Transport and logistics

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam blasts private operators of public transport for not sharing data

Real-time location of buses and trains is crucial to making Hong Kong a smart city, chief executive says, but operators insist that information comes at a price

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 February, 2018, 7:51pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 February, 2018, 9:54pm

Hong Kong’s leader on Wednesday placed the blame squarely on private operators running the public transport network for not doing enough to share data that could ultimately help shorten commutes and make planning journeys easier.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s frustration came from her ambition to grow Hong Kong into a world-class smart city over the next five years.

Why Hong Kong’s smart city blueprint is on the wrong track

To do that, the government unveiled a policy blueprint in December that included open data sharing between the government and private sector as a crucial plank.

“Our public transport operators, for example, are private companies. And they are generally reluctant to share, at no cost, data generated from their operations,” Lam said during a speech to members of Smart City Consortium, a trade organisation.

Fear of risks and too few tech graduates stalling Hong Kong’s smart city ambitions

The operators control data such as real-time location for its fleets of buses and trains as well as how many people were travelling at a given time. Opening up this data was important to “smart” initiatives, she said.

“We will continue our efforts to convince them of the benefits that everyone gains in a system where the data is freely available. I am sure the Smart City Consortium will help us to give this a real push.”

However, one of the city’s major franchise bus operators, Citybus and New World First Bus, controlled by the New World Development conglomerate, said the data came at a cost to them and would not cede such valuable information for free.

Why big data must be shared to realise Hong Kong’s smart city vision

“The huge additional investment and operational costs for developing real-time information system are borne by NWFB and Citybus, such that the real time information of bus arrivals is an asset owned by the companies,” a NWFB and Citybus spokesman said. “In view of commercial value associated with real-time data, we do not open up such information to third-party app developers for free.”

The bus company group said it already worked with the government to provide a limited number of features and information to bus users.