More needs to be done for Hong Kong to become a global innovation hub

The strength of our city’s innovation and technology industry depends on the will of our government, which must support the cultivation and training of those with talent and skills and build a welcoming society

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 March, 2016, 9:08pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 March, 2016, 9:08pm

Global demand for information, communications and technology services is such that there is a worldwide talent shortage. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s dream of Hong Kong becoming a centre for innovation and technology needs the right people to nurture such industries. But many cities have such aspirations and Beijing’s bid to attract our best and brightest to further its own hi-tech ambitions would seem to threaten plans. There is no better signal to our government that building such a sector requires more than a strategy, digital infrastructure and hardware.

Beijing’s Zhongguancun Science park is already the nation’s equivalent of the world leader in the sector, Silicon Valley in the US. Innovations in computing, flu vaccine development and aerospace have already come from its laboratories. Given the push, it should have come as no surprise that the city is vying for top ICT people from Hong Kong and Macau; as of yesterday, they and their families will be offered permanent residency and household registration, with access to social welfare services. With wages in the sector on the mainland having surpassed what is on offer in our city, that may be enough to draw away talent.

The cost of living in Beijing is lower than Hong Kong. But the capital’s air quality is notoriously poor and our city has the edge when it comes to medical services, international-standard education and quality of food. Beijing has much to do to attract families, although it also has an ability, when authorities show determination, to quickly make changes happen. The strength of our city’s innovation and technology industry therefore also depends on the will of our government.

Hong Kong has the advantage of open access to the internet. But to attract the right people, it also needs to have a society that is open and tolerant of all comers. The government has to support the cultivation and training of those with talent and skills, while backing start-ups. But Hongkongers, particularly the young, also need to think bigger to produce more creative ideas.