LCQ14: Technology Voucher Programme

     Following is a question by the Hon Charles Peter Mok and a written reply by the Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Mr Nicholas W Yang, in the Legislative Council today (November 2):


     Early this year, the Government announced the allocation of $500 million to launch a three-year Pilot Technology Voucher Programme (PTVP) under the Innovation and Technology Fund to subsidise local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in using technological services and solutions to improve productivity and upgrade, transform or re-tool their business processes. Some members of the information technology (IT) sector have expressed great concern about the implementation details and timetable of PTVP. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the work plan for implementation in the 2016-2017 financial year by the authorities in relation to PTVP and the timetable for launching PTVP;
(2) whether the authorities will consult members of the relevant sectors again on PTVP before its launch; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) whether the authorities will draw up a list of approved providers of information technology services and solutions under PTVP; if they will, of the criteria for drawing up the list, and how they will enable more qualified IT companies to participate in the programme; of the estimated number of service providers to be included in the list; whether they will provide incentives to encourage SMEs to use locally-developed IT products;
(4) of the types of technological services and solutions to be funded under PTVP; the estimated average number of working days needed for completing the entire vetting and approval process (from receipt of an application to disbursement of subsidy);
(5) given that cloud-based services have gained popularity in recent years, and quite a number of enterprises buy cloud-based services not by one-off payment method, of the appropriate arrangements to be made by the authorities when implementing PTVP in order to cater for such situation; and
(6) whether it will formulate simple and convenient procedures for submission, vetting and approval of applications for PTVP and disbursement of subsidies, and accept applications submitted by online paperless means?
     Our reply to the six parts of the question is as follows:
(1) We plan to launch the Technology Voucher Programme (TVP) by the end of this year.
(2) Since the announcement of the introduction of the TVP, we have been listening to the views of various sectors (including the information technology sector) regarding the programme through different channels, to which we have given due consideration when formulating details of the programme. We will also set up a committee composed of members from the business sector, technology sector, professional services sector and relevant Government departments to provide views on the implementation details before rolling out the TVP. The committee will also vet the applications and steer the implementation of the TVP.
(3) The TVP aims to subsidise small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in using technological services and solutions to improve productivity, or upgrade or transform their business processes. Taking into account the different business and technological needs of SMEs, we encourage SMEs to identify suitable technology consultants or providers according to their needs after examining their business operations, so as to achieve the objective of improving productivity, or upgrading or transforming their business processes. While we do not intend to draw up a list of recognised technology consultants or providers, SMEs need to comply with the procedures set out under the TVP during the course of procurement, such as the requirements for quotations. We believe that local providers can play an active role under the TVP by leveraging on their edge such as their understanding of the business of local SMEs.
(4) Given the rapid development of technologies, we do not recommend pre-defining the types of technological services that can be subsidised under the TVP. Based on information provided by the applicants, the committee will assess whether the proposed technological services and solutions can achieve the objective of improving productivity, or upgrading or transforming their business processes. We will assess the time required for vetting applications and disbursing funding after the implementation details of the TVP have been finalised.
(5) The TVP will not restrict the payment methods used by SMEs to procure technological services or solutions. The focus of the TVP is that the services or solutions concerned must meet its objective and comply with its terms and conditions, including procurement according to the required procedures. However, approved projects should normally be completed within 12 months in accordance with the project schedule in the approved applications. In other words, the usage duration of the subscription-based technological services or solutions (e.g. cloud-based services) should not exceed the project period, and the subscribed technological services or solutions must be an essential part of the project.
(6) For technological services and solutions that are commonly regarded as conducive to improving the productivity of enterprises, we will handle the applications through a streamlined process, so as to simplify the vetting procedures and reduce the processing time, with a view to striking a suitable balance between streamlining the process and safeguarding against abuse of the TVP. Both online and written applications will also be accepted.

Ends/Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:04