Feature Stories


Master Plan for a Smart City

Victor LAM, the Government Chief Information Officer, explains the benefits of a smart city and how Hong Kong embraces technology and data to succeed as “Asia’s World City”.

Hong Kong was accelerating plans to roll out the Government’s Smart City Blueprint long before the COVID-19 pandemic. First introduced in 2017, the blueprint aims to improve all aspects of Hong Kong citizens’ daily lives by using technology and data.

The blueprint sets out 76 initiatives in six smart areas to develop the city’s digital infrastructure. These include “Smart Mobility”, “Smart Living”, “Smart Environment”, “Smart People”, “Smart Government” and “Smart Economy”. The city has started to experience some of the major benefits stemming from these developments during the last three years, including the introduction of free Wi-Fi hotspots, the Faster Payment System (FPS), and the “iAM Smart” platform.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city rapidly learnt how technology and data could help to control the spread of a virus, most notably through the “StayHomeSafe” system that supports home quarantine, and the “LeaveHomeSafe” app.

Catalyst for Change

All these initiatives are underpinned by technology and data, and they show how the power of data can affect people’s daily lives, Lam says. He also emphasizes that in Hong Kong, “It is just the beginning, and there’s still so much more to do.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the Government has been updating and accelerating many of its SMART city plans under an updated version called Blueprint 2.0. This says that, “Our work in combating the epidemic in 2020 has given us some insights on promoting I&T development. In particular, the adoption of an innovative mindset to transform established service modes and the wider adoption of technology to combat the ‘new normal’.”

New plans also include initiatives such as the SMART village pilot, which intends to improve the livability for people in rural areas.

Building a SMART city is no small feat for a city of more than 7.5 million people, but Hong Kong is doing an excellent job. The city ranked second in the world in the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking for 2021, which measures the capacity and readiness of economies to explore and adopt digital technologies for economic and social transformation. Furthermore, the massive uptake and download rate of the city’s apps and data is a testament to the popularity of the digital realm.

“We have released the HK eMobility app, and it has proved really popular,” Lam says.  “We recorded 2.6 million downloads, and had a daily hit rate of 80,000. Last year, we had 10 billion downloads of open data, and this year we have already exceeded 11 billion because many citizens require real time data of facilities, such as buses and minibuses, to facilitate their daily journeys.”

This trend is in line with findings from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that showed the proliferation of data from devices is growing at an unprecedented rate, thanks to the use of devices, cloud computing and AI. That’s why data is the core component of the SMART city plans, Lam says.  

Aside from innovation and technology, economic and urban development requires that the public sector joins hands with the private sector to utilize data to improve the city’s operations.

“Through open data collaboration, we can even use social media analytics to gauge a citizen’s feeling about public policies. We can make use of big data analytics in the management of public toilets, air mail and postal services, and analyze traffic data,” Lam says.

Big data is also a powerful way to make predictions. For instance, it can combine weather data and transport data to predict the arrival time of transportation on a rainy day. Such innovation can only be made possible by the combined strengths of technology and data.

Greater Responsibility

Lam recognizes that with great power also comes great responsibility. He says that the HKSAR Government takes data privacy seriously.

“Safeguarding personal data is a high priority. Open data is open, but there are big concerns about personal data because all these factors affect public trust,” Lam says. The Government ensures that multiple safeguards are in place to protect personal data, and privacy impact assessments are carried out before new projects are started, he says.  

To carry out its digital plan effectively, the Government needs to have the right talent in place. Developing a pipeline of graduates with the right interdisciplinary skills is top of the agenda when it comes to making Hong Kong a premier information and technology hub.

The Government has been actively investing into IT programs at the primary and secondary levels, emphasizing IT education as a core part of today’s curriculum and promoting extra-curricular IT activities in schools. Furthermore, it has rolled out many exciting programs and award recognition to encourage students to consider future jobs in innovation and technology.

Lam points out that the HKSAR Government also recognizes the important role that universities play in nurturing talent, and has consequently been injecting more resources into research and interdisciplinary research to identify new areas of innovations and programs.

But at the end of the day, Lam says, in order to develop Hong Kong into a world-class I&T hub, collaborative efforts need to take place between the Government, academia, and the private sector, as well as leverage on the opportunities that have been brought about by the Greater Bay Area Region.

“The National 14th Five-Year Plan explicitly mentions the objective to develop Hong Kong into an international technology hub, so I’m confident that innovation and technology will prosper in the years to come,” Lam says. “Universities will have a strong role to play. They will help not only the development of Hong Kong, but also turn Greater Bay Area into a global I&T hub.”

To develop Hong Kong into a world-class I&T hub, collaborative efforts need to take place between the Government, academia, and the private sector, as well as leverage on the opportunities that have been brought about by the Greater Bay Area Region
Victor Lam
Government Chief Information Officer
HKSAR Government

SMART CITY Blueprint  2.0


  • Over 95% of Hong Kong citizens use the Octopus card for travel and spending
  • Smart check-in kiosks, indoor wayfinding, and self-bag drop offs at the airport

  • Over 41,800 free Wi-Fi hotspots in Hong Kong
  • Mobile subscriber penetration rate is 283%
SMART Environment

  • A reduction of carbon intensity by 35% in 2019 compared to 2005
  • Government buildings reduced electricity consumption by 5%
SMART People

  • 60% of senior secondary students studied one or more STEM-related elective subjects in 2019/2020
  • R&D funding in 2019 reached HK$26,333m, an increase of 8% compared with 2018
SMART Government

  • Public sector information portal has over 4,690 unique datasets and 1,800 application programming interfaces
  • GovHK makes information and services easier for the public and now includes around 850 e-services
SMART Economy

Internet Banking saw 15.8 million accounts with over HK$11.9 trillion monthly transactions in 2019