Views on Future IT Development in Hong Kong

Stephen Lau
Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data &
Fellow, Hong Kong Computer Society

As a long time member of the IT profession, I am strongly encouraged by the CE's policy speech that the Government is taking a leading and investment role in IT.

To successfully initiate and implement our IT policy, I have the following recommendations:

1. Appointment of the IT Bureau Chief

For the appointment of the Chief of the new IT bureau, The Government should also consider some external besides in-house candidates. Having worked in both the Government and private sectors, I can see the merits of different and fresher prospectives, private sector exposure and mentality.

2. IT advisory committee

Given the spectrum of decisions to be made, the IT Bureau Chief should be supported by a knowledgeable advisory committee to strengthen the overall technology leadership, and partnership with the private and academic sectors and ensure an effective strategy for IT. I feel that the Information Infrastructure Advisory Board already operating under OFTA could evolve into this entity. Together, a blue print of an effective strategy should be formulated as soon as possible with adequate funding for its implementation.

3. Technology Innovation Centre, South East Asia

While important in their own right, the IT initiatives should also be recognised as supplementary to the overall objective to make Hong Kong the technology innovation centre is South East Asia. The IT Bureau and its advisory committee should work closely with the technology advisory board to be chaired by Nobel Laureate Professor C.N. Yang, and the synergy would guide the best use of the new science park, the Industrial Technology Centres, and the $500M promised for the Applied Research Fund.

4. IT Development Industry

It is commonly accepted that we do not have a well-recognised IT development industry. The critics have pointed to a variety of factors, including a lack of governmental policy and investment. However, I like to voice a cautionary note in that there are quite a number of developed countries in which governments took the lead, poured millions into IT development projects and had nothing to show for such tremendous efforts (the Alvey Project in Europe, the Fifth Generation Computer Project in Japan). Still, to be a leader in IT, we must have a successful and well-perceived IT development industry. We must learn from the US where globally notable IT innovations have been accomplished (IBM in the 70's, Apple in the 80's, Microsoft in the 90's). The legendary successes of Silicon Valley and Route 128 indicate a unique nurturing environment with talents and creativity, synergistic partnership between academics and entrepreneurs, production and marketing skills. We really need to understand the dynamics and the interlinking factors for a successful industry, and consider the following in our planning process:

    - how successful are our technology incubators so far (the Industrial Technology Centre)? Are there any lessons learnt?
    - how can we develop the talents required?
    - how can we nurture creativity?
    - how can we create a silicon-valley - like environment?
    - are their niche areas where we can excel?
    - how can we successfully market our products globally?

5. Manpower development

With the increasing tempo of opportunities created by IT, forecasts in all advanced countries indicate hugh number of new jobs but requiring new skills, so training and re-skilling are essential. So I am disappointed that manpower planning and development for IT was not specifically addressed in the CE's policy speech. I believe there is a real shortage of appropriate IT skills at all levels, particularly at the vocational training level. This manpower issue definitely needs focused attention.

6. Electronic Commerce (EC)

Electronic Commerce should be encouraged with all our businesses, particularly the smaller enterprises. Through the Net they could find overseas markets and buyers much more readily and cost-effectively, in addition to using the traditional channels for export.

7. Regulatory framework for EC

Coupled with the above initiative on electronic commerce should be an effective regulatory framework for interactive services to ensure contract legality, fair trade practice, security, and protection of privacy rights including personal data and intellectual property. Only with such complementary assurance would both the suppliers and the customers have the confidence to do business via electronic commence with their interests being mutually and adequately protected.

We should keep in close touch with Malaysia, which is most aggressive in enacting a full range of Cyberlaws to support their national multimedia corridor initiative.

8. Government & Internet

The Government should take the catalytic lead and increase its pace in using INTERNET to interact with our citizens and organisations, from procurement exercises to information dissemination, from application for services to service provision where applicable.

9. IT Culture

A continual IT promotion programme for our citizens needs to be established to cultivate and enhance their knowledge of IT and its implications. For this endeavour I believe we can learn a lot from Singapore as I understand recently Singapore has been voted the second most computer literate city in a global survey.

10. IT and Social Responsibility

Amidst our fervour to put IT to the best use for our industries and services so as to maintain our continual economic prosperity, we should not forget to channel our energy to use IT for the betterment of our society, to preserve our natural environment, to help the socially disadvantaged, and to uphold our human dignity. I look towards the IT profession, and particularly to the future LegCo representative for IT, to lead this humanitarian crusade.

5 Nov 1997

Last Updated on 7 December 1997