Cultivating HK's future 'smart' entrepreneurs - China Daily (23 Nov 2018)

Cultivating HK's future 'smart' entrepreneurs
By Oswald Chan in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Science Park, the city’s flagship high-tech infrastructure, was allocated HK$10 billion in February’s budget in the government’s bid to burnish the city with cutting-edge technologies. Collaboration between local businesses and academic institutions is on the rise to nurture more creative talents. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

As Hong Kong gears up to fulfill its smart-city aspirations, local businesses and academic institutions are joining hands by bridging their respective expertise and resources to create a new generation of entrepreneurs who’ll lead the city in the new wave of smart-city technologies.

Remedies using technology are called for in various fields, such as the medical sector, where there’s a need to upgrade the quality of vaccines as every child below the age of 12 has to be vaccinated against various diseases, including seasonal flu. There’s also a need to better preserve patients’ immunization record cards that can be easily lost or defaced.

For these reasons, Hong Kong university students have designed an application to digitize vaccination records using blockchain technology as a convenient way for the public to check their medical records.

Digitalization offers three advantages. Firstly, the immutability of blockchain technology prevents past records from being altered. Besides, blockchain is decentralized so that a higher data retrieval rate can be guaranteed, allowing faster follow-up action when the quality of vaccines is questioned. Lastly, the data are well kept as they’re securely stored.

Cyda emerged as the champions in the Hackathon #Smart City — a competition organized by Deloitte China and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology this month to help train young students to be future entrepreneurs.

The competition drew 65 student contestants from Hong Kong, Macao, the Chinese mainland, Israel, India and South Korea with various academic backgrounds.

Apart from the traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), the students came from a myriad of academic disciplines, including business administration, humanities and law. They were required to group themselves into different teams to pitch their smart-city software technologies based on four main themes — security, mobility, education and living.

Each of them had to formulate business ideas for smart-city technology applications within 24 hours. After 24 hours of brainstorming, each team had to deliver a 10-minute presentation before the judges.

With the students’ technical skills to develop smart-city applications and the input from their business mentors’ provided by Deloitte China during the competition, they could pick up business skills that are essential for turning their prototypes into products in the context of the actual business environment.

“The project has very high scalability. It can also be applied to other expensive medicines that really need high-quality medicines such as for cancer treatment. We hope our solution can bring an authentication system for those medicines or vaccines so that everyone can feel safe with what’s put into their body,” said Carrie Lo Siu-chun and Wong Ho-yeung, leaders of the winning Cyda team.

The winners will be offered internship opportunities at Deloitte China to enable them to continue honing their business skills, such as learning how to scale up businesses or fulfill business compliance duties. They should also learn to cultivate an international perspective in solving problems, as the smart-city concept can be applied in the contexts of different cities.

“Our ideal plan is to record the whole journey of a vaccine from production to injection. It’s very difficult to get all stakeholders to cooperate and provide the data. Thus, we would like to start by getting government support,” the Cyda team leaders said.

Bridging the gap

“The business community can play a gap-bridging role in lining up youth creativity and government measures so that the voices of Hong Kong youths can have an impact on the city’s development. Professional services firms offer a wide spectrum of services that can help enterprises build up their operations,” Cecila So Suk-ling, human resources director at Deloitte China, told China Daily.

Deloitte and HKUST plan to deepen their cooperation by organizing more competitions based on other business themes to help nurture future business leaders.

Deloitte, along with the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute, City University of Hong Kong, fintech company Forms Syntron, inter-bank transfer services provider Joint Electronic Teller Services and financial institution Nova Credit, set up the Smart Open Data Advancement Consortium this month. The consortium aims to develop and implement data-driven smart applications and services to boost productivity and enhance user satisfaction in Hong Kong and, subsequently, in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

Paul Sin Kwun-hang, a consulting partner at Deloitte China, agreed that Hong Kong’s smart-city development should be examined vis-a-vis the Bay Area.

Market potential 

“While Hong Kong is a small market with just a 7-million population, the Bay Area offers market potential as startups can enjoy economies of scale when launching smart-city technology services,” he said.

“Moreover, the Bay Area has primary and manufacturing industries that can provide enterprises with a complete supply-chain network. Hong Kong startups can thus learn the innovative mindset of mainland companies in the Bay Area,” said Sin.

The HKSAR Government last year unveiled the “Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong”, rolling out more than 70 initiatives, including infrastructure projects, electronic identity cards, smart lampposts, a revamped government cloud infrastructure and a new big data analytics platform. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor chairs a steering committee to supervise these projects.

In her 2017 Policy Address, Lam pledged the government will invest HK$700 million to turn Hong Kong into a smart city.

“For Hong Kong to sustain itself as an international financial hub, it should continue to cultivate smart technologies and innovations. It should also seize the opportunities to further collaborate with the Bay Area cities, especially in the technology sector,” suggested Francis Au, head of Hong Kong and Macao at Arcadis — a global design and consultancy for natural and built assets.

Hong Kong was ranked as the world’s ninth and Asia’s second most sustainable city in the Arcadia Sustainable Cities Index 2018. The survey cited Hong Kong as a balanced innovator that’s prosperous and sees technology as a vital part of the city’s sustainable development and citizen experience.

Despite its favorable ranking as a sustainable city, Hong Kong should not rest on its laurels in positioning itself as a smart city.

“The government should consider purchasing technology services from Hong Kong technology companies in its procurement policy. Another hindrance is that the government may not possess the technological expertise to gauge the long-term visibility of the technological projects,” warned Sin.

“Too often, government officials only grant funding to technological projects that offer just short-term yields,” he said.

Donny Siu Koon-ming, associate director at HKUST’s Entrepreneurship Center, said: “The administration should strengthen its coordinating function over government agencies, academia and private investors in fostering smart-city development and, at the same time, consider launching specific measures to promote biotechnology and financial technology.”