Economic growth should emphasize on people’s well-being

Winnie Tang At the end of September, I participated in two events held in the Mainland and South Korea. Both of them enriched my knowledge and inspired me on Hong Kong's smart city development.

Held in Shenyang, the 3rd China Smart City International Expo is the largest exposition in the Mainland on smart city. A team of over 30 delegates from Smart City Consortium (SCC) has witnessed the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong Pavilion. But more importantly, we attended the LinkedSmart—China-Hong Kong Business Matching Platform Signing Ceremony. The platform aims to help our startups to access international funding, and contributes to smart city financing diversification.

I then moved to Busan, South Korea, to participate in the Telecom World 2017 organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). With a history of 152 years, ITU’s main task is to establish the global communications standards, including broadband and wireless network. The Telecom World 2017 gathered more than 5,200 industry experts from 131 countries, to share their opportunities and challenges in creating a smart city. They also showcased the latest technology developments, such as 5G, autonomous vehicle, quantum cryptography network and so on.

Lessons learned from Busan

Both Busan and Hong Kong are cities developed around a harbor and are Asia’s tourism hot spots. The people of Busan are actively developing a smart city economy. It is developing smart city initiatives, but at the same time the knowledge and technologies from this experience are also being exported, forming another emerging economic force for the city. This is a case that worth studying for Hong Kong’s development.

According to ITU's assessment in 2016, Korea was ranked first in the world’s information technology infrastructure. This success is likely contributed by the Busan U-City Project implemented from 2006 to 2014. According to Yunil Kim, Director General, New Growth Engine Industry Bureau of Busan Metropolitan City, the project aimed to integrate information technology into daily life, such as real-time bus information, Internet / mobile traffic information, tele-radiology, sensor network remote monitoring of law and order, etc.

From the beginning of 2015, Busan set up four sites for testing smart city technologies. They are the financial technology valley, information technology belt (with cloud-led smart factories), marine information technology belt and smart city test bed.

Pilot scheme

A pilot scheme was started at the Haeundae district, which is located at the southeastern part of Busan. The pilot scheme included the installation of different smart devices like smart street lights enabled with lighting, sound and vibration sensors. They can adjust the illumination based on the brightness, as well as monitor traffic flow and air and noise pollution. The lamp pole can also detect accidents, and act as a WiFi hotspot.

Its smart parking initiative uses sensors and camcorders to advice drivers on the location of available parking spaces in real-time. Through a mobile application, drivers can be informed with the distance of a trip with navigation service to the parking spot and the associated parking fee.

In addition to developing and operating different smart services in the city, the pilot scheme also helped SMEs to commercialize their smart city services. The pilot scheme includes programs that promote the business of smart city startups and establish a network to encourage co-operation from all sectors.

Exporting knowledge and technologies

At the same time, Busan exported its smart city experience to other countries. The city is exporting the use of big data in smart transportation to Singapore, smart city model to countries in the Middle East and South America. It is also promoting the smart city platform and service interconnection experience in Spain.

Last year, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) brought a new narrative for economic growth, which is based around people's well-being and environmental sustainability. Busan's smart city blueprint goes beyond technological hardware investment. Its core value is lies on bringing happiness to its citizen with improved the economy and new employment opportunities.

Same as in Hong Kong, we should be developing our smart city with a similar approach.  Therefore, I am glad that our latest Policy Address released on 11th October includes a series of measures to boost the development of innovation and technology and to launch various smart city projects in Hong Kong. By doing so, we are able to not only enhance quality of life and retain talents, but also to inject economic and social impetus to the society. Most importantly, it would be able to unlock the potential of our young minds.

Winne Tang is the Honorary Professor, Department of Computer Science, The University of Hong Kong. She is also the founder of the Smart City Consortium.