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The proper governance of tech

Stefan Hammond | Jan. 9, 2014
Longtime CWHK contributor (and LegCo member) Charles Mok suggests that Hong Kong needs a technology and communication bureau. He's also giving a press conference on Wednesday, January 8, to plead his case (call 3758 2616 if you can make it by 11:15AM).

Longtime CWHK contributor (and LegCo member) Charles Mok suggests that Hong Kong needs a technology and communication bureau. He's also giving a press conference on Wednesday, January 8, to plead his case.

According to an article in Computerworld Hong Kong, over 20 industry organizations are supporting a petition that urges the Hong Kong government to establish the Technology and Communication Bureau (TCB). Mok also seeks individuals' support through an online petition Web site.

Many tech experts I've spoken to also urge the creation of a tech bureau. It makes sense: ICT is, after all, one of the "six pillars" of our economy. How could it not be? Hong Kong thrives and survives on the brainpower of its residents. Knowledge work and logistics is what keeps us competitive.

Hong Kong as tech hub
Exactly how a tech bureau should function is best addressed by experts like Mok. But this I know: Singapore, which is analogous to Hong Kong in many ways, started their IDA — Infocomm Development Authority in 1999. What do they do? Not so mysterious: "IDA aims to grow Singapore into a dynamic global infocomm hub and to leverage infocomm for Singapore's economic and social development," says their site.

Many multinational corporations want an Asia-Pacific hub, and regional cities often compete for the privilege. In the past, MNCs wanting to do China business would site in Hong Kong. To an extent, that still happens, but China's major cities are now competitive as well. Hong Kong must do more to remain ahead of the curve.

Data center woes
Some in the industry have told me they appreciate the IDA's "one-stop shop" approach. Singapore's rules and regulations won't appeal to everyone, but their governmental tech contact-point appears focused on one spot. Perhaps this makes the city-state more attractive to tech MNCs like Google.

Google recently pulled out of a Hong Kong data center deal. According to tech journalist Roland Lim, "Google has spiked its plan for a data center in Hong Kong, citing the reason that it's hard to acquire a large plot of land here in Hong Kong."

"Cancelling the Hong Kong data center build certainly doesn't appear to be a big deal to [Google]," wrote Lim, "as it can still serve its customers through its data centers in Taiwan and Singapore, but it must be a huge disappointment to say the least, to the government here which has been trying to promote Hong Kong as a data center hub. And making it harder to swallow must be that Google has one in Singapore — the other rival data center hub in the region."

Perhaps a TCB will help prevent further "disappointments." The least we can do is open dialogue on the subject.

 

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