Thursday, April 17, 2014

The time for the ITB is now

Charles Mok defends the government’s decision to create an Innovation and Technology Bureau as a move long overdue.
The government has presented a proposal of establishing the Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB). Do we really need an ITB?
First of all, let’s ask ourselves, are we satisfied with the state of our economy and its outlook in the long run? 
In LegCo debates, most of the members speak in support of promoting innovation and technology industries as a means to make Hong Kong’s economy more balanced and less reliant on the so-called ‘4 pillar industries’. Over the years, the government has introduced numerous funding schemes and technology infrastructure projects to boost the technology sector. Yet today our economic structure has hardly changed and the innovation and technology industry still remains nascent (generating only 0.7% of GDP in 2012, with no increase in the past 4 years at all). 
Our neighbouring economies have grasped the opportunity of the technology-driven economy to generate growth and transform, thanks to having top-level organisation that focuses on strategy and policy-making, as well as ensuring the follow-through is done properly. 
Our neighbouring economies have grasped the opportunity of the technology-driven economy to generate growth and transform, thanks to having top-level organisation
Singapore has a National Research Foundation directly reporting to the Prime Minister’s Office and a research board, A*STAR, that executes policies. Taiwan has established a board to oversee technology and scientific development since 1960s and has recently upgraded it to ministry level. South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning devises national strategy for technology development and is mandated to review and upgrade its strategy every 5 years.
In Hong Kong, technology is only one of the policy areas under one of the branches of a policy bureau. The CEDB simply has too much on its plate to give technology the attention that matches its importance.
Even since the replacement of the Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau in 1998, and subsequently the Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) in 2007, the information technology (IT) sector has been calling for the establishment of a technology bureau responsible for policy issues on IT, innovation and technology, and broadcasting.
The existing Communications and Technology Branch of the CEDB handles a whole range of heavy-weight policies such as telecommunications, broadcasting and creative industry, not to mention the SCED already needs to take care of commerce, industry and tourism. What we need is someone to be accountable, to look at the big picture, to work with different departments together and to be the champion of technology at the top level. Under the current structure, this initiative has to compete with loads of other equally important policies, and I would argue that insufficient attention results in slow implementation and lack of priority.
Part of the underlying reasons why we lag behind has to do with our manpower and education policy, our society’s culture and other systemic factors. I am not saying that having a Secretary and a bureau will change everything, but taking a first step is what we need right now to make progress. 
What we need is someone to be accountable
The government’s current proposal is relatively modest compared to the 2012 re-organisation proposal, which included the Technology and Communications Bureau. The government now suggests adding 8 new posts and reshuffling 26 existing posts from CEDB, Innovation and Technology Commission and Office of the Government Chief Information Officer. The ITB will cost over $32 million in its first year. I have previously proposed including the OFCA as part of ITB after the amendment of the Telecommunications Ordinance and Broadcasting Ordinance, and I still think it is best to put these policy areas under the same roof.
Investment in innovation and technology must be long term and persistent
One might think is this new bureau just going to do more of the same from the past. Many doubt what the new ITB can actually achieve. But the crucial thing is, do we want to let the current CEDB continue to waste our time and effort or take advantage of the government’s initiative to turn technology into a boost for our economy, a medium to improve standard of living for citizens, and most importantly, and better jobs for our young people. I choose the latter.
Colleagues in the LegCo often talk about the lack of upward mobility or types of jobs for young people. We debate this over and over again. Hong Kong cannot only rely on the graces of the Mainland government to survive and must look to the next wave of ‘innovative economy’.

From a pragmatic point of view, investment in innovation and technology must be long term and persistent. What society gets with the new ITB is a confirmation that our government is willing to take technology seriously, a Secretary to be charged with making progress, and a chance to get something done properly. Let us focus on making sure how this bureau will meet the needs of the industry as well as public expectation, instead of treating it with suspicion.

