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LCQ14: Promoting informatisation and connectivity of enterprises in Hong Kong and on Mainland
     Following is a question by the Hon Yim Kong and a written reply by the Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry, Professor Sun Dong, in the Legislative Council today (February 15):
     The Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) launched the Distance Business (D-Biz) Programme in 2020 to support enterprises to continue their operation and provide services through the adoption of information technology solutions during the epidemic. As at mid-January 2022, more than 20 000 enterprises were granted funding. On the other hand, it has been reported that in order to promote the industrial Internet, the Mainland Government is promoting the participation in the initiative of "getting on clouds and platforms" by industrial and commercial enterprises, and encouraging them to use business systems such as cloud platforms. There are views that even though normal travel between Hong Kong and the Mainland has now fully resumed, strengthening the ability of enterprises to do business remotely is still an effective means to enhance their competitiveness, and as most of the industrial and commercial enterprises in Hong Kong have close ties with Mainland manufacturers, the integration of the D-Biz Programme with the Mainland's initiative of "getting on clouds and platforms" will help enhance the connectivity between Hong Kong and other Mainland cities of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), and promote re-industrialisation in Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that the then Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development indicated in his reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council on February 16, 2022 that the Government had no intention to re-introduce the D-Biz Programme, whether the current-term Government will adopt other innovative ways to continue to optimise the environment for doing business remotely; if so, whether the ITC will study with the Mainland's industry and information technology departments the feasibility of "getting on clouds and platforms" for co-operation; if not, the reasons for that; and
(2) of the other measures put in place by the current-term Government to promote the informatisation and connectivity of industrial and commercial enterprises in Hong Kong and other Mainland cities of GBA?
     The Government has been dedicated to supporting enterprises to undergo digital transformation through different channels. The three years of epidemic have brought about great opportunities for enterprises to create new operation models and sources of income with the use of digital technologies. With the gradual commencement of regional co-operation projects, such as the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the Belt and Road Initiative, the Government will continue to help enterprises increase their productivity proactively through digital transformation, and expand mutual access with other trade and industrial enterprises around the world to expand into overseas and Mainland markets.
     Having consulted the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, our reply to both parts of the question is as follows:
     The Digital Economy Development Committee chaired by the Financial Secretary set up four sub-groups in end-September 2022. These sub-groups invited relevant industry representatives and stakeholders to jointly make suggestions on accelerating the development of Hong Kong's digital economy. Among them, the sub-group on digital transformation is understanding through different channels the challenges encountered by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the process of digital transformation and the support required, so as to formulate corresponding recommendations that meet the digital transformation needs of SMEs for the Government's consideration.
     As for the Distance Business (D-Biz) Programme, a time-limited programme launched by the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) under the Anti-Epidemic Fund in May 2020, it aimed to support enterprises to adopt information technology solutions to continue their business and services during the pandemic. The application period for the D-Biz programme ended on October 31, 2020. A total of 23 560 approved applications have completed the projects, involving total funding of around $1.55 billion.
     In order to assist enterprises/organisations in using technologies to improve productivity, or upgrade/ transform their business processes, the ITC launched the Technology Voucher Programme (TVP) under the Innovation and Technology Fund in November 2016 to subsidise local enterprises/organisations in using technological services and solutions. The TVP is now a regular funding scheme, providing funding for projects on a 3 (Government):1 (enterprise/organisation) matching basis. For each enterprise/organisation, the cumulative funding ceiling is $600,000 and the maximum number of projects to be approved is six. As at end-2022, 19 462 applications were approved under the TVP, among which 96 per cent were from SMEs, with around 98 per cent success rate, involving total funding of around $3.27 billion.
     On the other hand, the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) will continue to provide consultancy services, online forums and training etc., to expedite efforts in supporting digitalisation of SMEs. A series of services include:
(a) introducing a free one-stop digital transformation solutions platform "Digital DIY Portal" that brings together digital transformation solutions, digital and innovation information and successful cases of digital transformation in industries, in order to assist local SMEs to embark on digital transformation;
(b) assisting SMEs to streamline work processes, minimise labour-intensive processes and enhance operational efficiency through the adoption of big data consultancy, service robots, Internet of Things, smart operation and system integration, etc.;
(c) organising online forums to help enterprises adapt to new modes of business operation through digital technologies and online business, and explore new clientele despite geographic constraints; and
(d) holding physical and online HKPC Academy training activities to assist around 30 000 trainees in mastering new technologies and knowledge management. The courses cover digital and management skills under the framework of future skills.
     Furthermore, the Government provides various funding schemes to assist enterprises in enhancing their competitiveness, including the use of electronic channels for product promotion to develop cross-border e-commerce. Among the various schemes, the funding scope of the Dedicated Fund on Branding, Upgrading and Domestic Sales covers the support to enterprises in developing e-commerce and integrating online-offline modes of sales and marketing, such as establishing online sales platforms, setting up online shops on third-party online sales platforms, incorporating electronic payment functions into their websites and developing mobile applications, etc. In addition, the SME Export Marketing Fund provides funding support for local enterprises to participate in and conduct export promotion activities through electronic platforms or media.
     The aforementioned measures are conducive to improving distance business environments and promoting the informatisation of Hong Kong's enterprises, enhancing mutual access with enterprises in other places.
Ends/Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Issued at HKT 11:35
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