Carrie Lam

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam pledges to set up civil service training academy after visiting facility in Singapore

Chief executive also voices hope public servants back home can ‘think outside of the box’ and embrace new technology

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 August, 2017, 4:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 August, 2017, 11:20pm

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has pledged to set up the city’s first academy for its 170,000 civil servants in the face of new challenges after touring a similar facility in Singapore, viewed by many as the city’s sharpest regional competitor.

Lam added that public servants in Hong Kong were unaccustomed to “thinking out of the box” and should embrace new technology as the city state did.

The chief executive was speaking on the second day of her maiden official trip in the Lion City, during which she visited the country’s Civil Service College.

“I really want us to explore in Hong Kong the setting up of a dedicated civil service academy... to provide more training for our civil servants, especially in areas such as leadership, public participation, and in terms of the application and use of technology,” she said on Thursday.

“The experience I have had with the Singapore Civil Service College is a very enlightening one. So, I hope that in this term of the government, we could make some real progress in creating a civil service college for Hong Kong.”

I really want us to explore in Hong Kong the setting up of a dedicated civil service academy
Chief Executive Carrie Lam

She said the civil service deserved a better-resourced training facility in the face of new challenges, noting that Secretary for Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong would visit the Singapore college soon to learn more from it.

Meanwhile, Lam on Thursday also visited Singapore’s Govtech Hive – the government’s innovation laboratory for digital services – before being received by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in Istana, the official residence and office of Singapore’s president, Tony Tan Keng Yam.

She told senior technology and communications officials that while Hong Kong had an Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, it was nothing like Govtech Hive, which had recruited a considerable number of top data scientists to help authorities embrace new technologies.

Lam said she had found it difficult to push Hong Kong officials to use new technologies and share data.

“I am not criticising my own civil service colleagues when I make that comment,” she said.

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“But you will understand that in any institution which has been well established for many years and doing things in the same way for many years, especially when we are subject to resource constraints ... it is not easy to think outside of the box and to try new ways.

“We do need some sort of disruptions ... to stimulate my colleagues to really think in a more innovative way.”

Boosting the application of technology would help the city stay competitive and improve the delivery of public services, she added.

Li Kwai-yin, vice-president of the Chinese Civil Servants’ Association, supported Lam’s idea of building an academy.

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“Lam said the government had a new role as a facilitator,” she said. “More training would be required for mid-ranking and high-level officials.”

Li suggested training that would broaden civil servants’ international horizons and enhance their knowledge of mainland China.

But Leung Chau-ting, chairman of the Federation of Civil Service Unions, expressed reservations. He said the public might be quick to associate the academy with national education given current political tensions.

Lam travelled to Bangkok on Thursday night for talks with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and a number of business leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

A long-awaited free-trade agreement between the Asean and Hong Kong is on track to be signed by the end of this year.

Additional reporting by Kimmy Chung