Date
12 December 2017
Dr. Amen Ra Mashariki (left) says the government should explain how data collected will be used. Dr. Winnie Tang (center) hopes the government will introduce related legislation. Photo: HKEJ
Dr. Amen Ra Mashariki (left) says the government should explain how data collected will be used. Dr. Winnie Tang (center) hopes the government will introduce related legislation. Photo: HKEJ

HK needs legislation to fuel smart city development

Data should be open to the public, regardless of whether it is for smart city development or for other uses, Dr. Amen Ra Mashariki, former chief analytics officer of New York City, said.

Esri China (Hong Kong) founder and chairman Dr. Winnie Tang Shuk-ming hopes to see related legislation concerning open data, requiring corporations to release critical public information, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Three parties to cooperate

Many Hongkongers are worried about leaks of personal information when it comes to open data. Mashariki cited a case where he received complaints about privacy infringement regarding the posting of a residential address on the internet.

But the piece of information has been already accessible in Google searches, Mashariki said.

He said the person should have filed a complaint with Google if he or she had found any problem. If the complaint was found to be valid, Google would take down the information.

According to Mashariki, many kinds of data have been freely accessible on the internet for years but people simply ignored them.

He said the government should foster public confidence by explaining how the data collected will be used and what benefits it will bring.

Toronto has recently teamed up with a subsidiary of Alphabet to build a smart city on its waterfront. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates spent US$80 million (HK$620 million) buying land in Arizona to construct smart communities.

Mashariki said this is nothing new, adding developing a smart city requires cooperation among three parties — government, private enterprises and the public.

“Companies are by nature profit–driven, that’s why we need the government to maintain a level playing field,” Mashariki said. As such, even the underprivileged can have equal opportunities, and the entire society can move forward while every citizen can enjoy related services, he added.

Companies to open up data

An earlier survey conducted by Sweden-based EasyPark interviewed 500 global cities and announced a 2017 smart city ranking this month. Hong Kong was ranked 68th. Rival Singapore secured the second spot.

Tang said Hong Kong’s low rating was largely due to the smart mobility indicator, adding that in many cities, traffic data are in the hands of the government.

In Hong Kong, traffic data is primarily owned by the private sector. Hong Kong’s smart mobility will not improve as long as the private sector is not willing to open up such data.

Tang hopes the Hong Kong government will introduce related legislation requiring companies to open designated data, thus speeding up development of a smart city.

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

Translation by Jonathan Chong

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/RT/RA

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