The new secretary for innovation and technology, Alfred Sit Wing-hang, has proposed a “bridge of innovation and technology" that comprises three elements: collaboration, communication and an innovation talent pool. The last element no doubt represents the most critical and challenging task (“New faces Carrie Lam has enlisted to help Hong Kong tackle Covid-19 impact", April 22).
Our innovation and technology community is short of talent – Hong Kong’s top secondary school students seldom mention innovation and technology as their first choice when selecting subjects for university. We lack well-known success stories in the industry, which makes so many parents and students harbour doubts about career prospects in the sphere.
Sit has also spoken of wanting ‘to do a good job in research and development, product certification, commercialisation and market collaboration."
Of the four, the government can be the most effective in product certification. The Covid-19 pandemic offers an opportunity to make a big splash, given the global concern over the lack of virus protection equipment.
Even as Hong Kong’s outbreak appears to have stabilised, experts expect the wearing of surgical masks to continue. Demand is so strong that one online shop’s 3,000 mask slots reportedly attracted two million registrations, while locally developed reusable masks can sell out within hours at presales.
Reusable masks are environmentally friendly and can support local research and development. If the Innovation and Technology Bureau can assess these projects, similar to the authoritative product tests held by the Consumer Council, the public would have greater confidence in their choices. This can also increase public preference for local products, and would in turn help to expand overseas markets.
What is more, Secretary Sit can also consider including the distribution of available masks in Hong Kong’s interactive Covid-19 dashboard map, to ease public fatigue and anxiety, and show the strength of local innovation.
In the United States, with the rise of tech giants such as Facebook, Apple and Google, data science has become an extremely popular subject in university. If we promote local success stories, both parents and students will see a bright future in innovation and technology in Hong Kong and this will boost interest in a career in this field.
Dr. Winnie Tang
Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong