The third event of the “Future of the Digital Ecosystem” TRPC roundtable series took place at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong on the afternoon of the 11th of August 2017. The roundtable was organized with the support of the Hong Kong chapter of the International Institute of Communications (IIC), Internet Society (ISOC) Hong Kong, and Netflix. Participants from the government, industry, academia, and civil society were present to discuss the current state of Hong Kong’s digital ecosystem and what more needs to be done to ensure Hong Kong does not fall behind in its digital developments competitiveness.
The general consensus among participants was that although Hong Kong has traditionally been a heavyweight and a leader in digital adoption and usage, it was now at risk of falling behind other nations such as Singapore and South Korea. This gap is particularly evident in the public sector’s use of digital services. A participant pointed out that e-government services in Hong Kong were outdated and not user-friendly, and services such as booking sports facilities at public recreational centres were still paper based. It was also suggested that the regulator needed to update its definition of broadband from the current 1Mbps speed to reflect the actual broadband penetration and speeds in Hong Kong. This will help the government to better identify gaps in its digital economy development strategy and help to enable services such as online learning and e-health.
Participants mentioned that there is a lack of community awareness in Hong Kong of issues related to the Open Internet and net neutrality. Although net neutrality may not presently be an issue in Hong Kong, more could be done to raise public awareness on consumer rights and precaution against potential discriminatory action. Ultimately, end users should have the right to access legal content and services of their choice. And although Hong Kong need not rush to regulate net neutrality, the government may play a role in further facilitating discussions by conducting public consultations on net neutrality, or implement a framework for network providers to disclose their network management techniques to promote transparency.
While Hong Kong has always been proud of the success of its competitive markets in ensuring accessible and affordable connectivity, the reality is that there still are costs associated in switching from one operator to another, while the outlying islands of Hong Kong still have fewer providers and much slower broadband speeds. In order to ensure Hong Kong does not fall further behind, the government will need to review its current IT policies, including its stance on regulating and promoting digital enablement both within the government and the industry. The government should also foster stronger partnerships with the private sector, such as for the provision of public Wi-Fi services. Participants were in general agreement that such services would be better provided by the private sector, rather than the public sector.
From an industry perspective, Hong Kong’s light-touch regulatory approach was commended for creating an environment which fostered innovation and growth. Some speakers raised that the laissez-faire approach for OTT services should be maintained while regulations for traditional broadcasting could be relaxed. For start-ups and app developers, the Open Internet, coupled with the popularity of app platforms such as the Apple iOS AppStore and Google’s Android Play Store, have been instrumental in promoting innovation and fostering the app development ecosystem. App developers today no longer need to pay telcos for prioritized access and connectivity to their apps. While issues of the Open Internet may primarily involve open access and connectivity, in the near future discussions have to be expanded to include the collection and sharing of data, especially as applications such as artificial intelligence, machine-learning, and predictive analysis take hold.
An area that was raised during the discussions related to the open access and sharing of metadata collected by large service providers. With the end-goal of enabling as much innovation as possible, a case could be made in opening up and sharing this data to enable more innovative use cases. This is an ongoing area of debate worldwide and not unique to Hong Kong, and has the potential to be highly complex and controversial. It would be advantageous for Hong Kong to begin such discussions earlier rather than later.
In conclusion, although Hong Kong is still doing fairly well in terms of digital adoption, there is still much room for improvement, especially in digital public service provision, fostering multi-stakeholder discussions, and promoting awareness on net neutrality. While these issues remain complex and ongoing, it remains imperative that these discussions are at least happening with different stakeholder groups so as to find solutions which balance both consumer and private interests.
Dr Peter Lovelock is Principal, Fair Tech Institute, Access Partnership. Prior to its acquisition by Access Partnership, Peter Lovelock was the Director of TRPC, along with Professor John Ure. Peter and John established the Telecommunications Research Project (TRP) at the University of Hong Kong in 1993 and the Telecoms Infotechnology Forum (TIF) in 1996. Peter subsequently established the TRPC offices in Beijing (1999) and Singapore (2006) and expanded the academic collaborations in both locations, initially with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), and subsequently with Qinghua University and the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Between 1999 and 2004, Peter built and ran China’s leading IT research consultancy, and prior to that he was a lead policy analyst at the UN in Geneva, where he was principal author on the World Telecommunications Development Report amongst others, including many of the ITU Secretary General’s speeches from this period.
He brings more than 25 years’ experience in telecoms, technology and media to these undertakings, including regulatory assessments, implementation and execution projects, and due diligence and market entry strategic guidance projects throughout Asia.
In recent years, Dr Lovelock has provided advice to governments and companies alike regionally on digital enablement and digital transformation, including to ASEAN on its ICT Masterplan, and to APEC on the Internet and Digital Economy principles and roadmap; as well as authoring reports on global data networks and bandwidth developments, cross border data flows and the economic impacts of data localisation, digital transactions, authentication and digital identity.
In the financial services and fintech spaces, Dr Lovelock has been involved in the establishment of new payments regulatory regimes in Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Zambia, focused on facilitating fast access channels and furthering financial inclusion He has advised and authored thought leadership on blockchains, digital and crypto currencies and national payment gateways and is currently working with multilateral donor agencies on the development of regulatory financial sandboxes in several jurisdictions and national eID schemes. Dr Lovelock is advising the Central Bank of Myanmar on their QR code standardisation and adoption, and is an expert on TV White Spaces and other non-traditional connectivity options for extending access.
Dr Lovelock is an advisor to PECC on digital and internet economy developments and sits on the board of the International Institute of Communications (IIC). TRPC provides Executive Director and Secretariat support to the Asia Cloud Computing Association (ACCA) and the Asia Pacific Spectrum Innovation Group (APSIG), among others.
Between 1999 and 2004 Dr Lovelock built and ran China’s leading IT research consultancy. Prior to that, Peter worked at the ITU in Geneva.
Bio coming soon
Bio coming soon
Bio coming soon
Bio coming soon ……………..
Joe Welch, SVP, Government Relations, Asia, 21st Century Fox; Chairman, International Institute of Communications Hong Kong
Dr Au Man Ho, Former Director General, Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA)
Ben Cheng, Founder, Oursky
Glacier Kwong, Internet Society Hong Kong, Spokesperson Keyboard Frontline
Moderated by Dr Peter Lovelock, TRPC Pte Ltd
16.00 Networking Tea
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