The Government released its Smart City 2.0 Blueprint in December, which adds more than 60 new initiatives to the 76 in the original Blueprint released in 2017. At a webinar on 1 March, Tony Wong, Deputy Government Chief Information Officer, and Daisy Lo, Principal Assistant Secretary for Innovation & Technology, updated members on Hong Kong’s Smart City progress and plans for the future.
Wong said that the aim of Blueprint 2.0 was to enhance I&T in order to build a smart city with a strong economy and high quality of life.
Of the first batch of initiatives, 40 are already complete, or nearly so, he explained. For example, the HKeMobility app provides updated transport information, and there are now more than 40,000 free public wi-fi hotspots across the city. The Faster Payment System from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has been a notable success, he added, with $HK2.3 trillion in transactions so far.
“We have also invested heavily in digital infrastructure in the past three years, to transform Hong Kong into a smarter city,” Wong said. Using next-generation cloud technology and big data analytics will improve Government efficiency and facilitate cooperation between departments.
Lo then gave an overview of some of the new initiatives in Blueprint 2.0, which include traffic analytics that will give road users real-time updates, video conferencing in hospitals, and smart management of public toilets. Plans to help schools upgrade their IT equipment and STEM internships have already had a very positive response from education providers and businesses, she said.
The iAM Smart platform, launched in December last year, is a key development that enables citizens and businesses to access Government services online.
“We are working towards the goal that by mid-2022 all Government forms and licences can be submitted electronically,” Lo said.
Blueprint 2.0 contains two new chapters: on using I&T to combat Covid-19, such as through the StayHomeSafe and LeaveHomeSafe apps; and the Smart Village Pilot scheme.
The Government is keen to work with the private sector to develop the technology that underpins the new initiatives, Lo added. The Smart Government Innovation Lab at Cyberport facilitates cooperation with industry in Hong Kong, and more than 200 organizations have signed up to date.
Marcos Chow, Partner and Head of Technology Enablement of KPMG China, then shared the private sector perspective. He noted the success of the initiatives to date, in particular the Faster Payment System, and added that more people in Hong Kong should be aware of this efficient and free facility.
Chow then discussed the issue of climate change and drive for carbon neutrality. A recent KMPG survey of senior executives around the world found that respondents generally recognised the importance of addressing the climate threat. In response to the question whether decarbonizing would require significant changes to their current business model, 74% of respondents said yes. But the survey also revealed a lack of targets and incentives within businesses to encourage them to reach these goals.
However, in general, businesses are moving in the right direction, which is partly being driven by employees.
“The Generation Y and Z are saying ‘I want to be working for companies or industries that are handling this issue correctly’.”
Chow noted that Hong Kong has unique barriers, such as landfill and recycling challenges. But some areas where the city had been lagging, such as awareness of green issues and skilled professionals, are now improving.
The active involvement of businesses will be crucial to our transition to a smart city, and Chow feels that this is progressing.
“The private sector is moving broadly in line with what the Innovation and Technology Bureau and the Government are trying to do,” he said. The changes required to meet Hong Kong’s carbon-reduction goals will also create opportunities for businesses in terms of new products and services.
“I’m very optimistic about this space,” he added. “The Government has started the ball rolling – I’ve been to the Innovation Lab in Cyberport and it is fantastic.”
During the Q&A session, some participants raised the issue of privacy concerns. Wong said that privacy was incorporated right from the design stage in all of the Government’s Smart City developments. For example, the iAM Smart platform has very strict guidelines, which have been reviewed by third parties to ensure privacy protection.
He added that there would be more public consultation and discussions with District Councillors to improve people’s understanding about what data is being collected.
To ensure that Hong Kong’s smart city development is a success, Wong said that the involvement of the business community and the sharing of data were essential.
“I strongly encourage our communities to promote open data – this is the key driver for innovation and smart city development,” he said. “The Government alone is not enough. We need different sectors to contribute to this open data drive, and to enable our innovative start-ups and companies to solve our smart city issues.”