Readiness for the future

January 14, 2019 13:08
This year's Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum regards Singapore as the most "future-ready" economy in the world. Photo: Bloomberg

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has repeatedly reminded that the Fourth Industrial Revolution driven by artificial intelligence and big data will bring tremendous changes to the world. To survive the chaotic transition, individuals, governments and enterprises must plan ahead and work together. 

This year's Global Competitiveness Report points out that Singapore is the most "future-ready" economy in the world. 

"Future readiness" means: 

1. Overcoming the challenges of the world with technology; 

2. Unleashing human innovation and creating opportunities through new ways; 

3. Conserving energy and optimizing natural resources to minimize the impact on the environment; 

4. Transforming the production system through science and technology for the benefit of society.

In June 2018, Singapore unveiled its Digital Government Blueprint with the aim of making people's lives better with digital infrastructure. For example, payment of fees, signing of documents, and applying for public housing can all be completed on the government's online platform.

To promote the creative industries, the government will establish a public information platform, with at least 90 percent of its data provided in application programming interface (APl) format as required by app developers.

This facilitates access and full use of data, the “new oil”, by the business sector, in support of the new economy. This is exactly what the WEF has highlighted.

Hong Kong must also endeavor to be "future-ready”. A centralized geographic information platform, as I have discussed in a previous column, is one key component.

Cybersecurity a must

There have been many cases of stolen data involving large organizations such as airlines, banks and hotels.  Such incidents increase the people’s reluctance to use new technologies. 

Years ago, the WannaCry ransomware worm brought a painful lesson to the world. A variety of network security technologies have emerged since then, including machine learning to analyze customer behavior and detect changes in their behavior as well as adaptive security technology, which is expected to become mainstream next year. 

Consulting firm Gartner predicted that 40 percent of companies will establish an "alternative security database" by 2020 to prevent their system from being paralyzed by hackers. However, the challenge is a lack of sufficient network security talents globally. The situation in Hong Kong is particularly serious. 

CDO becomes mainstream 

The chief data officer (CDO) is responsible for addressing cybersecurity threats and maximizing data’s potential to create value for enterprises. 

As many people have pointed out, the IT department should no longer be seen purely as a cost center but rather a driving force to revolutionize existing business models. 

The CDO is expected to improve communication between companies and customers, and identify new opportunities to improve business performance. 

This position is brand new or non-existent in most companies. If management fails to make the transition in time, their company's performance will lag behind their peers within a few years. 

In today's fast-changing world, data can stimulate innovation and promote sustainable development. 

The successful transformation of Hong Kong into a "future-ready" smart city will rely on strong collaboration among the government, individuals and enterprises.

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Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong