Hong Kong needs to catch up on some basics to be a city of the 21st century

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 April, 2016, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 April, 2016, 12:00pm

Reading Sonia So’s letter when recently purchasing stamps at the Post Office, I once again realise how Hong Kong is sometimes so far behind the times (“Special stamps will be kept at counters”, April 21). If Hong Kong really wants to become an innovation centre, we need to first address some basic areas where we are far behind other markets, especially the West.

Let me list a few areas for modernisation:

Why are we still buying stamps that are not self-adhesive, which is the standard in many Western markets?

Why does Hong Kong maintain a love affair with the fax machine which the West stopped using 15-plus years ago?

The internet is not new but many government and company websites lack basic functionality that is prevalent in other markets, the Transport Department being one example where you cannot renew licences and vehicle registrations online.

How we love our paper forms in Hong Kong. Its seems you cannot do anything without completing and then mailing, faxing or personally delivering a form. Any visitor to the Transport Department will notice the piles of paper documents for services that could and should be provided online.

Mobile and internet banking is lacking. It is faster for me to deposit that rare cheque I receive into my US bank than into my Hong Kong bank – in the US, you deposit the cheque through your mobile phone and then shred the cheque. Hong Kong’s biggest bank has a personal banking website that is so absent of basic features such as sorting a column, viewing transaction details, disputing a credit card charge, transaction data export, default naming your PDF statement to the current month, etc.

While I am surprised at how many drivers in Hong Kong are not Autotoll-equipped, it is really outdated. Toll systems in the West provide electronic payment in all toll lanes and then have dedicated e-payment lanes only, plus high-speed lanes. Autotoll discriminates against motorcyclists as the system identifies the vehicle on the front licence tag, not the rear tag, and so motorcyclists always have to pay with cash.

Taxis still require cash when all other forms of transport accept Octopus.

These are just some infuriating examples. To be fair, the rest of the world can learn from Hong Kong with its brilliant Octopus system, the world’s best and cleanest subway system and the best airport in the world with the simplest immigration control process using our Hong Kong identity cards and a thumb print, plus free luggage trolleys.

If Hong Kong wants to promote innovation and technology, then let’s catch up on the basics first.

Simon Constantinides, Pok Fu Lam