Why Hong Kong needs an Innovation and Technology Bureau
A speech delivered at a speaker luncheon of Hong Kong Democratic Foundation on 26 November 2010
My grandfather was a farmer and my father was a carpenter. I graduated from the Chinese University and became a professional software engineer. Immediately after graduation and based on my youthfulness and belief in the usefulness of technology, I started a technology company and became an entrepreneur. I went back to school and got myself a PhD degree in “Knowledge Management” before I became an elected legislator two years ago. My son said he wanted to become an “Innovator”, probably an architect or a musician. At this stage of my career, I would like to make best use of my experience and my commitment to “Innovation and Technology” to make Hong Kong a better place. This is not just for the sake of the narrowly defined “technology” and making Hong Kong a better place to do business. It is for the sake of creating more opportunities for the younger generations particularly those who are, like me, not born with a silver spoon.
Hong Kong faces the same challenges as all other economies and we cannot depend on our past alone for our future. We may need to look into what might be a better future for us. Hong Kong has lost its manufacturing industry to the mainland. In the past ten years, we have been surviving as a logistics and trading centre and as a financial hub. No one knows how to predict our future, but we cannot stick to the old ways alone. We probably need to change otherwise we may not be able to overcome challenges in future, including the need to provide opportunities for our younger generation.
So what are the things that are changing the world? As an IT person, I’d like to start with something I know – global trends called “Open Innovation” and the “Power of the Internet”. “Open innovation” is the trend that will enable Hong Kong to stay in touch with “Innovation and Technology”. Instead of relying on internal resources, enterprises and governments around the world collaborate. They now exchange resources in R&D and trade knowhow through a global intellectual property and technology market. The internet, starting from “Web 1.0” that published static pages, moved onto “Web 2.0” which connected people through portals. The up-coming “Web 3.0” will connect “things”, including machines that will “talk” to other machines. Trading, commerce and government now start with an “E”. These trends will have an impact on us. The internet is not just changing economies, but is also causing social development. A government that does not understand these global trends will have problems meeting expectations from society.
Hong Kong must also keep up with other global trends such as “Green Economies” and must ensure that we have the capacity to stay in touch with mainland China and the rest of the world in challenges such as “Energy”, “Environment”, “Resource” and “Development”. In future, technology will track physical resources from the time when they are turned into a product to the days when they are recycled into raw materials again. Hong Kong certainly has a role to play and could become one of the leading cities in “Sustainable Development”, along-side with other successes.
We may need to take another look at Hong Kong’s branding and consider if Hong Kong could survive on being a financial centre alone? This is why I am proposing a new “Innovation and Technology Bureau”, a unit that has the role to coordinate initiatives across policy bureaus, professions, business sectors and NGOs. The establishment of such a bureau will send a clear signal to Hong Kong and the rest of the world that we are serious about Hong Kong moving towards the “Knowledge-based Economy” direction and that we are much more than a financial hub. If Hong Kong as a community could build a consensus on such a “branding”, then our next generation, including the agitated “Post 80s”, will have more opportunities to contribute to the future of Hong Kong.
The new Bureau will have the responsibility to build up links to initiatives in mainland China and the rest of the world under the “Open Innovation” theme. Hong Kong has been successful as a trading hub of goods. I believe Hong Kong has potential to evolve into a trader of knowledge, linking R&D in universities and serving as a technology transfer and commercialization centre that serves mainland China and the world. I totally agree with the comments made by the audience (which included current and former government officials) as I also believe that for Hong Kong to prosper in future, the HKSAR Government needs to encourage creativity and innovations across all sectors. We need to invest more in our “soft infrastructure” and our people. The move towards an “Innovation” branding and a “Knowledge-based Economy” are probably the best ways to exploit social and economic values from Hong Kong’s key assets – a proven administrative structure, an open, corruption free government and a trusted common law system.
My own family’s evolution, including my son’s aspiration, is a good example of “change”. All economies are evolving. Hong Kong is not different. We need to change to survive. My proposal is not about “Technology” and “Naming Winners”. It is about Hong Kong’s future social and economic development.
Samson Tam Wai Ho (譚偉豪)
Legislative Councilor of the Information Technology Sector (立法會資訊科技界議員)
26 November 2010
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