Smart City Aspirations
The PEAK Hong Kong|September 2017

Dr Winnie Tang, chairman of ESRI China and honorary professor in the Department of Computer Science at Hong Kong University, and co-chairwoman of the Smart City Consortium, weighs in on the Hong Kong government’s Smart City Blueprint

Ryan Swift

Environmental Systems Research Institute, known as ESRI, has been gathering information and creating software to incorporate information into maps for city planners since its founding in 1969 in California. Dr Winnie Tang established ESRI China in Hong Kong over 25 years ago, to bring its sophisticated geographic information system (GIS) tools to Asian governments. GIS tools are a crucial element in making smart cities work, so Dr Tang has taken a huge interest in the recent steps by the Hong Kong government to get its smart city programme underway. Dr Tang has stepped back from her responsibilities with ESRI China to start teaching a course at Hong Kong University on Smart Cities.

One of the key elements in making a smart city plan into reality is political support. In Singapore, Dr Tang says that as early as 2005, a smart city office was set up “within the Prime Minister’s Office”, with the digital government group added to the office just two months ago. “So they have finance people, policy people, implementation people – all in the same office chaired by the deputy prime minister.”

Dr Tang, through her work with ESRI China, is familiar with efforts at smart city development in China and India. She points out that China has already added smart city development to their five year plan, and that there are now more than 500 smart cities in China. Dr Tang gave her thoughts on the Smart City Blueprint from the Hong Kong Government, released this summer.

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