Lack of innovation and incentives holding back Hong Kong from becoming a smart city
The government has been slow in implementing the recommendations of the Smart City Blueprint and needs to attract the best talent if it wants to stay abreast of its rivals
Hong Kong will find it difficult to overtake pacesetters Singapore and Shenzhen in the race to become a smart city if the government delays implementing the goals outlined in the Smart City Blueprint released in December, according to an expert.
About 500 smart city pilot projects are currently under way in China, while Singapore’s Smart Nation plan has contributed to its top ranking in last year’s Global Smart City Performance Index.
“Shenzhen’s advantage has been that their economy was built on manufacturing, so they come from a very strong hardware platform already,” said Denis Ma, head of research at JLL in Hong Kong.
“From what we’ve seen they’re building on that and extending it. Hong Kong has always been a banking and finance hub, but it’s been very slow to transition towards technology.
“If we don’t take steps towards attracting the best talent available, we’re going to lose out down the road. And if we’re not able to grow innovation and technology in this city, we’ll fall behind.”
Meanwhile, Hong Kong came last in developing innovation and technology out of other Asian cities such as Taipei, Shenzhen, Seoul and Singapore, according to a study by the Sharing Economy Alliance last September.
Earlier this year, the government announced that it would pour HK$50 billion into the technology sector to develop innovation, but it has not followed up on plans to implement the goals outlined in the Smart City Blueprint. These include rolling out a citywide mobile payments scheme and adopting big data analytics in health care.
One area holding Hong Kong back from transforming into a smart city is the lack of incentives for young people to take up jobs in tech, according to Ma. “Families need to encourage children that they don’t necessarily need to be a doctor, lawyer or banker to have a successful career in Hong Kong.”
Daniel Shih, senior director of research and advisory at Colliers International Hong Kong, also believes that the Hong Kong government needs to develop a new policy environment that will encourage the adoption of smart city friendly technologies.
“The recent proposal by the Environment Bureau to allow individual homeowners and businesses to sell excess supply of renewable energy, through rooftop solar installations or wind systems, to the city’s power grid is a move in the right direction,” he added.
Proptech, or property technology, could potentially help Hong Kong in its journey to becoming a smart city, according to a new report by JLL.
The fast-developing sector includes online property sales and rental websites such as Airbnb, smart home devices such as Amazon Echo, as well as co-working spaces.
Asia is home to 179 proptech start-ups that have raised funding since 2013, according to the report. “We’re still in the early days of proptech, but I think the primary area where it can help is making the whole [property] market more efficient,” said Ma.
But proptech start-ups would also profit off the prohibitively expensive housing in Hong Kong. “An affordability crisis in housing and office markets would reinforce the growth of co-living and co-working spaces in Hong Kong,” the report said.