The election activities of new Chief Executive have reached a climax recently with the candidates challenging each other face to face in public forums, social media, and media interviews. The hot topic of the development of innovation and technology (I&T) has also caught their attention.
In fact, to revitalize our economy and promote the upward mobility of young people, he/she must ensure the effective and efficient use of the $10 billion in the financial budget earmarked for the development of I&T to create a new economic model based on the concept of smart city, with the support of supply in land, talent, and capital. The effort made should centre around the following:
Develop the economy with cluster effect to establish an ecosystem that fosters I&T, and to attract and bring together Chinese and foreign talents to Hong Kong through various tax incentives to promote its development.
Establish coding as a formal curriculum in primary and secondary schools to strengthen training of talents in support of smart city development in the long run.
Upon the launching of smart city blueprint, invest sufficient capital and resources to implement the recommendations therein.
Significantly increase the government and private sector research and development (R&D) expenditures to foster innovation and technology. Currently, Hong Kong’s overall R&D expenditure is only about 0.74% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), significantly lower than many countries.
The three candidates have covered more or less the above issues in their presentations and public debates. For example, Mr. John Tsang mentioned the importance of including coding in the curriculum as soon as possible. He also highlighted the importance of training in cloud technology and information technology. While Mr. Woo said that R&D expenses should be substantially increased to maintain Hong Kong’s competitiveness, he is also keen on developing financial technology (FinTech) and sharing economy. As for Mrs. Lam, she proposed that a company’s R&D expenses should be entitled to 200% tax deduction, as well as believing that the government should strike a balance between market development and regulation in financial technology. As a result, all candidates are unanimous in regard to the importance of encouraging innovation and technology.
Besides, from Mrs. Lam’s advocacy of “public participation and coordination” being very impressive. Her initiative aims at collecting and embracing views of all sectors in the society, including young people, in the process of policy formulation. This is in line with the spirit of Smart City 3.0.
The Smart City 3.0 is a Smart City initiative driven by public expectations. While Smart City 1.0 and 2.0 are driven by technology and government decisions respectively, Smart City 3.0 is neither driven by the dazzling technologies nor the government alone. In Smart City 3.0, the public should be able to express their views with the government following up thereafter. The ideal format should be 4P’s (Public, Private, People Partnership), which is a bottom-up development of social change, helping to eliminate objection, ensuring technologies be properly applied in the development of city and at the same time fulfilling the public needs.
In fact, as raised by Mrs. Lam, the government must assume the full role as a “facilitator” and “promoter”, and strengthen the support provided by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office to SMEs and start-ups. It is crucial to the germination and survival of I&T industries and new economy here. In addition to the human and material resources mentioned above, the Government should provide the necessary legal and administrative framework comparable to foreign standard to provide the best environment for talents to stay and flourish in Hong Kong.
I hope that our future Chief Executive will have more comprehensive policies for the industry to plan accordingly. This will certainly be a blessing to the people and the future of Hong Kong.
Dr. Winnie Tang
Honorary Professor, Department of Computer Science, The University of Hong Kong