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Following is a question by the Hon Abraham Shek and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the Legislative Council meeting on June 25:
Networked Readiness Index (NRI) is a measure of how prepared an economy is in applying the benefits of information and communications technologies for promoting economic growth and well-being. According to the Global Information Technology Report published by the World Economic Forum in April this year, Hong Kong has achieved an overall NRI ranking of the eighth place in 2014, six places higher than that of last year, out of the 148 economies surveyed, but her rankings in some NRI indicators (e.g. software piracy rate – 30th, tertiary education gross enrolment rate – 39th, government procurement of advanced technology products – 19th, percentage of individuals using the Internet – 33rd, capacity for innovation – 29th, and share of workforce employed in knowledge-intensive activities – 29th) have remained quite low. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it will step up its efforts to advance Hong Kong’s positions in the aforesaid NRI indicators; if so, of the specific measures formulated for each indicator;
(2) whether it will provide funding support to the local industries, so as to boost the number of knowledge-intensive jobs and promote the development of a knowledge-based economy in Hong Kong; and
(3) as the aforesaid Report has pointed out that the Singaporean Government has “a clear digital strategy that offers the best online services in the world”, whether the Government has compared its recently updated 2014 Digital 21 Strategy with Singapore’s digital strategy in respect of the development of online services; if so, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that; of the latest progress of the Government’s plan to promulgate the updated 2014 Digital 21 Strategy?
Information and communications technology (ICT) is an important economic development driver. The Government’s Digital 21 Strategy sets out the blueprint for Hong Kong’s ICT development in different areas. Since its first issue in 1998, the Digital 21 Strategy has been updated thrice in 2001, 2004 and 2008, alongside technological advancement and the development of our community. We are now updating the Strategy to set out the framework for Hong Kong to leverage on the latest technologies to become a smarter city, and reinforce our position as a leading digital economy.
Apart from the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index referred to in the question, Hong Kong’s accomplishments in ICT are consistently recognised by renowned international benchmarking organisations. For example, we rank fifth in Asia in the Cloud Readiness Index 2014 (Note 1), sixth worldwide and first in Asia in the Data Centre Risk Index (Note 2). We also have an excellent ICT infrastructure providing Internet access at affordable price. Our mobile penetration rate at 236.8% as of March 2014 is among the highest in the world, and our average peak Internet connection speed of 68.0 Mbps is the fastest worldwide (Note 3).
Different agencies use different yardsticks to measure the achievements of different economies. We closely monitor the outcomes of international benchmarking studies so that we can focus on areas which indicate room for further improvement.
My reply to the three-part question is as follows:
(1) The Government has implemented a number of policies and initiatives to spur innovation and technological development in Hong Kong. Our work in relation to the NRI indicators on software piracy rate, tertiary education gross enrolment rate, government procurement of advanced technology products, percentage of individuals using the Internet, capacity for innovation and share of workforce employed in knowledge-intensive activities are detailed at Annex.
(2) The Government established the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) in 1999 to provide funding support for projects that contribute to the promotion of innovation and upgrading of the industries in Hong Kong. In addition, we have put in place a host of measures to help boost the number of knowledge-intensive jobs and promote the development of Hong Kong into a knowledge-based economy, details of which are set out in Item (5) in Annex.
(3) In our recent review of the Digital 21 Strategy, we have made reference to the national ICT strategies of some advanced digital economies including Singapore, having regard to their unique socio-economic and political contexts. With a robust and affordable ICT infrastructure, Hong Kong compares well with many economies in ICT development, including the provision of online services.
The new Strategy has recommended a host of initiatives to drive further ICT development on various fronts. These initiatives include the provision of free and user-friendly digital identity, city-wide Wi-Fi, releasing public sector information in machine-readable formats by default, supporting the development of technology startups, promoting Hong Kong as the centre of excellence for mobile solutions, encouraging the development of integrated two-way e-government services, etc.
We completed the public consultation on the new Strategy at the end of 2013 and are now finalising the Strategy taking into consideration the views received. We aim to promulgate the new Strategy in mid-2014.
Note 1: Published by the Asia Cloud Computing Association
Note 2: Published by Cushman & Wakefield and Hurleypalmerflatt in May 2013
Note 3: Published by Akamai in its report on “State of the Internet” in fourth quarter of 2013