LCQ17: Development of metaverse

     Following is a question by Dr the Hon Tan Yueheng and a written reply by the Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry, Professor Sun Dong, in the Legislative Council today (November 30):
     It is learnt that since the beginning of this year, Mainland authorities at various levels have, one after another, stated their stance of supporting the development of metaverse. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has indicated that it will cultivate a group of enterprises which launch into emerging fields such as metaverse, and a number of local governments have also set out in their reports or plans a clear direction for the development of metaverse. Regarding the development of metaverse in Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it will, by drawing reference from the practices of Mainland authorities at various levels, formulate a plan for the development of metaverse; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) as it is learnt that rules for governing metaverse (in particular regulatory statute and guidelines for safeguarding privacy, fair distribution of commercial interests, etc) are key to metaverse moving towards a large-scale application, whether the Government will consider devising a dedicated regulatory framework for promoting the healthy development of metaverse-related industries; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) given that blockchain technology is the underlying architecture and one of the core technologies for metaverse's realisation of a decentralised economy, whether the Government will consider taking measures to encourage the admission of more talents in blockchain technology to Hong Kong; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     Having consulted the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau (FSTB), the reply to the questions raised by Dr the Hon Tan Yuehang is as follows:
(1) and (2) The Government has been closely monitoring the latest development and applications of various technology domains, including metaverse, and will timely formulate policies and implement measures to create a conducive innovation and technology (I&T) environment to promote local I&T industry development.
     Currently, Hong Kong possesses excellent information and communication technology environment and robust infrastructures such as high-speed communication networks, 5G mobile networks, and a vibrant cloud computing service market. They could facilitate local industries and research institutions to develop technologies related to metaverse, such as machine vision technology, sensor technology, cyber security technology, blockchain applications, and implement related applications, such as extending real scenes to metaverse digital entertainment, virtual large-scale events (such as concerts and exhibitions) in the virtual world through virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, and introducing virtual scenes into e-commerce to enhance user experience (such as virtual fitting services).
     On the other hand, the development and application of digital currency will facilitate the development of metaverse industries and applications. Since 2017, Hong Kong has been examining the feasibility of the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). Apart from continuing with the trial use of the CBDC in cross-border trade payment, Hong Kong will step up the preparation for its use at the wholesale and retail levels, including studying the feasibility of using digital Hong Kong Dollar (e-HKD) in local retail sector, as well as conducting technical testing for the cross-border use of digital Renminbi (e-CNY) in Hong Kong in order to provide convenient and swift cross-border payment services for Mainland and Hong Kong residents. The FSTB issued a policy statement on the development of virtual assets (VA) in Hong Kong in October 2022. It covers the vision and approach on the development of VA in Hong Kong. In the long run, it could create a more favourable development environment for services of the local metaverse industry.
     The Government will continue to closely monitor the latest development in various technology domains and timely formulate relevant policies and measures, thereby facilitating the industry to develop different innovative applications to accelerate the I&T development of Hong Kong.

(3) Talent ranks first among resources for development and is an essential element in promoting I&T development. The Policy Address this year has emphasised that Hong Kong needs to be more proactive and aggressive in "competing for talents" to continue to create strong impetus for growth and to enhance competitiveness. Apart from measures such as launching the Top Talent Pass Scheme and enhancing existing talent admission schemes, the Government will establish the Talents Service Unit to provide one-stop service with an aim of processing applications under talent admission schemes, as well as the strategies and relevant work for recruiting talents from the Mainland and overseas in a co-ordinated manner. The Mainland Offices and overseas Economic and Trade Offices of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government will set up Dedicated Teams for Attracting Businesses and Talents to promote the relevant work.
     Regarding I&T talent, the Government has been proactive in formulating various measures to attract I&T talents from the Mainland and overseas, including talents in blockchain technology, to come to Hong Kong for development, such as launching the Technology Talent Admission Scheme, the Global STEM Professorship Scheme and the InnoHK research clusters. The Policy Address this year has further announced a series of proactive measures to trawl for I&T talents from various disciplines, including attracting leading I&T talents around the globe, enhancing existing technology talent schemes, enhancing accommodation support for I&T talents and expanding the STEM Internship Scheme.
     The Government will also continue to promote the application of advanced technologies (such as artificial intelligence, big data analysis and blockchain) in various government bureaux and departments (B/Ds) to implement more digital government services that are convenient and beneficial to the citizens. In June 2022, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer launched a new Shared Blockchain Platform. It could enable B/Ds to provide citizens with high-quality digital government services by leveraging blockchain applications in a convenient and swift manner. The related implementation work will also drive the market demand for blockchain technology talents.
     Continuous enhancement of the I&T ecosystem is the promising path for pooling together I&T talents. The Government will continue with its efforts in developing Hong Kong into an international I&T centre, and also review and enhance different measures on I&T talent in a timely manner.

Ends/Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:11