Emerging Trends
December 12, 2018

Four ways to boost Hong Kong’s position as an innovative, future-ready city

By Dr Winnie Tang, Honorary Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Hong Kong

Major cities around the world are seeking their unique positioning as a Smart Cities. For example, the city-state of Singapore positions itself as a Smart Nation, with the government, business and general public fully digitalized. Copenhagen aims to leverage technologies to become a zero-emission city by 2025.

London is committed to sharpening its status a capital of innovative finance. Toronto, meanwhile, is turning the city into one big “sandbox,” experimenting with new smart city applications and fresh ideas of urban planning. The goal is to transform the city into a better place for working and living.

As for Hong Kong, we have always been strong in nurturing top talent, with the advantages of an open society, well-established infrastructure, effective telecom networks and world-recognized law and order. The city ranked second in the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking 2018 of the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland for the high quality of our education, on-the-job training, salaries and tax rate. Since Hong Kong is an international city, the central government has clearly positioned Hong Kong as an International Innovative Technology Hub for connecting with the world technology communities.

However, to strengthen Hong Kong’s position as a future-ready hub for innovation and technology, it is crucial to bring together talent for development. At present, we must focus on improving the following four aspects:

  1. Cultivate the ecosystem of government, industry, academia, and research

It is crucial to be able to commercialize research and technology achievements and transform them into tangible products that can compete in the marketplace. Therefore, local universities must strengthen their connection with the information and communication technology (ICT) industry, which should also leverage the technology development capabilities and the plentiful supply of talents of the Greater Hong Kong Area to establish a sound ICT production chain. As the largest local user, the Hong Kong government can take the lead in using Hong Kong’s scientific research products to serve as a model for public and private enterprises to nurture our innovation ecosystem.

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  1. Fully promote data sharing

Data is seen as “new oil.” It is a key raw material for promoting Big Data analysis, Artificial Intelligence and other key parts of today’s digital economy. The government has collected a large amount of data and could take the lead in opening the data, by means of a common spatial data infrastructure (CSDl). Europe, America and Singapore have longed established this kind of platform. But Hong Kong’s will not be fully operational until 2023. This could weaken Hong Kong’s position in ICT development.

The open data should be available in an application programming interface (API) by default in order to facilitate applications development.

  1. A dedicated department for data management

Opening up information and sharing data with the public can stimulate creativity and development of innovative ICT services. Therefore, the government should designate a department to formulate policies, laws, and standards, collect and manage relevant data, and readily share it with the public. The data can then be used to develop valuable products and services, generating opportunities.

  1. Cultivate problem-solving skills of the younger generation

In addition to attracting global talent, education is the best way to nurture innovative talent. The government needs to increase funding for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, cultivate problem-solving skills, and promote creativity of the younger generation. These are the keys to success in the long run.

I think that Hong Kong will develop into a leading Smart City ready for future challenges as long as we can further connect with all corners of the world and bring top talent together for our future development.

Dr. Winnie Tang is an Honorary Professor, Department of Computer Science at the University of Hong Kong.
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Four ways to boost Hong Kong’s position as an innovative, future-ready city

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