For the past decade, our access to technology has grown to a point where more than 45% of the world’s population has a smartphone. This is an increase of more than 10% from 2016 when only around 33% of people owned one. Hong Kong, in particular, is a stand out example where at least 5.8 million of the city’s population is a smartphone user. We bring this statistic up because smart technology and the Internet of things in Hong Kong have been steadily propped up and taken an active role in people’s daily lives.
In this article, we will discuss the prospect of Hong Kong’s future as a smart city and the initiatives it is taking.
What is a Smart City?
A smart city is commonly recognized to mean a city that incorporates information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance the quality and performance of urban services such as energy, transportation, and utilities to reduce resource consumption, wastage and overall costs. The overarching aim of a smart city is to enhance the quality of living for its citizens through smart technology.
To put the above in a more qualitative form, the IMD World Competitiveness Center’s Smart City Observatory, in partnership with Singapore University of Technology and Design, recently produced the IMD Smart City Index 2019. The index ranks 102 cities worldwide in terms of how their citizens perceive the scope and impact of efforts to make their cities ‘smart’, balancing “economic and technological aspects” with “humane dimensions”.
At the top of this ranking and all smart city examples, is Singapore. The index revealed that the city scored high in many areas of smart city technology being utilized to allow citizens to live a better life. These areas include being able to arrange medical appointments online, having apps that direct you to an available parking space, and an online platform where residents can propose ideas to improve city life.
As for Hong Kong, it ranks number 37 and beats out several other major cities such as Tokyo and Shanghai.
Is Hong Kong a Smart City?
When talking about Hong Kong as a smart city, one must start with the Hong Kong Smart City Blueprint. In December 2017, the government presented the blueprint which lays out how it intends to fulfil its mission of building up Hong Kong as a smart city. The plan involves six areas of smart city initiatives including Smart Mobility, Smart Living, Smart Environment, Smart People, Smart Government, and Smart Economy.
Within each of the six areas, the blueprint talked about what sort of infrastructure or technological development it will build. For example, for Smart Mobility, it discussed installing new on-street parking meters that support multiple payment systems using remote payment.
After two years since its announcement, Hong Kong has made headway in several areas of smart development. Going back to Smart Mobility, according to the ‘Smarter Digital City 3.0’ report which was commissioned by Google, traveling has registered an 11% jump in digital engagement, with growth spurred by increasing usage of smartphones for travel tasks. Right now, there are plenty of IoTs in Hong Kong for pre-trip research and planning, booking, online check-in, and in-destination navigation. Travelers are fast becoming comfortable using all of these to enhance their experience.
Beyond the above, as a prospective smart city, Hong Kong has been forming the backbone for a tech-savvy society. 5G base stations are being installed to facilitate the adaption of the 5G network this year and it will have a huge implication on the city’s future connectivity and ability to innovate. Initiatives such as the Electronic Health Record Sharing System (eHRSS) and Electronic Identity (eID) system will also come online and are designed to help lead healthier lives.
To increase knowledge and recognition of the efforts currently being made towards advancing smart technology, associations and groups within the city have also been organizing events. One of the biggest ones held during the last two years was the Hong Kong Smart City Summit in 2018. The event gathered some of the top entrepreneurs in the technology industry and had them share their thoughts on where the city is heading in terms of smart city development.
Just recently, in the latest Hong Kong Budget Proposal, Financial Secretary Paul Chan mentioned that as part of the government’s smart city mission, HKD 1 billion will be earmarked for the Smart Traffic Fund. The fund will provide support for enterprises or organisations to conduct research and application on vehicle-related I&T. At the same time, it was announced that the Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB) will release the Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong 2.0 this year to further promote smart city development.
Overall, Hong Kong has made great strides over the last several years to integrate digital technology into people’s daily lives and there is much to look forward to.