HK Smart City Survey: GBA to Help Cover Talent Shortfall

Photo credit: iStockphoto/cofotoisme

Hong Kong’s smart city digital aspirations are tied to its talent pool. To fill any gaps, they see Mainland China, particularly the nine mainland China cities in the Greater Bay Area (GBA), and ASEAN countries as important talent sources.

In a recent KPMG survey “Future Hong Kong 2030,” 62% said that access to a qualified workforce was most critical to the goal of being a smart city in a decade, with 73% of corporates citing it as their top priority.

The survey was done together with CLP, Cyberport, HKBN JOS, Smart City Consortium, Siemens, Weave Co-Living and Wilson Group. It is the third such annual report which looked at the internal and external factors shaping Hong Kong's smart city transformation over the next ten years.

Respondents are turning to training in-house talent to address talent needs. In fact, they saw training as important, if not more so, than investing in new technology. Three-quarters of respondents said that they were planning to increase specialized training in digital technologies, in line with the companies planning to increase investment in technology. 

Infrastructure, or lack of, was another concern. When presented with eleven options, 47% of respondents selected the development of technology infrastructure as critical. But only 41% believed the current physical infrastructure is adequate for smart city development. Many felt that 5G can help to improve the current situation.

“There are a number of long-term global trends, coupled with several internal factors specific to Hong Kong that will shape the city's smart transformation in the future,” says Julian Vella, co-head for China-Global infrastructure advisory at KPMG China. “Understanding and responding to these trends, together with an ongoing focus on technology innovation will be crucial for Hong Kong to achieve its smart city objectives over the next 10 years.”

Co-creation and cooperation between the public and private sector will play an important role in smart city development, said respondents.  Sixty-two percent of respondents noted that willingness by government departments and agencies to consider partnerships with the private sector is an important factor to enable smart city initiatives to achieve their objectives.
Yet, only a minority of organizations surveyed showed that they were actually working with the government on smart city initiatives. Most point to insufficient opportunities for partnerships as the reason.

Meanwhile, R&D continues to be a key theme with 75% of respondents planning to increase investment in the coming year. Fifty-three percent plan to make Hong Kong their priority area for those investments, rising to 60% among start-ups.

Hong Kong's position as a regional business hub still plays a significant role. Survey respondents named mainland China and Macau SAR as top targets for R&D investment in the next 12 months for 53% of corporates and 40% of SMEs.

While Hong Kong's larger corporates viewed GBA as their preferred destination for outbound direct investment including R&D, small and medium-sized enterprises, including start-ups, prioritizing trade and investment with ASEAN.

“Alongside connectivity, R&D investment is a catalyst for GDP growth due to the increased productivity it creates,” says Marcos Chow, partner, head of technology enablement in Hong Kong at KPMG China. “While the government has set a target to increase spending, a continued long-term focus in this area will need to be maintained.”

Photo credit: iStockphoto/cofotoisme