26 October 2016
One year into the top job at the Innovation and Technology Bureau, Nicholas Yang has nothing to show for his work. Photo: HKEJ
One year into the top job at the Innovation and Technology Bureau, Nicholas Yang has nothing to show for his work. Photo: HKEJ

Our tech bureau could have done a lot more

It’s been a year since the Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB) was founded.

However, for the past 12 months, all its chief, Nicholas W. Yang, did was pay lip service to the development of the local tech industry.

Recently, at a public event, Pony Ma Huateng, founder and chief executive of mainland tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. (00700.HK), pointed out that there is a lot more Hong Kong could have achieved in the technological field, given its advantage as an international financial hub and its huge pool of tech talent.

However, due to a lack of consistent policies and government support, Hong Kong has been overtaken by nearby Shenzhen, which has risen to become the regional tech hub in recent years.

He urged the Hong Kong government to divert more resources into facilitating the local tech industry.

As expected, his call fell on deaf ears, as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has been obsessed with political struggle and his re-election campaign in recent months.

Pokemon GO, the monster-hit smartphone game app, is a perfect example of how information technology can change our daily lives.

If Finland, a remote European country with a population of just 5 million, can turn out Supercell, a world-renowned smartphone game app developer that is worth US$8.6 billion, why can’t our city produce any leading tech company in the world?

In fact, we can and we did.

Digital Domain Holdings Ltd. (00547.HK) is a world-leading company in theatrical CGIs and movie digital post-production.

It was involved in the production of many Hollywood blockbusters including the Transformers series, the “Iron Man” franchise and The Fast and the Furious 7.

However, even though Digital Domain is a Hong Kong-based company, almost all of its production facilities are located in Los Angeles and Vancouver, and it has no plans to move those facilities to Hong Kong.

The reason is simple: our city doesn’t have a friendly environment for tech companies to grow, and they are often given the cold shoulder by our government, which won’t even review its outdated laws to accommodate the development of tech start-ups.

The establishment of the ITB was no more than an act of window-dressing.

In contrast, the local administration of the state of British Colombia in Canada has been much more proactive in nurturing its tech industry.

In order to attract more leading tech companies like Digital Domain to set up their headquarters there, it has provided a wide variety of tax incentives and other preferential policy initiatives.

Today Digital Domain already has a staff of over 300 in Vancouver, even more than the number of people it hires in Los Angeles.

Vancouver has become another major tech hub in North America.

In contrast, what has the ITB done to facilitate the growth of our tech industry?

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 29.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


Former radio talk show host; Columnist at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

EJI Weekly Newsletter