Published in Harbour Times (April 17, 2014) 

Standing Firm in Shanghai

Thirteen pan-democratic legislative councilors set off to Shanghai for the meeting with central government officials to discuss HKSAR’s constitutional reform on the evening of April 11. One (Hon Leung Kwok-hung) was sent back immediately after landing in Shanghai for bringing in “illegal materials” (June 4-related leaflets and T-shirts, and some books), causing two Labour Party members to also leave the group in protest the next morning. The last member of the original group of fourteen, Hon Alan Leong, decided on the 12th not to join the group, staying in Hong Kong in protest. 
So only ten out of fourteen of the original group staying for the meeting with Wang Guangya and other officials. Even among the ten of us, we seemed to be taking different approaches to the various programs of the mission – three went with the rest of the pro-establishment legislators to visit various facilities in Shanghai, five stayed in the hotel to work, and two others went to a university to meet with legal experts and then handed out leaflets in a local Hong Kong-styled café. Some criticized us as being split into pieces. 
That's far from the truth. Indeed, the pan-democratic spectrum has always been quite wide, and while we may differ in tactics, our common stance toward fighting for universal suffrage without screening for political reasons, and the reversal of the verdict on the June 4 massacre, remains solidly in place. Our supporters also have different views on the different tactics. Only the pro-establishment camp would always act in unison, whenever Beijing blows its whistle. 
More importantly, we stayed to meet with Mr Wang and other officials, and adamantly relayed Hong Kong people’s views, including their support for civic nomination and a 2017 CE election with no screening. We debated about what might constitute “love China, love Hong Kong,” and whether that could constitute a legal requirement for the nominations of CE candidates, as well as whether Hong Kong would be “ungovernable,” should we not achieve “true democracy” in 2017.
But in the end, did we come back empty handed? (other than the copy of the Basic Law Mr Wang gave us as “gifts.”) It’s true that we have not yet pushed Beijing to change its mind on civic nomination, but the pan-democrats did not give away an inch on our position either. For a first direct face-to-face meeting between the two sides, I would use the analogy of a nil-nil draw. Considering that this was an “away” game for us the pan-democrats, and some of our “players” did not even get on the field, I think we did pretty well coming out with a draw. We did not lose a point, even though we also did not get an “away goal.” 
Next, Hong Kong people need to continue to stand firm on our home turf, as Beijing has indicated that they will move the negotiations here, by holding “individual meetings” with legislators and hopefully other stakeholders in Hong Kong, especially those they “have not yet met.” If this is a PR campaign to sway us with a softer tactic, will it be successful? Such will be the ultimate test of Hong Kong people’s mettle.

Published in Harbour Times (April 17, 2014)

Sunday, April 13, 2014





在早上的專題講座,教授提到「規則制定權」,這個在國際事務上對國家來說,可能是一個意義,但我聽到卻令我想到,如果放在香港事務,就變成中央單方面制定基本法的解讀,在香港人的眼中,令基本法變成中央統治的工具。所以,我們在爭取普選這事情上,我們更必須強調國際標準 。











Wednesday, April 09, 2014



我之所以講咁多,其實是想講避險意識的重要性。) 主席,香港作為開放型經濟體,在過去十至二十年間跟隨國際金融環境而經歷過多次『大地震』(,97-98年同08-09年發生嘅事大家都記憶猶新)。最近唔少傳媒都開始討論大陸經濟面臨熱錢撤離、壞賬飆升、樓市結冰的嚴峻境況,擔心會波及香港,甚至造成另一次金融海嘯。香港的經濟、民生在回歸以來越來越依賴大陸,現在的形勢顯示內地經濟有機會出現危機,香港必定要未雨綢繆,小心防範,政策亦不可只顧內交。







投資創新科技產業是必須長遠持續,不可以只期望短期回報。昨天互聯網名人堂(Internet Hall of Fame)頒發典禮在香港舉行,多謝財爺出席,你都見到不少得獎者都是以三四十年的研發工作而獲得認同,被列入名人堂。所以,科技發展是要長時候持續的。




