Second, according to a consortium of city governments in the U.S., a smart city is about developing technological infrastructure that enables it to collect, aggregate, and analyze real-time data to improve the lives of its residents, with explicit policies regarding smart infrastructure and data, a functioning administrative component, and community engagement. In other words, data is at the core of any smart city strategy.
When I visited Singapore and met with its officials last September, they told me that it was mandatory that no policy decision can be made in government without justification from data analysis. They mean what they say. Two weeks ago, the Singapore government announced that they will tie up with the National University of Singapore to give data science training to 2,000 public officials annually for five years.
Third, it’s the attitude of knowing your weaknesses, and doing something about them. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee recently was quoted as saying to a group of leading international investors that “Singapore could do much more when it came to adopting new technology”. When was the last time you heard any self-critique by our senior government officials in Hong Kong? Not even when they managed to lose over 3 million of our citizens' personal data in the biggest cybersecurity breach ever in Hong Kong. They simply said, “We’re sorry, but have been doing it all along, and don’t worry, it’s still safe.”
A few days ago, PM Lee of Singapore posted on his Facebook page about an old mantra he saw when he visited Facebook’s headquarters in Silicon Valley last year—“Move fast and break things.”
He went on to say: “By international standards, we have an excellent civil service. But we can and must do better at improvising, and not be trapped by the silos and established ways of working that have built up over the years. Things move fast, and we need to respond with openness, flexibility, and the ability to work informally and entrepreneurially.”
These are advice well worth noting by our incoming chief executive. Move fast and break things—and I don’t mean her political opposition. If she can start looking at our government and civil service that way, with the boldness to make changes where they are needed, it will go a long way beyond just making Hong Kong a smart city. Our government may finally be able to tackle some of the core conflicts our society face.
This article was originally published in Letter to Hong Kong, RTHK
Charles Mok is a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council (IT)