Recently, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang pointed out that the mainland should accelerate the development of high-tech-focused “new infrastructure initiative", such as 5G networks, big data and artificial intelligence, as well as upgrade and “smarten" existing infrastructure. The Nikkei Asian Review quoted a report released in March by the government-backed think tank China Center for Information Industry Development (CCID), estimating that the mainland will invest at least RMB17 trillion (about HK$18.5 trillion) in more than 800 projects in the next five years, including 73 projects in Guangdong Province, such as autonomous driving and smart ports. The article also listed the key companies involved in these projects, Hong Kong is basically missing the opportunity brought by these huge infrastructure project, except for the artificial intelligence (AI) startup SenseTime. How can we not be disappointed!
Hong Kong is well-known in high-level basic scientific research in the region and internationally, that is, upstream research and development, such as AI, but there is not much commercialization of the R&D results, SenseTime is a rare example of success.
If Hong Kong is to become a smart city, develop innovative technologies, and re-industrialize smart industries to provide more high-quality job opportunities, the government should effectively strengthen the middle and lower stream of R&D, that is, commercial development, which not only drives the local smart manufacturing industry, such as operating robots, internet of things and 3D printing, but it also allows the city to take part in the huge infrastructure projects mentioned above.
On one hand, the government should promptly promote closer communication and cooperation among universities, research organizations, and the industry. On the other hand, the government should also understand more about the industry’s need for talent, so as to provide appropriate support in education to facilitate young people with skills for which the industry has been looking for.
Moreover, to enhance co-ordination, it is necessary to formulate a comprehensive set of science and technology index to allow all sectors to review the situation from time to time.
Since 1999, the United States Information Technology and Innovation Fund has established the “State New Economy Index" which uses 25 indicators to measure whether each state’s new economic development has reached the ideal mode of driving the new economy through innovation. The index measures the extent to which state economies are “knowledge-based, globalized, entrepreneurial, IT-driven, and innovation-oriented." There are two areas of indicators that are particularly worthy of reference:
1. Knowledge jobs: Indicators measure employment of IT professionals outside the IT industry; jobs held by managers, professionals, and technicians; the educational attainment of the entire workforce; immigration of knowledge workers; migration of domestic knowledge workers; worker productivity in the manufacturing sector.
2. Innovation capacity: Indicators measure the number of jobs in high-tech industries such as telecommunications, and biomedical industries; the number of scientists and engineers in the workforce; the number of patents granted; industry investment in research and development; non-industry investment in research and development; and venture capital investment.
The regularly published indicators help all sectors to monitor government administration. In early February this year, the government uploaded the epidemic information to an interactive map dashboard, so that the public could view the key information of the outbreak at a glance. For the same reason, the government should also display this science and technology index on an interactive map dashboard, so that people can grasp the effectiveness of various measures, and also the authority could adjust or strengthen the strategies more quickly.
Dr. Winnie Tang
Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong