Policy Address 2017 Jan: Smart city development remains sluggish

Policy Address 2017: Smart city development remains sluggishSmart city is another important subject in the 2017 Policy Address. Computerworld Hong Kong spoke with a few local IT leaders about the smart city initiatives announced at the recent Policy Address.

Despite years of discussions about building Hong Kong as a smart city, local IT professionals in general found the progress slow. They welcome the announcements, but also think the government should have planned both long term and quick-fix short term initiatives to drive more efficient smart city development.

“The government first announced the smart city initiative in 2014,” said Daniel Lai, professor of Practice (Computing) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). “And yet, we are still waiting for the completion of the smart city consultancy report.”

Lai, also the former GCIO, noted that the problem in Hong Kong is the government department bureaucracy. He quoted the example of a simple initiative like building smart street lamps which requires four different departments: Highways Department, Public Works Department, Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, and the Office of the Communications Authority.

“Up till now, we still lack a smart city coordinating body to handle cross-departmental matters,” he said. “To tackle this issue requires a visionary Chief Executive.”

In his last Policy Address, upon the upcoming CE election in March, CE CY Leung announced a few initiatives that are under the smart city development:

  1. Promote the establishment of a Common Spatial Data Infrastructure (CSDI)
  2. Wi-Fi hotspots have reached 18,400 and are expected to reach 34,000 by 2019
  3. Earmark HK$500 million to assist government departments in using technology
  4. Launch a HK$500 million Innovation and Technology Fund for Better Living by mid-2017 to subsidize R&D projects

Welcoming open data infrastructure

Among these initiatives, the establishment of the CSDI appeared to be the most welcomed among the local IT community.

“The CSDI policy is a good thing,” said Lai.

“THE CSDI is a significant move to provide a long term solution towards collecting, organizing and managing Hong Kong’s geospatial data,” said Winnie Tang, co-chairman of Smart City Consortium (SCC), also a founder of geospatial data company Esri China (HK). “Such infrastructure allows the government to share geospatial data and the related APIs, encouraging the private sectors to be involved in the development of different smart city applications.”

Meanwhile, she said a faster short-term solution is equally important.

“Many countries, including the US and Singapore, have already developed integrated and digitized maps and sharing geospatial data. We are quite behind in this development,” said Tang. “We also need a short term, quick-fix for the issue.”

She said the Lands Department has been developing the GeoInfo Map for years. By enhancing this product and providing initial spatial data, the government can provide an immediate solution, while developing a long term solution with CSDI.