A group of information technology experts – many of them Beijing loyalists – have slammed the government for its “insincere” approach to the IT sector’s development. Witman Hung Wai-man, chairman of the politically connected Internet Professional Association, said prospects for the local IT industry had grown so dire that the group had to speak up against the government. “Although I am always categorised as being in the pro-government camp, I can bear no more the government’s reluctance and inaction in developing our IT industry,” Hung said. “The bureaucrats still think our IT development is top in Asia, but the truth is Hong Kong lags behind Singapore, [South] Korea and even Taiwan,” he said. For those three countries, IT development comprises 2.5 per cent of their gross domestic product, while it was only 0.7 per cent for Hong Kong. Core members of the association, or iProA, which has strong links to the administration and its political supporters, have formed the Digital Strategy Concern Group in response to the government’s five-year digital policy plan laid out in the Digital 21 consultation document in September. The experts said they were acting in a personal capacity outside of iProA. The document was to form the basis for the fourth update of the Digital 21 strategy first published in 1998. Hung said the government’s “lukewarm” approach to IT was reflected in the September document’s meagre number of pages. “There were only 20-something pages for the latest document – including a lot of reviews, but little recommendations – while in 2008 we had more than 60 pages,” said Hung, who is also an honourary chairman of the Beijing-loyalist Y. Elites Association. Group member Paul Fung Tak-chung questioned the wisdom of awarding the HK$1.2 million contract to prepare the documents to a consulting firm under American IT giant IBM. “Would it want to introduce drastic policy changes that may bring in new IT products?” said Fung, suggesting a conflict of interests between IBM’s consulting and hardware operations. The association’s government ties run deep. There were claims of political interference when the well-connection association won a HK$220 million government IT contract. Its former president, Dr Elizabeth Quat, was elected a lawmaker for the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.