Hong Kong failing to innovate and lagging behind mainland China when it comes to smart technology, says lawmaker Regina Ip

Regina Ip says development of a smart city in Kai Tak is proceeding too slowly

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 August, 2017, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 August, 2017, 10:33pm

Hong Kong is failing to innovate and use new technologies compared to other cities around the world, putting at risk the government’s plan to transform Hong Kong into a “smart city”, according to a legislative councillor.

New People’s Party lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said Hong Kong was “lagging behind miserably” in implementing key technologies to become a smart city integrating information, information and communication technology (ICT) and the internet of things, in order to manage a city more efficiently.

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The mainland was surpassing Hong Kong in integrating technology into everyday life to boost efficiency, she added.

“We have a company [in Hong Kong] trying to push bicycle sharing and the bikes ended up in the Shing Mun River,” Ip said, referring to Hong Kong bike sharing company Gobee.

“In the mainland, you pay for these bicycles using WeChat and everything is recorded. If you park illegally three times you will be fined on the spot ... Not only did this improve efficiency, it also improved law enforcement”.

WeChat is a widely used instant messaging smartphone app that integrates cashless payments.

In 2015, then chief executive Leung Chun-ying announced in his policy address that the government was exploring making Kowloon East a smart city. The plan is currently going through a public engagement process.

“The government is building a smart city in Kai Tak but everything is moving too slowly,” Ip said.

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A survey by the World Economic Forum in 2016 found that the top problem for doing business in Hong Kong was its “insufficient capacity to innovate” and “inefficient government bureaucracy”, bolstering Ip’s arguments that Hong Kong is lagging behind in innovation and the government is slow in implementing technology.

Ip also said Hong Kong was far behind the mainland in cashless payment technology, a key component of smart cities.

The executive councillor made the comments at a smart city summit at the University of Hong Kong.

Julian Vella, Asia-Pacific head of global infrastructure at accounting firm KPMG, said young students in Hong Kong were not encouraged to study technological innovation subjects.

“We all want to be bankers, doctors or lawyers. What about engineers?” he said.

“It goes right back to education and priorities given in the education system. Governments need to embrace technology and they have generally not embraced it.”

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Ip said Hong Kong needed to embrace the sharing economy as part of its plans to becoming a smart city.

But she blamed vested interests for blocking new economic innovations. She cited the taxi lobby as an example. It has been lobbying the government to block car-hailing company Uber in Hong Kong.

A police crackdown on Uber drivers in May created a chilling effect, with many opting not to continue driving for the company, leading to fewer drivers and fewer options for consumers.

But Smart City Consortium chairwoman Dr Winnie Tang said Hong Kong was “not too bad” in terms of being a smart city. The city ranked 42nd worldwide, but fourth in Asia.