Mixed reactions for HK’s smart city blueprint

The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) last week released with no fanfare the highly anticipated final report on the Consultancy Study on Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong.

The Legco Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting will convene on Monday, July 10, for a briefing on the details of the final report.

The HK$5-million consultancy study commissioned by the OGCIO was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services. The nine-month consultancy study that began last September produced a hefty final report with over 200 pages covering several major areas such as policy objectives and strategy, development plans, government arrangements, digital infrastructure, legal framework and public-private collaboration.

While more time is needed to digest the content of the final report and consider their potential implications, initial reactions from some members of the local IT community have been welcoming yet tinged with specific concerns.

Creation of the SCSC and the SCPO

One of the major highlights of the final report is the proposed creation of the Smart City Steering Committee (SCSC) that would be responsible for setting the strategic directions for the smart city implementations as well as determining the priority policy areas and smart city program.

The final report recommends that a senior government officer – such as the chief secretary for administration or the financial secretary – to head the SCSC, acting as the champion of smart city initiatives.

“It is suggested that a champion with sufficient authority be identified to: spearhead the policy making at the top level; coordinate efforts among the bureaus/departments (B/Ds); and, demonstrate to external stakeholders (including the public and the private sector) that the government attaches great importance to the subject,” the report said.

It points out that a similar arrangement has been adopted by a number of cross-B/Ds initiatives in Hong Kong. This includes the Commission on Strategic Development chaired by the chief executive; Commission on Poverty chaired by the chief secretary for administration; and, the Steering Committee on Housing and Land Supply by the financial secretary.

While the SCSC is responsible for the policy-making, the proposed Smart City Programme Office (SCPO) is being eyed for oversight and management – focusing on the coordination of relevant efforts of B/Ds for implementation of smart city programs as well as managing risks.

In addition, the SCPO is responsible for formulation individual smart city projects underpinning each program and monitoring the implementation and outcome of these projects.

The third piece of the proposed governance structure for Hong Kong’s smart city blueprint is the individual Project Teams (PTs) that would be responsible for the execution of smart city projects. The PTs would be under the direction of the SCPO.

“This arrangement allows the appropriate division of work, eliminates redundancies and silos and affords ‘checks and balances’ mechanism,” the final report said.

A very comprehensive document

The Smart City Consortium (SCC) lauded the final report for being “very comprehensive and full of constructive suggestions that would help us build a better Hong Kong”.