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OGCIO

07-12-2018

Speech by Mr. Donald Mak, Assistant Government Chief Information Officer (IT Infrastructure), at the “Business of IP Asia Forum 2018”

Dr Wong, Dr Li, Mr Choi, Mr Douglas, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon! It is my honour to join you all at the eighth edition of the Business of IP Asia Forum. The Forum serves as an excellent platform for IP professionals and business leaders from all over the world to discuss the latest development of the IP world.

Innovation is about the process of turning an idea into goods or services that create values. In the past few decades, information technology has been serving as one of key drivers for innovations. The inventions of Internet, mobile communication network, smartphones have fostered the development of numerous innovations that help people and organisations do things faster and easier. The innovation landscape is continuously evolving. The confluence of several trends, including the increasing migration of socio-economic activities to the Internet and the decline in the cost of data collection, storage and processing, are leading to the generation and use of huge volumes of data, which commonly referred to as “big data”. These large data sets are becoming a core asset in the economy, fostering new industries, processes and products and creating significant competitive advantages. Data-driven innovation is now becoming the key driver for digital transformation and the key pillar for organisation and business growth. As a result, organisations and innovators are hunger for data, and this leads to an international trend of open data.

In December 2017, the Government released the Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong with a vision to build Hong Kong into a world-class smart city. The Blueprint aims to enhance the effectiveness of city management and improve people's quality of living as well as Hong Kong's attractiveness and sustainability by making use of innovation and technology (I&T).

The Blueprint lists out various strategies and initiatives in six major areas, namely "Smart Mobility", "Smart Living", "Smart Environment", "Smart People", "Smart Government" and "Smart Economy".

In the major area of “Smart Government”, open data is one of our strategies and initiatives. Our objective is to open up more public and private sector data in digital forms to facilitate research and innovation via the Government’s one-stop Public Sector Information (PSI) Portal (data.gov.hk). In doing so, we can help promote the use of open data for smart city innovations and innovative applications. Moreover, by opening up more data for smart city development, we can improve public services through adoption of technology under a data-driven approach.

In September this year, the Government has promulgated a new Open Data Policy and a series of related measures, with a view to promoting technology research and innovation development for smart city development. Under the policy, all government departments should as a matter of principle endeavour to release data (except personal data) for free public use via the PSI Portal to facilitate innovation and research, bring benefits to the public and promote economic development.

All government departments are also required to ensure that the opening up of data is in compliance with relevant regulation such as the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.

To take forward the policy in a more holistic manner, a number of implementation measures have also been formulated.

Firstly, all government departments are required to draw up and publish their annual open data plans to set out the datasets which have been published in the PSI Portal and other datasets to be released in the following three years, with the first annual open data plans to be published by the end of this year. This will not only enable government departments to open up their data in an orderly and transparent manner, but will also provide a basis for the public to provide feedback and suggestions on the types of data to be further opened up and their potential applications. Government departments are required to take into account the views and suggestions of the public in preparing their subsequent annual open data plans.

Secondly, to align with international practices and ensure convenient access by the public, the datasets opened up should meet a number of usability requirements, including: 

  • datasets should be provided in machine-readable formats (except for images and video clips);
  • datasets should be updated timely;
  • datasets should be documented using standardised metadata schemes; and
  • there should not be any unnecessary terms and conditions imposed on their use (such as not for commercial use or only for educational purpose). 

Thirdly, for data collected and possessed by public bodies or commercial organisations which are public utilities by nature or with high public interest, relevant government departments are also required to explore options in collaboration with the concerned organisations to open up of their data to the public, and where appropriate, include any specific measures in their annual open data plans. 

With the implementation of the new policy and measures, we aim to stimulate the opening up of more data, both in quantity and quality, to facilitate innovation and research, bring benefits to the public and promote economic development.

In fact, the Government has been promoting open data for years. Since 2011, we have set up the Public Sector Information (“PSI”) Portal to serve as a one-stop portal on open data for the public. To date, over 3 300 unique datasets under 18 categories from 51 Government departments as well as 9 public and private organisations have been made available for free use in the portal. Moreover, about 1 250 Application Programming Interfaces (“APIs”) have been developed to facilitate targeted use of datasets and easy incorporation into software applications. Moreover, the Portal has been providing historical data since 2017, which will be extremely useful for performing time series and trend analysis as well as big data analytics.

To facilitate easy use of the datasets, we have been continuously enhancing the Portal, enriching it with new features. In end 2017, we adopted “design thinking” to enhance the Portal, revamping the user interface to facilitate easy searching of datasets and providing new functions to search open data with geographic location on the map.

To further enable more convenient access and visualization of open data, we are planning to further revamp the Portal and introduce city dashboard function by end 2019 to facilitate public to better understand the city’s information. Moreover, with the progressive installation of about 400 multi-functional smart lampposts starting from mid-2019, the data captured by the sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices installed on these smart lampposts, such as data relating to traffic, weather, air quality, etc. will also be promulgated to the Portal in a real-time manner. These data will no doubt provide useful ingredients for innovators to create smart city innovations.

We are glad to see that our open data is well received by public and innovators. In 2017, the total number of data downloads from the PSI Portal was over 1.9 billion. For the first half of 2018, the figure is even more encouraging. The total number of data downloads for the first six months was already over 1.8 billion. In other words, there were more than 10 million downloads every day.

Since the launch of the Portal, some 70 mobile apps like Citymapper, Hong Kong Weather, etc. have been developed by the industry with the use of the open data available on the Portal. Around 40 mobile apps use our open data in transportation, whilst others make use of our data in environment, weather, recreation and culture, housing, information technology and broadcasting, charity and welfare, development, etc.

Besides commercial use, the data in the Portal has also been widely used in academic research and big data projects.

  • For instance, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has employed the real-time air quality and weather data from the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) to develop the world’s first “Personalised Real-time Air Pollution Information System”.
  • The Chinese University of Hong Kong has employed the open data from EPD and HKO to develop the “Air Pollution Decision Support System”.
  • The University of Hong Kong has also developed an Air Quality Monitoring Platform that uses deep learning technology to produce accurate air pollution data by analysing the Air Quality Monitoring Station data from EPD.

Besides commercial organisations and academia, the Government has also made use of these open data for big data analysis. In mid-2017, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO), Hong Kong Observatory and the Transport Department had collaborated to conduct an analysis on the impact of rainfall on the traffic speed of some strategic routes by using traffic- and weather-related data.

The Government is committed to opening up more data for fostering innovation and research for smart city development. The promulgation of the new open data policy and associated measures demonstrate Government’s commitment. In 2018, about 100 new datasets and 50 new APIs have been opened up on the PSI Portal under various areas, including development, transport, city management, environment, education, transport, health, finance, among which about 70 new datasets and 50 new APIs were opened up in response to the open data policy. Even though government departments are still in the course of finalising their open data plans, we estimate there will be more than six hundreds of new datasets opening up next year.

These open data can serve as the fuel to power the development of data-driven innovations, enabling more IP creations. By playing as a role model of opening up data, we aim to create an atmosphere for sharing of data for innovation and research. We hope that other public bodies and private organisations will do the same. Through open data, we believe that a new breed of smart city innovations can be created to better serve the community, driving socio-economic development of Hong Kong.

Let’s work together to nurture the growth of open data, foster more data-driven innovations and witness how it achieves its full potential.

Thank you.

- ENDS -