Earlier this year, PricewaterhouseCoopers released a consultancy study advising the Hong Kong government on the next steps towards becoming a smart city. The report was commissioned last September by the Innovation and Technology Bureau, and a finalised blueprint will be unveiled next year by Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung.
It covers government, the private sector, transport, culture and education. Inevitably, the media has focused largely on the aspect that most affects our everyday lives: transport, specifically recommending intelligent transport systems, carpooling and sharing, and apps that show bus arrival times and occupancy, parking space vacancies and more.
These innovations are necessary, and easily capture the public’s imagination, yet the technology that promises to really drive Hong Kong’s evolution to smart-city status is, though less exciting, even more vital.
First, it is important to define exactly what a smart city is. While it is tempting to point to driverless cars, talking fridges and other shiny tech innovations, most experts would suggest that a true smart city serves to make citizens’ lives easier in an efficient and sustainable manner.
Sure, the ability to get from A to B is part of this, but so is applying for a mortgage and getting on the housing ladder, obtaining the right type of health insurance at the lowest possible cost, securing a place at the educational institute of your choice, and access to cheap loans to start a business.
Robotic process automation is software (commonly referred to as robots) that automates many of the repetitive, rules-based tasks that are currently carried out by white-collar workers in many of Hong Kong’s largest companies and government departments, largely thanks to outdated IT systems that are still in use.