tell you that we are making some progress, with the Smart City Blueprint published in December last year.


Smart city strategy outlined

The blueprint is only a start. Delivering the smart city is a multifaceted task and we will need to work particularly smart in a number of strategic areas if we are to realise its full benefits. They include opening up data for free use by startups and the public.


As you know, open data can only promote social innovation. Opening health-related data, for example, will help us better monitor infectious disease trends, promote research and development (R&D), and drive innovation in health-related products and applications. In this respect, I am happy to note that the Hospital Authority is developing big data analytics to encourage the sharing of anonymous patient data. Within government, we have recently revamped to provide geospatial data, which in turn will promote the development of innovative applications and solutions. More geo-tagged data sets will be made available for public use. Looking ahead, we will expand the opening up of free government data, focusing on transport, health, education and sensor data. In these areas we trail our competitors.


Of course, much data are controlled by the private sector. Our public transport operators, for example, are private companies. And they are generally reluctant to share, at no cost, data generated from their operations. That includes the real-time location of their fleet and passenger volume. We will continue our efforts to convince them of the benefits that everyone gains in a system where the data is freely available. I am sure the Smart City Consortium will help us to give this a real push. Using the data of other operators can only help enhance the business models of all operators.


Tech infrastructure a prerequisite

Building essential technology infrastructure is another critically important strategic area. In this regard, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority is developing a Faster Payment System. It will allow residents to use their mobile phones for payment – anytime, anywhere. We are also gearing up for the 2020 commercial launch of 5G mobile services and applications. We will as well provide a universal eID – a single digital identity and authentication allowing the people of Hong Kong to access government and commercial online services.


Within government, we are building a new big-data analytics system to support cloud services. It will also enhance efficiency and cyber security through resource sharing and artificial intelligence.


Next year, we expect that the first smart lampposts will take to the streets of Hong Kong. They will collect a wide variety of city data, from weather and air quality to traffic. And that can only help us enhance the good management of Hong Kong. The Highways Department and the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer will roll out a pilot scheme in four districts. These smart lampposts will offer Wi-Fi, 5G networks and district information for road users. Still on infrastructure, the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation & Technology Park may well be our most anticipated I&T infrastructure project. Occupying a site of 87 hectares and a gross floor area of 1.2 million square metres, it will be the largest I&T development in Hong Kong upon completion. I can tell you we are working at full speed to implement it. The statutory planning procedure has been completed just last week and the infrastructural work will start immediately once funding has been approved by the Legislative Council.


Hong Kong is also home to high-tier data centres. Last June, Amazon Web Services announced it would establish a data centre hub in Hong Kong while Google will open a Google Cloud Platform in Hong Kong later this year. These, and other developments, underline the confidence global I&T leaders have in the future of Hong Kong as a data hub and smart city.


Talent is essential to that future. Simply put, we need all the smart, tech-savvy people we can get if we are to create a smart city for the world. At last count, we had about 50,000 students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies. That number has to grow. To that end, we will provide scholarships worth $3 billion to encourage local students to take part in research postgraduate programmes. And we will continue to promote STEM education at the primary and secondary school levels, as well as the community at large.


We are also looking for talent beyond Hong Kong. We will soon launch a pilot fast-track scheme to admit technology talents from overseas and the Mainland of China. In the coming months we will launch a $500 million Technology Talent Scheme, which will include a Postdoctoral Hub. The hub initiative provides funding support for companies looking to recruit postdoctoral talent for scientific research and product development. In addition, we will continue to invite acclaimed universities, R&D institutes and technology enterprises to set up here to collaborate with local partners and to develop research projects with social benefits for Hong Kong.


Then there’s a question of legislation. In my Policy Address I pledged to review existing legislation and regulations and to remove any outdated provisions that may impede our I&T development. The Policy Innovation & Co-ordination Unit will soon be set up, again subject to the approval of the Legislative Council, working directly under me to spearhead that effort.


Beyond government policies and plans, I’m pleased to note that venture capitalists are already sold on Hong Kong. In the first nine months of 2017 venture capital in Hong Kong reached US$770 million. That is nine times more than was invested in Hong Kong in 2012. As for startups, there were just over 1,000 in Hong Kong in 2014. Last year that number more than doubled to over 2,200. At last count, at least two of our made-in-Hong Kong startups have hit that starriest of capital heights: unicorn status.


HK on right path

In short, we’re on our way. It’s an evolving journey and support from the private sector is essential. When I said support, that doesn’t mean that you should tell us what we are doing well. I want you to tell us what we are not doing well enough so that we could improve and respond to the industry’s needs. As I said, the Smart City Blueprint is just the beginning. It’s a living document driving a multifaceted policy agenda. We will continue to update and upgrade them for the benefit of the people of Hong Kong.


Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the Smart City Blueprint Luncheon on February 7.


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