TECHNOLOGY

Free Wi-fi spots to be doubled in new IT initiative

Government aims to increase coverage in busy areas such as hospitals and border points

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 4:35am

The number of free public Wi-fi connection spots across the city is to double from early next year under the government's latest IT strategy proposal.

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau launched the consultation on the "2014 Digital 21 Strategy" yesterday, making recommendations on a new blueprint to steer the city's IT development in the coming years.

The government suggested investing at least HK$12 million. With private sector help, that would add 10,000 more free public Wi-fi connection spots in new locations. Some 10,000 connection spots at more than 5,400 locations now cover government premises and public areas such as libraries, parks, MTR stations and shopping malls.

"New spots will be added to public hospitals. Another possibility is the border control points," said Daniel Lai, government chief information officer.

He said the government would collaborate with Wi-fi service providers to add new spots.

The government's own free Wi-fi coverage has cost taxpayers at least HK$212 million since its launch in 2008. It is available at 400 locations, such as libraries, sports grounds and government buildings.

The service, GovWiFi, was criticised by the Audit Commission in April for its limited availability and unstable performance, which caused low usage in some places.

Lai pledged that the free public Wi-fi services would target places where usage could be higher. "In terms of cost-effectiveness for Wi-fi services, we do examine the usage on a regular basis," said Lai.

"To decide whether there should be a spot at certain locations, we would review the flow of passengers and the number of users at various spots. For example, at a park, there's no need to put spots all around the place. But if we see needs at a pagoda, we'll put a spot there."

A common branding, such as "WiFi@HK", is also recommended to promote the free public Wi-fi services offered by the government and private sectors.

Lai said they would co-operate with the Education Bureau to equip all government and aided schools with Wi-fi access to support e-learning.

Other initiatives in the proposal include providing multi-platform government services, releasing government information with application programming interfaces for easier retrieval, and introducing more secure government services requiring digital certificates, such as licence and passport renewal.

The first Digital 21 Strategy was published in 1998 and has been updated three times.

The public can submit their opinions on the proposal on or before November 30.