One country, two systems

April 29, 2019
Hong Kong's ability to marshal resources and focus industry engagement around AI R&D has been lagging.

This is an extract from “The ecosystem“, the first report of the four-part series, “Asia’s AI agenda”, by MIT Technology Review Insights.

Hong Kong is a focal point to global venture capital (which is increasingly directed at AI startups), is home to leading regional fintech clusters, has a wealth of cloud computing resources, and a number of highly-ranked scientific universities.

Despite this concentration of assets that should give Hong Kong an advantage, the government’s ability to marshal resources and focus industry engagement around AI R&D has been lagging. Ironically, part of this lack of focus is rooted in civic ambivalence about the role of technology in the future of Hong Kong’s economic development. The One Country, Two Systems Research Institute, a local think-tank, published research in June 2018 estimating that AI and automation would endanger up to one million jobs in Hong Kong, including in key industries such as logistics or finance.

This is changing, albeit only recently. In September 2018, the government-linked Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, together with Alibaba and SenseTime, launched the Hong Kong AI and Data Laboratory. It aims to provide an accelerator platform for local AI startups, and has inducted an initial crop for incubation, with an emphasis on firms developing analytics, smart mobility, and fintech solutions.