Wednesday, May 11, 2016

[EJinsight] Technology voucher scheme should be open and simple

Amid lukewarm global economic growth, small businesses in Hong Kong are facing competition and challenges of unprecedented proportions.

The degree to which they can adapt to the new business environment in the era of the information “Big Bang” and ride the tidal wave of rapid IT development will determine whether they survive or die.

Given the decisive role of information technology in the global economy, many owners of small businesses in Hong Kong are deeply concerned about whether government policies can facilitate the role of IT as the new growth engine of the city's economy.

The key to success is to stimulate domestic demand for tech services and products, so as to generate more business opportunities for the local tech industry.

Under the proposed HK$500 million (US$64.4 million) pilot scheme for technology vouchers, eligible small businesses will be given an allowance of up to HK$200,000 over a duration of three years to acquire tech solutions and services to improve their profit and productivity.

The scheme is aimed to create a win-win situation for small businesses and tech startups in Hong Kong by stimulating local demand through government subsidies to create more business opportunities for tech developers.

However, during a series of meetings between representatives of the local tech industry and government officials in March regarding the launch of the scheme, many members of the tech sector expressed concerns about bureaucracy and red tape that may put off potential applicants, as was the case in numerous government stimulus programs in the past.

Others suggested that service providers in the scheme should not be confined to tech companies recognized or certified by government-related bodies such as the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park and CyberPort .

Representatives of small businesses at the meeting would also like the government to allow more service providers to participate, so that they will have a wider range to choose from.

Some also said the government should expand the scope of the scheme to make more kinds of services eligible for subsidies.

I think it is important for the government to take their views into account and address their concerns promptly, so as to make sure that the scheme is viable and can fulfill its intended purposes.

As the administration is going to brief the Legislative Council on further details of the scheme on May 17, I am looking forward to some good news from the government as to how it will simplify application procedures for the scheme to make it more user-friendly, simple and efficient.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 9 2016

Translation by Alan Lee


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