There’s a huge room for improvement when it comes to e-government, or enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of online service delivery in the public sector.
Our eyes almost popped out when we read the HKSAR government spent HK$38 million on apps development. If that’s true, why is it that some of its apps are simply useless?
Thanks to the Audit Commission, we came to know that the Eye Care for Hong Kong Students by the Education Bureau only attracted 89 downloads since its inception until the end of last August.
In other words, it is fair to say that this app was as unpopular as the bureau’s chief, Eddie Ng Hak-kim. No wonder some teachers gave a zero mark on his report card last year.
Aside from the eye-care app, two other government-developed apps that prove to be the least popular are also from the Education Bureau: QEF Book and TSS Channel. The two only had over 300 downloads.
While the Education Bureau did not break down the development and annual maintenance costs for its apps, it pledges to widely publicize the whole package of resource materials in the latter part of 2016.
We are not sure if this is a wise move, given its track record.
Also on the unpopular app list are those from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and its parent Home Affairs Bureau. LCSD has five apps that are all about King Yin Lei, a conservation project. They had between 200 and 600 downloads.
Still, two LCSD initiatives made it to the top 10 list of popular government apps – My Urbtix, which facilitates bookings for concerts and other shows, and My Library, which attracted over 10,000 monthly downloads.
Still, both pale in comparison to the most popular government app, which is the weather app from the Hong Kong Observatory.
It reported a total of 5.18 million downloads, or 88,000 per month.
In other words, seven in 10 Hong Kong people downloaded the app thanks to the increasingly unpredictable nature of the local weather.
Following the weather app is RTHK On the Go, which attracted 1.63 million downloads on a development cost of merely HK$20,000.
The public broadcaster took three of the top 10 popular apps. Well done!
In its review of the 127 e-gov apps, the Audit Commission noted that the mobile device features of some apps were limited while others were virtual duplications.
It also found that 15 apps were not included on the list of GovHK apps, nor on the GovHK website.
About 25 percent of the e-gov apps were developed for one-off events, which could explain why their downloads were on the low side.
It is quite obvious that Hong Kong, with its apparently half-hearted and piecemeal effort in online service delivery, has still a long way to go before it catches up with regional rivals such as Singapore and South Korea.
More importantly, the efficiency issue also needs to be addressed.
The Audit Commission, for example, found that the Rating and Valuation Department failed to collect about HK$172 million in outstanding rents, including from a property owner who owed a seven-digit figure over nine years.
One should seriously think about giving more resources to the Audit Commission, which is taking pains to make sure taxpayers’ money is properly spent.
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