‘We will do a better job in future’: Hong Kong technology minister says some digital initiatives ‘not launched smoothly’, vows improvement

Hong Kong’s technology minister has said the government has stumbled in some recent efforts to launch digital initiatives, pledging to learn from the past and improve future services.

Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry Sun Dong on Sunday said the administration had rolled out more than 200 measures in over a year, with only a small number experiencing mishaps.

“Regarding those that were not launched smoothly, the government expresses its apologies to the public for the extent of the inconvenience caused,” Sun said on a radio show. “We will do a better job in future.

“Despite the problems, the government will not slow down its progress in launching more digital services.”

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Sun said authorities were learning from their experience to do better, adding that a “discrepancy” existed between the acceleration of digital governance and the city’s current IT ecosystem, including the government’s own systems.

He added that the government would work on improving its systems, policies and staffing issues.

Sun expected that the launch of the Digital Policy Office, proposed in the policy address in October last year, would help future measures and arrangements.

The minister also said authorities aimed to roll out another 112 digital initiatives this year and provide online payment options for all paid public services by June.

Innovation chief Sun Dong speaks at an event last month. He says authorities aim to roll out another 112 digital initiatives this year. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

The government’s electronic infrastructure has been in the spotlight following high-profile failures towards the end of last year.

In November, many residents were unable to reserve sports venues online when the Leisure and Cultural Services Department launched its new booking system, SmartPLAY. The government later explained that the system failed to handle the large number of users, which had surged from a few thousand in the past to about 200,000 on the day of the launch.

Authorities also came under fire over an electronic voter registration system failure that briefly interrupted polling during the district council election last month. The government extended voting hours after the incident, but drew criticism from political parties who said their candidates had been affected.

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Separately, Sun said about 40 leading IT companies had or planned to set up offices in the city following a government push in the past year.

He said the administration had made some progress towards its target of luring 100 technology companies to Hong Kong over five years, which he noted would be a difficult task.

A few dozen companies had applied to sign contracts with companies in mainland Chinese cities in the Greater Bay Area to access their data, he said.

The bay area is an economic zone combining Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province with a joint population of 86 million.

Sun said Hong Kong data was protected by the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance and could only be exported outside the city with the permission of individuals.