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Tech and business leaders welcome Policy Address proposals

This week’s Policy Address has drawn a warm reception from local business and te

This week’s Policy Address has drawn a warm reception from local business and technology organizations, albeit with some concerns that the proposed reforms don’t go far enough.

Open data to drive healthcare innovation

HKSTP chairwoman Fanny Law welcomed the HKSAR government’s focus on technology talent development, and its plan to publish the Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong this year.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam pledged to open up datasets by government departments to promote the sharing of information and data to improve health outcomes.

“Hong Kong enjoys a unique advantage in the area of biotechnological research. Opening up healthcare data while protecting personal privacy will help Hong Kong further develop biotechnology and excel in healthcare service innovation,” Law said, noting that in an ageing society it is particularly crucial for the healthcare sector and the community to share data.

Law also said she is pleased to see the government leading the changes in procurement arrangements to strengthen support for local tech companies and start-ups.

The most technology focused policy in history

The Hong Kong Computer Society (HKCS) meanwhile commented in a statement that it is “positively impressed” by Lam’s inaugural Policy Address, noting that it is “by far the most technology and innovation-focused policy address in our history.”

HKCS particularly welcomed the CE’s decision to set up a Council of Advisers on Innovation and Strategic Development, as well as an internal Steering Committee on Innovation and Technology.

HKCS also highlighted the proposed smart city projects including a pilot smart lamp post project and building information modelling, and urged the government to also prioritize geographic information systems, the IoT and paperless government operations.

Commitment to innovation

The Internet Professional Association (iProA) said Lam’s decision to establish the new council and steering committee has “demonstrated her commitment and emphasis on innovation and technology and we believe with her leadership collaboration and participation across bureaux and departments can be much more effective in upgrading Hong Kong to an innovation-focused economy.”

The association was also encouraged by the government’s decision to review existing legislation and regulations to remove outdated provisions inhibiting innovation. But it noted that Hong Kong still lacks a general “local innovation preferred” policy in procurement, unlike most other innovation-focused regions and countries.

8 areas of growth and 5 shortfalls

IT Legislative Councillor Charles Mok said the eight major areas of innovation and technology proposed by the Policy Address do generally respond to the demands of the ICT sector.

Mok also considers the proposed IT procurement policy reforms to be good, but urged the government to communicate more with ICT SMEs and startups to understand their difficulties in meeting tender requirements.

He also said the Policy Address still falls short in five key areas -- upskilling efforts for the ICT workforce, continued education in ICT, open data policy, public transport policy -- with Octopus neglecting the latest e-payment trends – and the lack of a Freedom of Information Law.

Business communities welcome tech development

The business community was also generally supportive of the proposed reforms, with Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC) chairman Stephen Leung stating that he is encouraged that Hong Kong is finally moving forward after lagging behind for some time.

“As a leading international business and financial hub, we have constantly reminded the Government about how slowly we have been moving in this area,” he said.

“With the promise to put necessary resources into eight key I&T areas to help Hong Kong catch up, and the HK$700 million pledged to immediately advance Hong Kong’s smart city projects, the Chamber looks forward to finally seeing long-overdue progress being made in elevating Hong Kong up the ranks of the world’s truly leading smart cities.”

Finally, EY has welcomed the proposed tax relief for SMEs that would lower the tax rate for the first $2 million in profits to 8.25%, as well as a proposal to provide enhanced tax reductions for R&D expenditures to encourage private sector investment in R&D.

“EY is looking forward to the implementation of these two new tax proposals. While addressing any concern for possible tax abuse, it is to be hoped that the administration will not include too many restrictive qualifying conditions in the legislation,” the company said in a statement.