It’s now official that Hong Kong is launching a major effort to develop the city’s fledgling digital economy. Chief Executive Carrie Lam admits Hong Kong has a big job ahead starting with the recruitment of top talent, building its fintech industry, and re-gearing this once uber- efficient city into a “Smart City” metropolis.

For starters, Mrs. Lam has pledged to inject funding of up to US$1.3 billion for research & development at local universities, and through major tax deductions for R&D expenditure at small- and medium-sized enterprises. The US$64 million initiative to adopt e-Government systems and big data analytics is another step forward to making our city “smart.”

While the city remains a prime hub for international companies, it faces rising competition from other Asian centers, including Singapore and Shenzhen, which have swiftly developed their new economic prowess. Our chamber committees are keenly aware of the digital disruption across industries, from apparel manufacturing and sourcing to financial services, logistics and retail, and that Hong Kong needs to be up to date.

AmCham is doing its part to boost Hong Kong’s chances for success by collaborating with the government, sharing experience and best practices among stakeholders, and highlighting the latest trends in technology across sectors. With the launch of a new committee on Innovation & Technology, we’ve convened a group of executives from Google, Facebook, United Technologies, KPMG and others in our effort to push the agenda forward. 

We recognize that Hong Kong has a pile of distinct advantages over other Asian cities: free flow of information, easy access to data, and the rule of law including solid protection of intellectual property rights. We are eager and ready to do more in the journey of 21st century development.

In the year ahead, expect to see a lot more tech initiatives from the Chamber: we are launching a Tech Leadership series whereby thought leaders across the industry will be a regular feature. In 2018, AmCham will hold its first “Smart City” conference to focus on the areas of technology, urban planning and environmental sustainability in Hong Kong.

It would be our tremendous honor to invite Mrs. Lam and leading HKSAR government officials for a visit to Silicon Valley and other U.S. cities under technological transformation, including Boston, to exchange views and to see first-hand what Hong Kong may do to become a regional leader in key areas such as biotech and R&D.

The rapid pace of technology means Hong Kong faces the challenge of both catching up – and keeping up – in the race for developing an innovative mindset and translating it into economic gains. But, as one of the most competitive and international cities in the world, Hong Kong also has a major opportunity to solidify its foundation for the future. The stakes have never been higher, and AmCham will strive to support that goal.

Tara Joseph
The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong