24 Nov 2020
Digital path across the globe
As the COVID-19 pandemic shakes up supply chains and transforms business models, how can Hong Kong, a city famous for its ability to respond rapidly, harness technology to create new opportunities?
Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and the Hong Kong Electronics & Technologies Association (HKETA), the Symposium on Innovation & Technology 2020, held online on 16 November, invited experts from various sectors to offer insights into the latest developments, covering topics such as future technology trends, artificial intelligence (AI), 5G and cloud applications, the “new normal” for businesses and the latest developments in pharmaceutical technology. Speakers shared their experience in using technology to solve problems and introduced new ideas that could lead to future opportunities.
The symposium, under the theme “A New Connected World Beyond the New Normal", was one of more than 20 webinar sessions organised as part of Autumn Sourcing Week | ONLINE, a virtual trade fair that has attracted 2,600 exhibitors from 33 countries and regions, featuring the latest products from 11 industries.
Alfred Sit, Secretary for Innovation and Technology of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), said in the opening speech at the symposium that the COVID-19 pandemic had substantially disrupted almost every aspect of our daily lives while innovation and technology had played an important role in helping to contain the spread of the disease and make it easier for everyone to observe the necessary social-distancing measures. Mr Sit said the HKSAR Government had widely adopted innovation and technology applications to support anti-epidemic work on many fronts, including the “StayHomeSafe” app to monitor movements under quarantine, electronic wristbands, the “LeaveHomeSafe” app for contact tracing, and more. He also highlighted how the launch of commercial 5G services by mobile network operators in April this year paved the way for the beginning of the 5G era in Hong Kong.
New business reality
Summarising the results of KPMG’s CIO Survey 2020, Marcos Chow, Partner & Head of Technology Enablement at KPMG China, outlined the new reality for global business. He said the pandemic had driven enterprises to digital transformation, leading to the widespread acceptance of home-based work, which in turn can expand the scope of talent recruitment and reduce geographical constraints. At the same time, the risk of a talent shortage has become the most pressing problem for global companies, with skills in the areas of network security, organisational management and corporate structure being in short supply.
Hong Kong-based online supermarket and shopping-mall platform HKTVmall is poised to move from being a technology user to a technology provider. Reviewing the company’s experience over the past seven years, Ricky Wong, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hong Kong Television Network Limited, said the company recorded losses for five years until it emerged as the sole service provider in the business. The key for HKTVmall was to efficiently use existing technology before developing its own. “This is where value comes from,” he said. The platform has collected consumer data from local customers over the years and laid the foundation for its digital ecosystem, developing different business opportunities according to consumers’ needs and preferences. These include services such as an e-wallet, a shopping app targeted at seniors, a food takeaway platform, and products such as financial products and electronic insurance.
Mr Wong said the platform plans to consolidate its broad experience and provide a one-stop turnkey solution for businesses around the world interested in developing online supermarkets or shopping platforms. The company would open up its data bank to the public in future, with information such as sales transactions, user traffic and logistics records becoming accessible to peers, academics and banks to promote the development of the local electronic ecosystem.
Innovative technology brings about opportunities but governments and industry must work together to drive positive development. In October, Google Hong Kong released “Smarter Digital City 3.0”, which detailed Hong Kong people’s readiness to accept AI. Timothy Tam, Head of Public Policy and Government Affairs (Hong Kong) at Google, said Hong Kong enterprises are generally optimistic about AI development but have concerns about issues such as investment return, knowledge and human resources. He expects policymakers will have to invest resources to encourage businesses to develop AI solutions. Charles Mok, Honorary President of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation (HKITF), reminded companies to be mindful of customer privacy and network security, and to use and retain relevant information in a proper way.
Prevention and cure
The symposium also addressed public concerns on treatment and prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yuen Kwok-yung, Chair of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, told the symposium that the effectiveness of antibody treatments – where patients receive antibodies to the virus – being developed worldwide is still uncertain. The cost of developing a neutralising monoclonal antibody, specifically engineered to target the virus has been high, but the cost of harvesting antibodies from recovered patients’ blood plasma was lower.
Turning to infection prevention, Prof Yuen hoped manufacturers would use sterilised materials to produce reusable personal protection equipment to handle infectious diseases. He said the source of COVID-19 could not be confirmed but viruses were found in poultry markets in 2003 (SARS), 2013 (H7N9 avian influenza) as well as last year, highlighting the need to improve poultry-markets design. Attention should also be paid to the design of domestic sewerage systems to avoid virus transmission incidents such as those in Amoy Gardens in 2003, Hong Mei House in Cheung Hong Estate and Heng Tai House in Fu Heng Estate in 2020.
The HKTDC is running Autumn Sourcing Week | ONLINE from 16 to 27 November, featuring the latest products from different industries including electronics, houseware, lighting, outdoor lighting, eco tech, gifts and premiums, toys, baby products, stationery, optical and watches and clocks. The virtual fair serves as a one-stop online sourcing platform to keep small and medium-sized enterprises connected with global buyers and help create business opportunities across various sectors.
Autumn Sourcing Week