The Hong Kong Computer Society (HKCS) will be holding its annual Hong Kong International Computer Conference (HKICC) this year at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on November 23 and 24. The theme of HKICC 2011—Delivering Sustainable Value in a Knowledge Economy. Ahead of this major event, HKCS President Stephen Lau granted MIS Asia an exclusive interview wherein he shared the past and present of the Hong Kong information and communications technology (ICT) industry, the evolution of the user community through the years since the founding of his nonprofit organisation, and the role that the HKICC plays in facilitating a global exchange of ideas, insights and contacts for technology professionals. Below is the expurgated transcript of that conversation.
Talk about the history of the Hong Kong International Computer Conference.
Stephen Lau: This is its 34th year of existence. It is an annual conference we started in the 1970s and it has been running continually on an annual basis for that many years. When I think of the conference in terms of its continuity and longevity, I consider that it must be quite a record as far as Hong Kong is concerned. You can regard it as a flagship conference for the Hong Kong ICT industry and its community.
How many of these have you personally done ever since you joined the Hong Kong Computer Society?
Actually, I have been involved in all of them.
I started my career in the late 1960s and I’ve been involved with the Hong Kong Computer Society since the 1970s in various capacities—mainly in terms of running conferences or running events. It’s only in the last couple of years, that I became its President.
Tell us why the HKCS first decided to launch the HKICC.
The conference is meant to fulfil the needs of the industry and, to a certain degree, the economic needs of Hong Kong. Let me explain that by talking about a couple of its main characteristics.
Each edition of the event runs along a theme that fits its context in time. The theme is determined by multiple stakeholders—typically the government, the industry, the business users, the academics and also, in recent years, the community. The community: meaning the disadvantaged community relating to the application of IT, the use of digital devices and such. We aim to help provide them a better quality of life with the use of IT.
The themes tend to be quite broad. In essence, it’s kind of a ‘generic’ conference we’re working on, with a broad theme that covers all the objectives of the stakeholders. There are not that many such conferences nowadays, particularly those that are successful. Currently, there tend to be more very focused kinds of conferences. You know, those that focus on a single function, a single topic or a single technology. Those are very much the standard in industry events, it seems these days.
What about this year’s edition of the conference and how you actually came about this theme. Did you have a committee that worked on it?
To come about the theme and agenda for this year’s conference, we had an organising committee and a programme committee. The programme committee this year was chaired by N. Yang, Executive Vice President of the Polytechnic University here. We all got together, looked at what’s happening, what the future looks like, including what the powers or drivers of ICT development and deployment are going to be moving forward, and went through a brainstorming session before coming up with our theme. After that we started flowing in the various topics and sessions that would naturally fit the theme, and then set about securing the right speakers.
This year, we’re talking about ‘value’—that’s the keyword. We’re going to look very closely at sustainable value. We’ve also placed emphasis on the knowledge economy.
Most developed economies are always working toward the development of a knowledge-based economy, where the impact of technology and thereby its application would be beneficial to society.
In Hong Kong, we have the government declare it–constantly enhancing our knowledge-based economy–as our goal. That call has clearly resonated within our industry.
And how do we sustain this state of constant improvement? We focus on value. We look at value from multiple perspectives: value in terms of economic development; value in terms of increase in employment; value in terms of the application of IT; value in terms of efficiency and productivity; and, value in terms of improving our quality of life, particularly with respect to the lives of member of our disadvantaged community.
So we talk about value in multiple contexts.
Also we look at current technologies. We look at the main sorts of technology drivers that would attain and sustain such value. Of course among them would be cloud computing, mobility and social networks.
And obviously we look at things from a business perspective. Particularly how Hong Kong and mainland China can leverage each other’s advantages, and establish win-win relationships and achieve business development objectives.
We can mainland China’s skilled manpower quality and the business values that Hong Kong has to offer.
So becoming a knowledge economy is what we’re striving for. This is definitely going to pose challenges for Hong Kong because, as with any developed economy, we have to constantly see how best to position ourselves in the global economy and move to that.
Will there be significant public sector representation at the conference?
Definitely. The public sector has always been a very, very strong supporter of the HKICC. One reason is the government is a major user of technology in general, and of IT in particular in Hong Kong. So as far as the delegates are concerned, a lot of government officers will be participating in this conference.
Other major industries will be there too. Such as banking and logistics. There will also be high representation by the academic community, because when we talk about building up a knowledge-based economy, we recognise that its development hinges a great deal on the human capital we can foster.
If you look at Europe or the US, since the dotcom bubble burst early on at the start of this millennium, the number and the quality of students who have been taking ICT-related courses have actually not been that optimal, and certainly below figures for 1990s, when a job in ICT was considered one of the best and preferred career moves.
Back then, we had both high quality and numbers of students. Since the dotcom bomb, the number and quality have gone down.
As you know, the Hong Kong Computer Society is not a trade body, but rather a professional body and our major task, apart from developing and enhancing the ICT industry, is to promote the professionalism of ICT executives. And that involves what we call talent cultivation in education and professional development in the workforce.
For talent cultivation, we’re focusing now on encouraging students to consider a career in ICT. And for professional development, we’re helping executives to gain, maintain and enhance their professional qualifications as well as keeping their professional knowledge fresh. So we do certification, we do forums, and we do continuous professional training. You’ll see that in our conference this year, as in past years.
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