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Policy Address 2017 Jan: Re-industrialization and applied research enter spotlight

Chief Executive CY Leung delivers the Policy Address 2017 (source: HKSAR Gov)Hong Kong IT professionals generally appreciated the comprehensiveness of the ICT policies announced in yesterday's Policy Address 2017, but saw many of them as old wine repackaged in new bottles. Overall, they gave an average score of 6.5 marks out of 10. (See Figure 1 below)

Given the establishment of the Innovation and Technology Bureau more than a year ago, were this year's ICT policies able to reflect a more visionary approach towards innovation and technology development in Hong Kong?

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In the opening address, Chief Executive CY Leung acknowledged the crucial role played by innovation and technology, as it helps to create "a new impetus for Hong Kong's economic and social development." Given the heavy emphasis on innovation and technology in the National 13th Five-Year Plan, the CE noted that the Hong Kong Government would foster industry diversification, promote re-industrialization, and actively drive innovation and technology development to increase output value to sustain the city's economic development.

In separate interviews with Computerworld Hong Kong, five IT professionals commented on the overall effectiveness of the ICT policies:

iProA: Welcoming change of mindset, but new ideas lacking

"It is very encouraging to see the change of mindset by the Hong Kong Government, as information technology is finally regarded as an infrastructure, a way to raise the competitiveness of Hong Kong, and the special attention on IT talent cultivation" said Witman Hung, president of iProA, also Principal Liaison Officer of Hong Kong, Shenzhen Qianhai Authority.

"With credit to the Government, this Policy Address is the most comprehensive in terms of innovation and technology, as opposed to the past which largely focused on the allocation of funds to the Cyberport or the Science Park," Hung said.

"However, there was no mentioning of big data application, or policies on big data development, such as cross-departmental and multi-stakeholder data exchange and standards. These are critical for both smart city and smart government development."

Hung scored the ICT policies 8 marks out of 10.

HKCS: Applied research receives due attention, IT talent cultivation policies are disappointing

Michael Leung, president of Hong Kong Computer Society, also chief information and operations officer of China CITIC Bank International, noted the fairly substantial amount of coverage on ICT in the Policy Address. In particular, Leung welcomed the HK$2 billion Midstream Research Programme which encourages applied research activities at universities, and that the University Grants Committee is finally factoring in applied research in the process of allocating university grants. "This is good news for the IT industry. As the Government now realizes that university research is not just about publishing research papers. I can see there is room for cooperation between the universities' applied research and the industry."

"I am a bit disappointed at the lack of practical policies on IT talent cultivation," Leung added. "Qualifying IT professionals and cultivating IT talents indeed go hand in hand. Without proper recognition of the IT professionals' qualifications, the enterprises can sometimes only resort to importing foreign IT expertise."

Leung scored the ICT policies 7 marks out of 10.