The World Economic Forum (WEF) has repeatedly reminded us that the Fourth Industrial Revolution driven by artificial intelligence and big data will bring tremendous changes to the world. To survive this chaotic transition, individuals, governments and enterprises must plan ahead and work together.
While people have much interest in the ranking of different countries/regions in WEF’s Global Competitiveness Report this year, the theme of the report is even more thought-provoking — how to prepare for future productivity, which is coined as “future readiness".
The term “future readiness" means:
(1) Overcoming the challenges of the world with technology;
(2) Unleashing human innovation and creating opportunities through new ways;
(3) Conserving energy and optimizing natural resources to minimize the impact on the environment;
(4) The transformation of production system through science and technology driven by an industrial revolution can benefit all people in society.
Singapore is the most “future ready" country, according to the report. The Digital Government Blueprint announced by Singapore in June aims to make the public’s living more convenient with digital infrastructure. For example, payment of fees, signing of documents, and applying for public housing can all be completed on the government’s online platform. In addition, to promote the creative industries, the government will establish a public information platform, with at least 90 percent of its data provided in application programming interface format as required by the application developers. This facilitates access and full use of data, the “new oil", by the business sector, thus, promoting the new economy. This is exactly what the WEF has highlighted!
At the same time, Hong Kong must also be well equipped to be “future ready". Data is the key to achieve the above goals. Data is the “new oil" that drives new economy and innovation technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence. It is also essential in improving city management. The following three predictions for 2019 are all related to data:
(1) Importance of central information platform
In addition to continuing the work of opening data to the public, the government must make good use of data to enhance city management. People in Hong Kong would not forget the impact brought by incidents such as Typhoon Mangkhut and the unprecedented disruption of services in MTR’s four lines earlier this year. If the authority can establish a central data platform with location information, linking different departments and public organizations, and updating the information from all parties, the crisis management team can master the overall situation on a map, and make decisions effectively to avoid an unexpected nightmare for journey to work of Hong Kong people.
Like Hong Kong Telecom, behind their quality service is the use of geographic information system (GIS) to monitor the fiber network which measures 2 million kilometers, enough to encircle the earth for 50 laps. In case of an emergency such as damage to the cable caused by road excavation, GIS can quickly and accurately locate a spare fiber line as an alternative to ensure the seamless service. At the same time, the management can master the ins and outs of accidents through the image of central geographic information platform, facilitating mobilization of resources in different telecommunication teams.
In fact, many construction projects are gradually adopting these advanced tools for purposes such as adjusting traffic lights and detecting leaking water pipes in Hong Kong. Through GIS, problems can be found in real time. The 400 smart lampposts to be installed next year should also enable monitoring road condition in real time by a central platform.
Why do I emphasize the central information platform? At present, many services, including major public transport companies and public organizations such as the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, have their own monitoring system. However, there is a lack of coordination among various organizations and departments. The above-mentioned major incidents have clearly showed that each department or organization seems not having coordinated with each other, causing people to criticize the government for poor handling of the crisis.
Therefore, city management really needs a central system to collect all information, so as to avoid poor coordination every time an unexpected event or accident occurs, and reduce the public’s grievance.
(2) Cybersecurity a must
There were cases of stolen data, one after another, involving large organizations, from airlines, banks to hotel chains. These aggravate people’s reluctance to use the new technologies.
Years ago, WannaCry has brought a painful lesson to the world, a variety of network security technologies emerged since then, such as machine learning to analyze customer behavior, so as to detect changes; or adaptive security technology which will become the mainstream next year.
Gartner, the consulting firm, predicted that 40 percent of companies will establish an “alternative security database" by 2020 to prevent their system from being paralyzed by hackers. However, the challenge is a lack of sufficient network security talents globally. The situation in Hong Kong is particularly serious.
(3) CDO becomes mainstream
The chief data officer, or CDO, is a person who drives innovation, responsible for addressing threats of cybersecurity and maximizing data’s potential to create value for enterprises.
As many people have pointed out, the IT department should no longer be seen purely as a cost center, but rather a driving force for revolutionizing existing business models. Therefore, CDO is expected to improve communication between companies and customers, and identify new opportunities to improve business performance. This position is brand new to most companies. If the management fails to make the transition in time, their company performance will lag behind its peers within a few years.
In the fast-changing world today, using data can stimulate innovation and promote sustainable development. The successful transformation of Hong Kong into a “future ready" smart city in time relies on collaboration among individuals, government and enterprises.
Data is the “new oil" that drives new economy and innovation technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence.
Dr. Winnie Tang
Honorary professor, the Department of Computer Science at the University of Hong Kong