The new bureau, slated to open this month, reshuffles sectors but will it boost innovation?
It took three years of filibustering at the Legislative Council for the creation of Hong Kong’s Innovation and Technology bureau to manifest, but the results may not be what people hoped for.
As the name would suggest, the bureau, expected to open this week, is meant to boost innovation and technology in the city in the government, academe and the private sector.
Since being put forward by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in 2012, opposition has called the bureau a waste of time, money and resources. The costs are HK$25 million (US$3.2 million) to fund the bureau and an additional HK$35 million (US$4.5 million) to cover staff costs.
But what will the ITB actually do? For a start, there will be some reshuffling and renaming: “The existing Communications and Technology Branch (CTB) will be restructured and renamed as Communications and Creative Industries Branch (CCIB).” Also, two government departments will combine to form the new Innovation and Technology Bureau.
The new bureau is also supposed to develop policies to strengthen support for innovation and technology, strengthen linkages among stakeholders, encourage private sector participation, coordinate inter-bureau policy efforts and spearhead wider use of IoT and Big Data.
There have been concerns, however, about the strong references and ties to mainland China in the agendas, and many have taken their concern online.
Agenda raises doubts
“Will the proposed ITB create more employment opportunities in Hong Kong for local tech workers, or do they have to pack up and cross the Shenzhen river for that?” asks Peter Woo of Frontline Tech Workers in Hong Kong Free Press.
In an op-ed for the SCMP, finance writer Peter Guy wrote: “Governments have usually demonstrated a poor record for picking technology winners. Arguably, the only products from research to final application successfully funded by a government are the atomic bomb and landing on the moon.”
“Newly established Innovation and Technology Bureau in HKSAR government had nothing to do with startups!” Alan Mac Ailbhe said on Twitter.
“Innovation and technology are making huge strides every day and Hong Kong should not continue to lag behind our competitors. There is a pressing need to set up the ITB to provide focussed high-level leadership and stronger policy co-ordination among stakeholders,” Chief Executive CY Leung stated in an official press release.
It remains to be seen whether the ITB will provide the leadership and policies Hong Kong needs to drive more innovation, but that startups need them is self-evident.
It must be noted, though, that public opinion on creative digital community Cyberport — managed by Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company Limited which is wholly owned by the Hong Kong SAR Government — has likewise been divided.
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