Policy Address suggestion: Digital transformation of government

October 10, 2022 09:02
Photo: HK Government

For the coming Policy Address, I would like to put forward a few suggestions on smart government, smart people, smart environment and smart economy, aiming at Hong Kong’s smooth transition from chaos to order.

Firstly, let’s talk about smart people.

What makes a smart city smart? It is a massive amount of data.
The number of connected devices is growing explosively. By 2030, that number could increase to 125 billion. A massive amount of data comes from these connected devices of which 80% have location dimensions, we need efficient tools for organising and analysing, so the information can be used to make comprehensive and real-time decisions. A geographic information system (GIS) which combines geospatial information, statistics, algorithms and modelling, is one of the best tools.

To create a smart city and drive the development of the digital economy, more people who are conversant in data analysis and have geospatial training are crucial. It is my hope that the authorities will add GIS to local STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education, so that we can expand the talent pool and build a sustainable city together.

Smart government

To enable Hong Kong to make the most out of the massive data and advanced technologies, digitalisation of the government is equally essential.

• Smart planning to create strong impetus for growth

Through smart planning of the Northern Metropolis to accelerate the integration with Shenzhen, Hong Kong can boost the development of multiple industries, as well as increase housing supply with a mix of industrial and commercial facilities and public transportation to facilitate the residents’ livelihood and employment.

On one hand, the area must support new industrial development. For the I&T sector, there will be the San Tin Technopole, with the Nanshan and Shenzhen I&T zones close by. This triangle of tech hubs will facilitate the growth of a cross-regional I&T ecosystem. In addition, the logistics industry, currently scattered across the New Territories, can be consolidated and modernised through improved land planning.

On the other hand, the government expects that the area will provide more than 900,000 residential units, accommodating about 2.5 million people. By applying the transit-oriented development (TOD) model of an integration of mixed land use as well as transportation to provide compact urban life to the citizens, people’s commute time to work can be shortened. This can enhance their sense of belonging.

• One-stop data platform to improve construction efficiency

When planning new development areas like the Northern Metropolis, a number of databases used are of different formats recorded in different software and systems. Such complex and fragmented data hinder collaboration and public engagement in different stages of the planning process.

Therefore, a Common Geospatial Information System Platform (CGISP) should be used to facilitate planning, construction, monitoring and maintenance. The platform also allows both internal and external stakeholders to view, search, compare, analyse and share project information so that all parties can follow up on the development. As a result, efficiency will be greatly enhanced.

• KPIs help shape digital government transformation

To facilitate the digital transformation of Hong Kong, the government should proactively adopt advanced technologies for policy making. Civil servants as the backbone of the government should therefore heighten their digital literacy of up-to-date technologies for the city to seize new opportunities in an increasingly digital world. This can also enable the authorities to respond to citizens’ and businesses’ needs in a more agile manner.

By setting clear, hard targets and guidelines, it enables the civil servants to upgrade themselves and keep pace with the digital trends.

At the same time, the government also needs to rethink its operating model to build data-driven cultures and organisations so that the whole government can move forward in a more concerted manner. By doing so, Hong Kong can increase its competitiveness.

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Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong