27 October 2016
The successful initiative of FactWire, set up by Ng Hiu-dong, will inspire others and help the city catch up. Photo: Youtube
The successful initiative of FactWire, set up by Ng Hiu-dong, will inspire others and help the city catch up. Photo: Youtube

How crowdfunding and crowdsourcing can improve our society

Ever since the current administration came into office, public discontent over governance has been growing by the day.

The Leung Chun-ying regime has sought to impose its will and agenda on the people of Hong Kong without addressing the grievances of the locals. The government is basically in a state of malfunction.

In face of the administration’s increasingly ridiculous approach to governance, I and other co-authors of the book “On Hong Kong’s Reformation” have proposed that the people of Hong Kong jettison the kind of old-school, “state-centered” nationalist mindset, and stop relying on the government to solve their problems.

Instead, we should enhance a form of “society-centered” awareness among the public and organize collective civilian actions to assume certain functions of government, thereby putting the slogan “Save Hong Kong on our own” into practice and achieving “civilian autonomy”.

In fact, the idea of civilian autonomy is nothing new, and Hong Kong has already seen some successful examples in the past, through initiatives involving entities such as the Tungwah Group, the Po Leung Kuk and the Lok Sin Tong.

These organizations were mainly founded and funded by respectable public figures and business tycoons during the early days of the colonial period. Unfortunately, today most of the business tycoons in Hong Kong have already teamed up with either the Leung administration or Beijing, and it is hard to imagine they would dare to spearhead or fund any initiative to facilitate civilian autonomy.

However, breakthroughs in internet technologies have made mass movements much easier to organize now, and have given rise to a new breed of collective actions like “crowdfunding” and “crowdsourcing”.

The average individual no longer has to rely on powerful figures and wealthy people to make a difference in society these days.

Recently, Ng Hiu-dong, a former TVB news reporter and a seasoned journalist, managed to raise three million dollars through the crowdfunding platform FringeBacker to set up his own self-censorship-free news agency called the FactWire.

Crowdfunding can guarantee that news media established in this way can stay completely clear of business interests and political interference so that they can truly fulfill their role as the fourth pillar of society.

Crowdfunding can not only provide capital, but also raise public awareness about certain issues through the process of raising money online. It is a powerful tool to rally public support and get your message across on a national or even global scale.

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” that took the world by storm last summer could be by far the most successful example. It not only helped raise billions of dollars for ALS patients, but also raised concern about the disease among the global community.

In comparison, crowdsourcing is a more flexible and direct form of public action.

The key to success of crowdsourcing is the utilization of the power of the masses and their collective intelligence by distributing small tasks through the internet to volunteers who don’t know each other.

With everybody contributing their bit to a common cause, together they can often pull off something big at a relatively low cost. The Wikipedia, Openrice, and even the so-called “cyber manhunt” on the are all typical well-known examples of what crowdsourcing can achieve.

One advantage of achieving civilian autonomy through crowdsourcing is that even the average individual can be his own boss and start an own project. And in the course of doing so, the person can often find new partners and share the creative ideas. By studying the feedback, one can perfect his original idea.

For example, recently a bunch of marathon runners gathered together through the internet and tried to organize a race between them and a tram in order to disprove the contention of a retired town planner that it is faster to walk than to take a tram.

Another example is the “Citizen Tree Lovers” group set up by environmental group Green Sense on Facebook to promote a territory-wide oversight of trees. The move came after four giant Chinese banyan trees on a slope at Bonham Road were cut down by the government.

There are several hurdles to clear before crowdfunding and crowdsourcing can truly thrive in Hong Kong.

For instance, we are yet to have a widely acknowledged and highly popular online platform for such activities. Also, we don’t have any mature local online payments gateway.

Compared to the US, Europe, Taiwan or even mainland China, Hong Kong is a latecomer to crowdfunding and crowdsourcing. I hope FactWire’s successful initiative will inspire others and help the city catch up.

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Director of SynergyNet

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