Wednesday, August 28, 2019

HK Should Get on Technology Fast Track with Mainland
By Wong Tsz Yuen
Global Times
2019/8/28 19:13:41

Hong Kong lagging in technological development; cooperation with mainland necessary

At the end of July, Hong Kong installed 50 "smart lamp posts," which have several features including a Bluetooth detector for traffic flow, a sensor for weather and an artificial intelligence, panoramic camera. The devices installed have triggered the concerns of some younger generations, who worry that their privacy may be invaded and monitored. During a protest on Saturday, the smart lamp posts became the targets of certain radical protesters' vandalism. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government has condemned the protesters' violence. Vandalism is unreasonable given that the HKSAR has repeatedly clarified the purpose of installing the smart lamp posts.

The incident also showed that many Hong Kong residents are not accepting of new technologies. Hong Kong has been lagging in terms of technology innovation.

The erection of smart lamp posts is part of a plan in the Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong. The HKSAR government plans to install 400 such lamp posts in batches, alongside 5G mobile communication infrastructure, providing convenient information services and collecting real-time city data. However, the plan has faced challenges as it is put into practice. Apart from the distrust of Hong Kong residents, Hong Kong's technology development faces several other obstacles, including a lack of digital development prospects, a straggling scientific innovation atmosphere, a limited market size and relatively weak technology education.

Despite the fact that Hong Kong has been competitive as an international financial center, the city doesn't show strong innovative capabilities and lacks a sufficient supply of technology workers and engineers, according to The Global Competitiveness Report. After manufacturing industries moved northward, Hong Kong has appeared de-industrialized and the city's manufacturing sector has hollowed out. The Chinese mainland, on the other hand, has been making great strides in the technology world, with its Global Innovation Index ranking climbing from 43rd place in 2009 to 14th in 2019.

Since the establishment of the Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Bureau in 2015, the HKSAR government has spent its time building innovation platforms, setting up innovation investment funds and launching technology talent entry plans. These moves focus on eight aspects of Hong Kong's bid to become an international innovation and science center, including the development of resources, talent and research infrastructure. But Hong Kong has smaller research circles than other international metropolitans. Its earlier research and development (R&D) investment environment is due to mature further. Students who graduated from university majors related to R&D have less attractive career prospects than those who studied business and finance, law or medicine. This has formulated a vicious cycle in Hong Kong's R&D staff shortages.

In fact, Hong Kong has advantages in talent and internationalization, and also benefits from the "one country, two systems" principle. What the city needs to do is release its R&D potential and promote its own influence.

The HKSAR government should nurture a comprehensive R&D environment. It also needs to draft a long-term development strategy that includes the addition of grants to universities, pushes international-level cooperation with local R&D institutions, fosters a greater space for sustainable development and releases more preferential policies.

Through favorable policies, a suitable business environment, education system and multi-level cooperation, Hong Kong can push forward all-around technology innovation.

Additionally, the central government has been supporting Hong Kong's innovation development. The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area aims to build a Chinese Silicon Valley. Hong Kong should seize the Greater Bay Area opportunity, achieve complementary development with other cities in the region and break the ceiling of its economic development.

Colleges and universities in Hong Kong should engage in cooperation with mainland enterprises. Moreover, Hong Kong and the mainland should form partnerships in financial technology, artificial intelligence and the pharmaceutical industry.

Throughout history, every technology revolution has reshuffled the global economic structure. Now, a new technological revolution has emerged and the Greater Bay Area era is approaching. Every revolution has its dividends. These dividends have been laid in front of Hong Kong - whether it will choose to live off its past achievements or take its chance and get on the fast development track will determine the city's destiny.

The author is a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macao Studies and a senior reporter from Hong Kong Phoenix Television.

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