LCQ22: Application of artificial intelligence and opening up government data

     Following is a question by the Hon Alvin Yeung and a written reply by the Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Mr Nicholas W Yang, in the Legislative Council today (December 13):


     Regarding the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and opening up government data through the website ( by the Government, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the following details of the AI projects that will be launched by various government departments from January to December next year: project names, departments, services to be provided, launch dates, annual estimates of expenditure, and names of the departments or service contractors responsible for their implementation;

(2) among the data currently opened up through, of the quantity and percentage of data that are available in (i) JSON digital format (including GeoJSON), (ii) Application Programming Interface (API) and (iii) Batch API format; the departments providing such data and the areas to which such data relate;

(3) whether the Transport Department (TD) and the Highways Department have plans to uniformly adopt the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) and Unified API format, which are applied globally, for opening up their data, so as to facilitate public access to the real-time information provided by them; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(4) as some motorists have pointed out that they could hardly rely on the real-time parking vacancy data currently provided by the TD as the data often suffer time lags ranging from hours to even months, of the Government's improvement measures;

(5) as some members of the public have relayed that the data on are not displayed in a format familiar to ordinary people and the website is poorly designed, such as the absence of an interactive map to enable preview of information containing data with latitude and longitude co-ordinates, whether the Government has regularly reviewed if the forms and formats in which the data opened up through are being displayed suit users' needs; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons and the improvement measures for that; and

(6) as there are views that neither provides guide and technical support for the development of applications nor provides a platform for developers and users of applications to exchange views on the use of the data available on the website, whether the Government will draw reference from the relevant approach adopted by the Taipei City Government in its open data platform (, and provide the relevant support and exchange platform within next year, so as to improve users' experience with; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Having consulted the Transport and Housing Bureau and other departments concerned, our reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(1) Details of the artificial intelligence projects implemented by the Government and funded by the Capital Works Reserve Fund Head 710 or the TechConnect (Block Vote) of the Innovation and Technology Bureau from January to December 2018 are at Annex 1.

(2) As at November 2017, 97 datasets released in JSON format and approximately 1 000 Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are provided on the portal, representing about 21 per cent of the total number of datasets on the portal. The bureaux and departments (B/Ds) providing such datasets and the contents of the relevant datasets are at Annex 2.

     Apart from releasing data in JSON format or providing access through APIs, the portal also releases datasets in common machine-readable formats such as XML and CSV. Moreover, other formats, such as image data (e.g. GIF/JPG/TIF/PNG formats), are also commonly used in application development. Amongst them, the traffic snapshot images provided by the Transport Department (TD) have been widely used in many mobile applications. As of October 2017, the number of downloads of traffic snapshot images exceeded 1.6 billion.

(3) At present, General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) is mainly used as the format for storing service frequencies of public transport and data on route stops. The TD is currently upgrading its Transport Information System and the Hong Kong eTransport system. Upon the expected completion in the second half of 2018, public transport data will be able to support GTFS or API formats and opened for public use. The TD also disseminates certain real-time information in common machine-readable formats (e.g. JSON, XML and CSV) on the Government's portal. Such information includes journey time indicators, traffic speed map, parking vacancy data and special traffic news. The TD will proactively monitor and study the more widely used formats so as to facilitate the work of application developers.

(4) The access control system and vehicle recognition system for the car parks managed by the TD have been in use for over ten years. As these systems could not support the function of automatic feeding of real-time parking space information, the car park operators have to update manually the car park information for the Hong Kong eRouting on an hourly basis.

     To promote Smart Mobility and to disseminate traffic information more efficiently, the TD plans to replace the above systems in phases from 2018. The system supplier will be required to provide parking space information in prescribed format to facilitate automatic update of relevant information on the portal, so that real-time car park information will be made available to members of the public (including motorists and those who intend to develop innovative products) for reference and use. Moreover, as set out in the Chief Executive's 2017 Policy Address, a new generation on-street parking meters, which accept payment of parking fees through multiple means including remote payment via mobile applications, will be installed progressively from 2019-2020. These parking meters will also be equipped with sensors to detect whether a parking space is occupied. The relevant real-time information will be disseminated to motorists through the TD's Hong Kong eRouting mobile application and website to assist them in finding parking spaces, thereby reducing the traffic generated by vehicles circulating in search of vacant parking spaces. In addition, the TD will upload the data collected to and will review the detailed data dissemination arrangement in a timely manner.

(5) The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) has issued guidelines to assist B/Ds in releasing data in the most suitable formats and ways (e.g. through APIs) based on the nature of different data, in order to make it convenient for public use. In addition, the OGCIO reviews with B/Ds concerned the ways and formats of releasing data from time to time, offering them with technical support and assistance in improving data usability. Furthermore, the revamped portal will soon be rolled out, providing new functionality for the public to preview open data that bears geographical location on a map. The new functionality will also enable developers to search data by specifying a geographical area on the map and to download the open data in machine-readable format (JSON), thus further facilitating their development of innovative applications and services.

(6) The portal provides a development guide ( for developers' reference. We will continue to enrich the guide to further facilitate and support developers in using open data on the portal. The public can also make suggestions on open data through the portal.

Ends/Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Issued at HKT 13:05