From a speech by Victor Lam CIO Hong Kong Government.
The outbreak of the pandemic has certainly caused unprecedented impacts on the global economy as well as people’s everyday lives. Facing worldwide travel restrictions and social distancing measures, the use of Internet has surged and cloud computing has accelerated the pace of digital transformation. The ‘Worldwide Whole Cloud Forecast 2020-2024’ published in October last year by the International Data Corporation revealed that most enterprises would drive a faster transition to cloud-centric digital infrastructure and application services based on the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gartner’s recent forecast also reveals that the worldwide spending on cloud services is expected to grow by 23 per cent this year. More businesses, including those brick-and-mortar retailers, are now ready to accept online ordering, e-meeting and e-commerce. Schools have arranged online classes for their students, and people including the elderly have been, through social media, staying in touch with friends and relatives. Online shopping has also become one of the most common activities in our daily lives. Cloud computing will continue to act as a catalyst to revive global economy.
Hong Kong has always been an ideal place for establishing cloud infrastructure and cloud business development. I feel extremely proud that Hong Kong is, once again, ranked first in the Cloud Readiness Index 2020 of the Asia Cloud Computing Association. Hong Kong is a prime location for data centres with our reliable power supply, sound telecommunications infrastructure and low risk of natural disasters. The Government is also stepping up promotion to position Hong Kong as an excellent site for data centres in the region.
We have strived to remove the hindrance on locating suitable land for data centres through optimising the use of industrial buildings for data centres and identifying suitable sites for setting up high-tier data centres. With Hong Kong’s sound data centre infrastructures and its strategic location, we have successfully attracted many giant cloud service providers around the globe to set up their cloud presence in Hong Kong.
Cloud technology has proved itself a vital component to modernise and optimise the Hong Kong SAR Government’s IT environment for spurring innovative digital government services. For example, in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months, we have made effective use of IT resources on our government clouds to expedite the implementation of various anti-epidemic solutions and services. These include the application systems for various relief schemes, the registration system for CuMask+™, the booking systems for COVID-19 testing and vaccination, the COVID-19 Dashboard, the LeaveHomeSafe app, and the systems that facilitate us to download our vaccination and testing records, just to name but a few. The agility and expandability of cloud has indeed enabled us to deliver these anti-epidemic solutions in the most robust and efficient way.
As a key IT infrastructure project under the Smart City Blueprint, the Government has implemented the next generation government cloud – the Government Cloud Infrastructure Services (GCIS), which has been providing services to government departments since September 2020. GCIS is a central platform that enables government departments to expedite system development and upgrade system capacity more flexibly and at a lower cost to cope with the increasing development needs of Smart Government. GCIS also provides 24-hour monitoring and support, enabling our digital government services to be delivered in a more effective and secure manner. Some 240 application systems running on our old cloud platforms have already been migrated to GCIS while the remaining 20 systems will be migrated soon.
Recently, we have also introduced a new application architecture platform namely “Container-as-a-Service” on GCIS for supporting the development of cloud native applications. By embracing application development technologies like containerisation, micro-services, and API management, this new application architecture platform can facilitate quick service delivery, high availability and high scalability.
Artificial intelligence (“AI”) and big data analytics are the key to the successful implementation of data-driven digital government strategy. Riding on the GCIS, the Government has launched a new big data analytics platform in September 2020. With the flexibility and agility of cloud services, this platform facilitates the implementation of more AI and big data analytics projects to improve decision making and operational efficiency of the Government and in turn provide more efficient and reliable public services.
For example, OGCIO and Transport Department are now working in collaboration on the “Traffic Data Analytics System”, which is targeted to commence operation by the end of this year. By applying AI and big data analytics, the system will facilitate Transport Department to perform predictive analytics to enhance traffic management and efficiency across the territory.
Through the effective use of cloud and other technologies, we strive to support the Government to achieve policy outcomes in the years ahead and our community’s speedy recovery from the pandemic aftermath. We will keep making use of cloud technology to help government departments to achieve lower costs, shorter time-to-market, and modernised IT system delivery.