New bureau needed to foster IT growth in HK

Updated: 2012-11-15 14:59

By Spencer Li in Hong Kong (China Daily)

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Last week, I met with some venture capitalist friends who said that Hong Kong missed a lot of opportunities during the bloom. They are currently evaluating some potential investment in mainland-based Internet and social media companies with P/E over 50.

Despite the fact that Hong Kong missed the chance to strengthen its leading edge on high-technology by utilizing Cyperport as a technology park and Chinese medicine facility, Hong Kong still has good prospects under the leadership of Chief Executive CY Leung. Hong Kong must grasp this golden opportunity to take advantage of this 21st century technology and issue the new broadcasting businesses.

During the Chief Executive election in March 2012, CY Leung suggested a re-organization proposal, which included setting up a Technology and Communications Bureau, TCB. The objective of the formation of TCB is to map out a comprehensive and systematic policy for information and technology, to support the development of technology infrastructure and to encourage synergy among government, enterprises and research and academic institutions in research and development, etc. Most information and communications technology professionals support this re-organization idea.

Due to limited available time for discussion, the motion to adopt the government re-structuring was delayed because of a filibuster from legislative councillors in the previous term of the Legislative Council. After a few months, our Chief Executive CY Leung postponed the reorganization program with no timetable.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Hong Kong was well-known for its leading position in the application of the computer industry which was the most sophisticated in Asia. That included the installation of the first automatic teller machine in Hong Kong. However, with the emergence of the financial crisis and increased outsourcing of related operations to the mainland, Hong Kong has lost its advantages in the computing industry compared with the mainland.

Recently, with regard to the matter of the bankruptcy of the digital broadcasting company DBC and the delay of new free TV licenses, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau was questioned about political interventions, although the formal answers addressed the commercial rationale for new licenses and a complicated selection procedure. There was a pledge to set up the Technology and Communications Bureau, a unique authority to focus on defining long-term policies for technology, broadcasting and communication.

Let us try to quote some successful examples like data centers in India and the Chinese mainland.

In the 1990s, the telecom industry was no longer a monopoly due to the introduction of more telecommunication licenses. At that time, with the establishment of Science Park Phase 1, the Hong Kong government was urged by ICT professionals to build a large-scale regional data center in the Science Park, but finally abandoned the idea. Now, the Chinese mainland and India are leaders among managed services providers in the world.

Beijing Zhongguancun, the first high-tech center on the Chinese mainland, is known as "China's Silicon Valley", which attracted a lot of talented graduates from universities like Peking University and Tsinghua University. Beijing Zhongguancun has created a lot of education and business opportunities in China. For instance, a lot of buyers and consumers are shopping in five nearby electronic markets - Hailong Market, Guigu Market, Taipingyang Market, Dinghao Market and Kemao Market.

The establishment of TCB is widely supported by the majority of the public and also the legislative councillors including the IT Functional Constituency. In order to make a move, a step-by-step approach can be taken by the government in which it should revisit the possibility of the formation of TCB. Should we delay establishing TCB while our neighboring competitors are seizing the opportunities on emerging and new technologies trend? It is a paradigm shift for Hong Kong to invest in technology and broadcasting technologies for the future business and job opportunities for our more than 3 million work forces.

The author is president of the Innovation and Technology Association.