Four-P play for a smart, competitive Hong Kong

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Yokohama shows a way forward for Hong Kong.

The World Bank’s Smart Cities Conference – held in Yokohama, Japan last month – presented some good examples from around the world on how to use a bottom-up approach with active citizen engagement to increase the chance of success in implementing changes. The audience was interested in learning about the successful transformation of Yokohama through the cities’ many initiatives, such as the development of the Minato Mirai 21 central business district.

One of the critical features of this transformation is how the Yokohama government consciously pushed the private sector to develop new technologies as the drivers of economic growth, such as those in fuel-cells cars and energy conservation. Some of these innovation are oriented toward the social sector, as well, to improve citizen engagement – for example, the “Local Good Yokohama” initiative, which provides a platform for citizens to share their thoughts and to participate in the city’s various activities. The World Bank, at the same time, through its Tokyo Development Learning Center program is actively engaging with Japanese cities such as Yokohama, to identify and disseminate practical solutions to many complex development challenges like competitiveness, inclusion, and sustainability.

Nowadays, with the popularity of the internet, smartphones and social networks, public participation in decision-making is becoming increasingly common. To better realize the increasing public demand for input into policy formulation and infrastructure planning, a “4Ps” approach – with a Partnership among the Public (the government), the Private (corporations and civic associations) and the People (the citizens) – is formed to help improve the development process. As a result, the city can reduce the risk of unforeseen oppositions, allocate clear responsibilities and rights, and create opportunities for public input.

To use public input most efficiently and effectively, the use of the latest technology – for example, big data, artificial intelligence and internet of things – that allows for the quick capture and analysis of public data is critical.

This “4Ps” approach is relevant in addressing one of Hong Kong’s key bottlenecks to competitiveness: its fast-aging population and workforce.

The Census and Statistics Department in 2015 announced that Hong Kong has about 1.12 million people aged over 65 – and  15 percent of them are over 85. By 2040, however, one in every three persons in Hong Kong is likely to be over 65.

Credit: Esri China (Hong Kong) Limited
Credit: Esri China (Hong Kong) Limited

To facilitate healthy aging in Hong Kong, using the “4Ps” Partnership approach to link up families and neighbors (People), caregivers and doctors (Private) and policy implementers in government (Public) with a holistic and pro-active smart health system can keep our citizens safe, healthy and productive. A recent advisory paper by the Smart City Consortium suggests that a smart health system, with the 4Ps in place, can be constructed by the following three-pronged approach:

  • a Pro-active Smart Health Monitoring using an internet of things (IoTs) network to monitor individual’s real-time health with links to the individual’s family, doctor, clinic and hospital to provide comprehensive health management;
  • a Predictive Smart Health Analysis by which digital healthcare professionals detect acute diseases and provide real-time advice for personalized medical treatment; and
  • a Preventative Smart Health Community Network with the sharing of electronic health records, which enables tele-medical consultation for patients with chronic illness. When required under emergency situations, the nearest neighbor or healthcare practitioners would receive alerts to locate the person in need.
Credit: Esri China (Hong Kong) Limited
Credit: Esri China (Hong Kong) Limited

This is just one example of how Hong Kong can use the “4Ps” framework with the support of the latest technology to tackle the problem of an aging city.  What’s more, apart from conventional caretakers and medical practitioners, this new approach creates job opportunities for talented people from various fields, including sensor-network planning, biometric-data monitoring, social-behavioral model building, big-data analysis, and acute-diseases predictive model-building.

“Smart City (SC) means Competitive City (CC)”, according to recent comments  by Kurt Tong, the U.S. Consul General for Hong Kong and Macau. Indeed, if the government can take the lead to promote cohesive collaboration with various players in the cities, not only can Hong Kong address the demands created by an ageing population, but our city can also enhance efficiency and stay competitive in the years to come.





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Dr. Winnie Tang, Chairman of Steering Committee, Smart City Consortium, Hong Kong


Juni Tingting Zhu, Economist, Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice, The World Bank