預算案亦未有具體提及如何引入海外科網企業來港投資,這對創造本地優質創科相關職位十分重要,在土地規劃、與企業協商、提供優惠等方面,都需要政府出手帶動,不能再重蹈Google 放棄來港開設數據中心的覆轍。













另外,(一條我提出的問題是幫一些很有心推動開放數據的IT人問的,就係因為政府話會open by default,所以想)問政府打算將乜嘢資料用數碼格式發布。點知返黎答案就話其實已經上晒,但我想知道其餘仲未放係上面嘅係乜,幾時會有!很多部門都對什麼是open data認識不深,也不太重視格式,好似上載了PDF就得,看來OGCIO還有很多"教育"要做!當局還需要繼續提升公共數據的質素,不止是提供PDF和HTML檔,而是機器可運算的資料。




Wednesday, April 02, 2014



創新及科技局( 「創科局」)的政府文件即將提交立法會,梁振英一直隻字未提創科局的願景和策略,卻每每對外聲稱希望建議能夠在立法會「順風順水」。若以航海冒險來比喻特區政府發展創新和科技的過程,香港的「創新及科技號」十幾年前已經決定尋找寶藏,但下海之後幾年海面風高浪急,其後為求安穩,少有冒險勇進。到了今天,我們的創新和科技產業尚在海上漂浮打轉。




一直以來,創新多指把發明本身商品化,或把研究成果或創意轉為產品或服務。環視全球,各地政府均有為創新定義和制訂可量度的指標,進行系統化的「創新審核」(Innovation Audit),把創新表現化成可衡量和追蹤的指標,監察政府投入創新方面所創造的效益。

歐盟委員會自2000 年起量度有關27 個歐盟國家的研究和創新表現,以及各國制度的相對優劣。最近公布的2014 年《歐盟創新計分牌》報告(Innovation Union Scoreboard indicators 25 項指標評價各成員國的表現。指標分為三大類:驅動因素、企業活動和產出。指標共涵蓋八個範圍:人力資源、開放和吸引的研究體系、財務資源和資源、企業投資、串連與創業活動、知識產權、創新、經濟效果。



各國經濟體系的創新活動已經不再只集中於科技和技術,逐漸注重社會創新和以更開放的方式進行、注重創新方向多於速度的「需求方創新」。1994 年起經濟合作與發展組織進行國家創新系統實證研究,聚焦於知識擴散力和創新指標。根據《奧斯陸手冊》,技術性創新包括產品與服務的創新、流程與製作過程的創新,而非技術性創新則包括組織創新和營銷創新。

2011 年出版的《需求方創新政策》,則把需求方創新政策分為六類:政府採購、法規、標準、消費者政策、用戶導向型創新計劃和領先市場的行動計劃。歐盟各國對創新的官方定義各有不同,而對創新的理解直接影響政府的政策和措施。例如歐盟在的創新方面的領先地區如丹麥、芬蘭、德國和瑞典,政策近年從注重科技改變為重視政府、公共領域和社會創新活動。





在香港,政府多年投入不少資源於科技基建、資助大學和研發中心、各種研發項目等,但較少探討如何增加科技教育和將知識滲透至其他產業。最近的《財政預算案》提出向IT 表現出色的中學提供「精英班」和鼓勵大學團隊創業,政策長遠能否達到培育人才和產業發展,除了一般的項目數據以外,應該作較全面的社會和經濟效益評估,以追蹤政策成效。

新創企業推出產品前會不斷進行測試,透過收集數據和偵測錯誤來開發產品。矽谷創業界有一套精實創業(Lean Startup)的理念,精神就值得特首和政府借鑑。精實創業提出公司應該盡快推出產品的最小可行版本,通過收集數據和消費者反應,快速更新,來做出市場真正需要的產品。