A proposal to establish an innovation and technology bureau shows the Hong Kong government finally understands the value of the sector as a future source of economic growth.
However, while everyone believes government attitude toward the technology industry has changed, a recent incident suggests otherwise. It involves Hong Kong Science Park.
The park sits on reclaimed land in Pak Shek Kok and has been developed in three phases. In addition, an adjacent piece of land has been reserved for an extension of the existing complex, often referred to as Phase 4.
However, the Town Planning Board (TPB) has modified the planning and land use of the plot from reserved land for Hong Kong Science Park to residential development. Based on the allowed building size, the site will be developed into luxury houses.
Science Park is a rare place in Hong Kong where technology companies meet. It is also the birthplace of many technology start-ups.
Depriving it of its rightful place by changing the land usage of a plot originally intended for its use is ridiculous.
Is it due to miscommunication among different bureaus? Or is it due to the fact that the basic government policy on innovation and technology has not changed at all?
Science Park is already not big enough and many technology companies are waiting in line to establish their offices there. Will the government tell them to leave Hong Kong and discourage entrepreneurs to forget their dreams?
Besides, the economies of agglomeration are very important to technology industries. When tech companies and their people meet and form a critical mass, unlimited possibilities are created.
Silicon Valley in the United States and Zhong Guan Cun Science and Technology Zone in China came about in a similar way. People meet and companies become known. Later, the whole industry takes off, helping fuel the economy of the area and, ultimately, the country.
This piece of land is very important to the technology sector. No land in other areas can replace its value.
Stakeholders are starting to fight back after being left out of the consultation process on the land-use change.
Current and former participants in the Science Park incubation program, members of Technology Incubation Network and Alliance of Tenants at Science Park have formed a group to push for the development of Science Park. They have been following recent events.
With the help of legislator Charles Mok (information technology), the group has met with representatives from the Innovation and Technology Commission to express their concern and highlight their objection to the TPB decision.
At the same time, Mok organized an online petition two weeks ago, as well as a petition at Science Park last week, so that more stakeholders will know about the change.
IT Voice, whose members are largely elected, along with the information technology sub-sector of the government election committee, has sent an open letter to the commerce and economic development bureau and the Lands Department to raise its objection. IT Voice is following up the issue with the Planning Department.
Based on the strong objections from the industry, the government should give up the change.
After all, does Hong Kong really need more luxury houses?
Whether you are part of Hong Kong’s technology community or not, perhaps you should think about joining the petition, too.
(1) Online Petition by Charles Mok: Objection to amendments of Pak Shek Kok (East) Outline Zoninghttp://www.ipetitions.com/petition/PAK-SHEK-KOK-EAST-OUTLINE-ZONING
(2) Open letter to the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau and Land Department by IT Voice, Concerns on the change of Use of Land near the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parkhttp://itvoice.hk/2014/05/29/use-of-land-near-hkstp/
The writer is founder and chief executive of Playnote, an award-winning start-up that focuses on music education technology
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