Pandemic pushes digitization forward for 8 to 10 years

Local | 24 Jan 2021 5:49 pm

The pandemic has fast forwarded the progress of digitization in Hong Kong by a decade, but long-term investment is needed to support innovation, those in the IT sector said. 

Peter Mok Wai-hin, head of Strategic Partnership at Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, said in a radio program today that the Covid-19 outbreak pushed digitization forward for eight to 10 years. 

Mok believed Hong Kong would be able to seize the chance for IT development amid the pandemic. 

He said Hong Kong ranked 11th in a global innovation ranking last year, moving up two places from 2019. The city also ranked third in the Asia-Pacific region in the index after Singapore and South Korea.

There are now nine start-up companies that are valued at more than US$1 billion (HK$7.75 billion) in Hong Kong, Mok said.

One of the nine companies, Lalamove which provides order delivery services by connecting users with delivery drivers, has seen its market capitalization exceeding traditional major airlines.

“The business model in Hong Kong has shifted from heavy asset business with intensive manpower and capital to light asset business equipped with technology and innovation,” Mok said.

Rebecca Pun Ting-ting, Commissioner for Innovation and Technology, said in the same radio program that the government hopes it could help citizens cope with the pandemic with new technologies.

Pun said when the pandemic broke out last year, the first innovation the commission created was the electronic wristbands.

“There were more than 100 research projects used in the electronic wristbands, and that’s why we were able to launch the wristbands within such a short period,” Pun said.

Pun also said the “CuMask” -- a reusable face mask that the government distributed to Hongkongers for free -- was not invented immediately after the pandemic broke out.

“The mask was actually invented by the [Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel] in 2017, and we improved it quickly to cope with the pandemic,” Pun said.

Pun said the two examples have shown that science and technology development requires long-term investment and that Hong Kong researchers are capable of making great inventions that could benefit citizens.

“Doing scientific research is not like cooking instant noodles -- simply pressing a button and getting the results, it requires years of hard work,” she said.

Pun also said the commission’s recent invention, the LeaveHomeSafe app, is very convenient and it can protect the safety of Hongkongers.

Meanwhile, an Institute of Vocational Education graduate has developed a virtual reality game system allowing elderly home residents to keep fit during the pandemic.

Terence Tsang Chun-hung, a young CEO of an IT company in his early 30s, developed the “SilverMOVE” virtual reality system for elderly homes and care centers.

Elderly home staff would only need to install a light sensor on the existing sports facilities and connect a computer to the facilities, including a bicycle machine, rowing machine, or a treadmill. 

The sensor would detect users’ exercising speed and update the game screen, letting users immerse themselves in the virtual world.

“We would like to make the exercise process like a virtual reality game through real-time 3D virtual images and the Internet of Things technology, and let the elderly and patients have fun in the rehabilitation exercise,” Tsang said.

He added that the virtual reality system has become more popular amid the pandemic as social distancing measures were imposed.

“During the epidemic, more education, social welfare institutions, and rehabilitation centers have contacted us, asking about the function and application of the virtual reality system,” Tsang said.

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