My Take

Time to give much-maligned IT staff a break

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 November, 2015, 1:55am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 November, 2015, 1:55am

Pity the poor IT people.

A childhood friend of mine works at an investment bank. His colleagues, he says, are an impatient and ill-tempered lot, and none will tolerate the slightest delay, not to say a glitch, on their computers that may affect their trades involving millions of dollars. And when that happens, they direct their full fury at their phones and computers, and then at the poor IT guy(s) assigned to look into the problem.

We journalists earn a lot less than bankers, though some of us have comparably big egos. And over the years, I have witnessed how polite and low-key IT staff get the full wrath of frustrated journalists facing an imminent deadline on their work terminal. When your computer is working well, you never say thank you. It's only when something is wrong that you start shouting into the phone at whoever is manning the IT help hotline. I imagine there is a bit of that in every office that relies heavily on computer networks to operate.

Our government may be always banging on about innovation, but IT people never get the respect they deserve in our society. They are like the back-office staff who just get ignored.

In his first meet-the-press conference as secretary for innovation and technology last week, Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung outlined several key initiatives for his bureau. Among these are re-industrialising the IT sector, enhancing interdepartmental coordination within the government, encouraging investment in tech start-ups and nurturing more local IT talent.

I hope the last one includes working to enhance the pay and status of IT professionals in Hong Kong. These days, when you tell people you work in IT, they think you are little better than a computer repairman.

Charles Mok, the lawmaker for the IT sector, recently lamented the low pay of many IT workers. Of course, there is a big difference between the top IT manager - who makes sure the backbone system and the network is working in your company - and the lowly technicians at the bottom. But in between, those in the middle have a lot of technical expertise and possibly creative ideas to offer.

Considering all work will grind to a halt without them, they deserve more respect.