A newly established division will provide support for 50,000 locally owned enterprises operating in the region In a strategic realignment of its functions, the government-funded Hong Kong Productivity Council will serve as a conduit for local firms to implement technology projects for Hong Kong manufacturers in the mainland. A new unit under the council, the Information Technology Industry Development Division, has been created for that purpose. Council executive director Yeung Kwok-keung said the division aimed to support the more than 50,000 Hong Kong-owned manufacturing enterprises operating in the Pearl River Delta region with expertise from local independent software vendors (ISVs) and technology services providers. 'We have recently embarked on a five-year strategic plan with renewed strategies and focus to help the industry capture emerging opportunities brought about by Hong Kong's economic integration with the mainland, and the agreement on the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement,' Mr Yeung said. The newly formed division puts a fresh spin on the council's mandate, as it will sharpen its focus on specific segments of Hong Kong industry. Established by statute in 1967, the council is a multidisciplinary organisation tasked to promote the use of IT and other efficient methods to raise productivity throughout Hong Kong's business sector. The organisation and its subsidiary companies employ about 600 consultants and staff, providing various fee-based services to more than 4,000 companies each year. Mr Yeung said the realignment was in line with the council's commitment to support Hong Kong's growth industries and 'meet the needs of changing times'. A key change over the last two decades has been the relocation of Hong Kong manufacturing enterprises to the coastal provinces that make up the Pearl River Delta. Since 1979, Hong Kong enterprises have invested up to US$85.9 billion to build their production bases in Guangdong province alone. It is estimated that the Pearl River Delta region produces US$300 million worth of goods for export every day. Mr Yeung said efforts by Hong Kong manufacturers in the area to harness advanced IT systems to improve their operations offered fresh business opportunities for many local ISVs and IT service providers. Research firm International Data Corp said China's IT services industry remained fragmented, with large numbers of small players in government, utility, health care and other industries. The three main IT services market segments include outsourcing, consulting and system integration and technical product support. Hong Kong Information Technology Federation president Charles Mok said the productivity council's initiative 'should help consolidate the diverse and scattered support programmes'. 'I am hopeful that it is taking a step in the right direction,' said Mr Mok, who serves as chief executive at Halo Group, the IT flagship of Celestial Asia Securities Holdings. He said the new division represented an 'aggressive move' by the group 'to put some cohesiveness in its priorities', adding the council had historically paid more attention to the manufacturing sector than other local industries. The aim of the new IT development division at the productivity council is to provide one-stop services covering software industry support, software engineering, information security, IT business partnership, emerging information and communications technologies, and management information systems, according to division general manager Yung Kai-tai. The division plans to heavily promote applications for wireless systems and radio frequency identification technology in the Delta. For ISVs, the focus will be on promoting software engineering best practices and the adoption of internationally recognised standards. Lobson Chan, product manager at IT outsourcing services provider Outblaze, said the company was keen to partner with the council in a bid to reach more Hong Kong enterprises and potential mainland customers. 'With the economy improving, companies like us are looking to develop these kinds of partnerships to expand into the mainland,' he said.