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Is Hong Kong considered a “Smart Digital City?”


Google Hong Kong released the third and final edition of the Smarter Digital City (SDC) Whitepaper.

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This year marks the first time over the whitepaper series where noticeable improvements in digital adoption were observed across all four key sectors of the city’s economy – Travel, Retail, Finance, and Living.

Conducted by Ipsos, the Whitepaper explores consumers’ perception of a Smart Digital City and their level of digital adoption, as well as the attitudes of corporates and small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) pertaining to digital transformation.

Three years on, Hong Kong residents are more digitally-savvy, with the city’s overall Consumer Digital Index (CDI) score increased from 2.35 to 2.72 across all age groups. Businesses also recognise the importance of digitalisation. 89% of corporates in Hong Kong say they will increase digitalisation investments over the next two years.

Among those, 30% of corporates are considering to implement initiatives related to machine learning and AI, which is a significant 14% jump compared to last year.

However, talent shortage remains a significant barrier hindering further digitalisation, with 64% of corporates and 51% of SMBs remarking difficulty in recruiting talent with STEM education background.

Leonie Valentine, Managing Director, Sales and Operations, Google Hong Kong commented, “This final research report shows Hong Kong’s digitalisation is progressing well over the past three years, however today only one-third of Hong Kong residents perceive Hong Kong to be a smart city. More effort is needed to communicate the value of digital applications and how digitalisation can improve overall quality of life for
Hong Kongers. It is also important for all stakeholders – policymakers, corporates, SMBs, and consumers – to bring an open mindset and actively collaborate to drive innovations that will be beneficial for all.”

“Our report indicates that both corporates and SMBs now recognise the importance of digitalisation for their businesses, with the former eager to increase their digital investment and the latter keen to catch up. Corporates are looking beyond fundamentals to enhance its digital projects with machine learning and AI (30%). However, many organisations still struggle to find talent with the right technical skills and industry knowledge. Not surprisingly, business and economics, law and medicine top the list of perceived academic strengths in Hong Kong, but fewer respondents list core STEM subjects as a strength,” she continued.

“Collaborating and building a sustainable smart workforce is more critical than ever. Our current workforce needs to acquire new technical skills while the younger generation needs the right tools and education resources to prepare for the future. As of today, over 1,000 primary and secondary school students have participated in Google’s fundamental coding program, CS First. To promote machine learning and AI applications and education, we have committed to bringing more advanced education programs to Hong Kong, including the Google Cloud Certified Program, Explore ML program, and Digital Garage,” she added.

“In addition, Google for Startups partnered with CoCoon, a leading startup network based out of Hong Kong, which aims to support female hardware founders, promote the city’s entrepreneurship, and connect founders to a global network of entrepreneurs,” Leonie continued.

Smarter Workforce is the backbone to drive further digital transformation

With businesses keen to accelerate digital investments, talent shortage remains a significant barrier. 64% of Hong Kong’s corporates find it difficult to hire talent equipped with STEM expertise, and only 12% of corporates believe Hong Kong is strong in tech talent development.

The academic strengths of Hong Kong are perceived to be focused on Business and Economics (62%); Law (48%) and Medicine (43%), from corporates’ perspective. Apart from STEM education background, 59% of corporates also look for candidates with data analytics and computational thinking, and soft skills such as the ability to learn new things (60%) and creativity (56%).

Encouragingly, Hong Kong residents are found to be knowledge-hungry, with 81% wanting to learn new digital skills. Machine learning and AI (40%) and data analytics (37%) are the most desired tech skill sets.

In order to promote digital literacy at an early age, policymakers can provide more resources to primary and secondary schools to incorporate digital skills education such as coding, computational thinking, and AI into their core curriculum, foster a knowledge exchange culture, and inspire innovation and open collaboration through out-of-classroom programs that connect students and teachers from different schools.

Moving forward, the growth of open data platforms and launch of 5G networks and IOT devices will further evolve the city’s digital landscape. In the longer term, it is crucial that Hong Kong builds a sustainable talent pipeline to encourage young minds to embrace STEM competencies as well as soft skills.

SEE ALSO : Google aims at training 50,000 AI experts by 2024

Policymakers and businesses can work together to develop a smarter workforce that can support a thriving digital ecosystem.