My Take

New tech bureau should help severly lagging Hong Kong regulations catch up to innovation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 November, 2015, 1:26am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 November, 2015, 1:26am

If there is one thing the newly approved Innovation and Technology Bureau can do, it is to bring Hong Kong's outdated regulatory and legal frameworks into the 21st century.

Should Uber-like car-pooling services be encouraged or outlawed?

Why are the airwaves so heavily regulated while anyone is free to set up and broadcast from an internet radio? How do we apply gag laws and restraining orders with their judicial and geographic constraints when the internet covers the world?

How do we incorporate auto-pilot software on vehicles such as Tesla's to ensure safety and insurance protection?

READ MORE: Hong Kong drivers using new Tesla auto-pilot software warned they are 'committing an offence'

The responses of the authorities to each of these challenges have been to stick their head in the sand.

First the semi-official InvestHK welcomed Uber. Then police launched a crackdown and arrested some of its drivers and workers. Can the authorities make up their mind?

In Hong Kong, radio and television broadcasting is highly regulated. So when, for example, some pan-democratic groups broadcast programmes with a ham radio, they were prosecuted. Yet, they have been running the same content on the internet and that's perfectly okay.

When a court approved a gag order by the University of Hong Kong council to prevent further recorded leaks of sensitive discussions in its meetings, those responsible simply released more leaks in Taiwan, outside of Hong Kong's jurisdiction. Do such restraining orders make sense anymore in the age of the internet, and if so, how to enforce them?

READ MORE: Questions and answers about Hong Kong’s new innovation and technology bureau

I think self-driving cars are great. Such software may also help drivers navigate and need not completely take over driving. But currently it's illegal and insurers won't cover them. What to do? The bureau should figure it out.

Meanwhile, the bureau is taking over tech-related functions from the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau and the office of the chief information officer as well as some projects from the Development Bureau.

That should save money. At least the new bureau should try hard to do that. But who knows? It's government bureaucracy so they will probably waste more money instead.