Making the best use of spatial data to improve Hong Kong’s competitiveness EJINSIGHT



The UK Geospatial Commission previously commissioned a consulting firm to undertake a detailed economic study on the size, characteristics and characteristics of the UK geospatial or location data market, and how such data can promote the ‘economy. The report is also a source of inspiration for Hong Kong for our emerging geospatial data market.

The report first highlights that their “geospatial data market” has three characteristics:

First, it is an ecosystem rather than a traditional market structure.

Many industries use a range of diverse geospatial products and services, therefore, we should not view geospatial activity as taking place “within a single economic market”. Take the example of information on aggregated user journeys. It can be used by transport authorities to learn about trends in changing demand for public transport, while private companies can use it to target their advertising. Smartphone apps, such as trip planning, recording and taking photos, and health tracking, are integrated with geospatial data and other elements.

Second, the real value of geospatial data is difficult to assess.

In 2018, the UK Cabinet Office estimated that private sector use of geospatial data can unlock £ 6-11 billion in economic value each year, excluding tech giants: Apple, Google and Amazon. . In fact, geospatial data has been widely applied in many fields such as retail, logistics, catering, and travel, and is a key part of business activity for a wide range of businesses. It is therefore difficult to estimate their full value.

However, it is certain that the related industries have grown steadily: 55% of UK geospatial companies have been established in the past 10 years. According to data from two-thirds of these companies collected by the authority, the number of employees has increased by around 45% per year, from 20,000 in 2009 to 115,000 in 2019.

Finally, the overflow value of geospatial data cannot be underestimated.

The geospatial data ripple value refers to the value other than that entered by the direct or indirect creators or users of the data. For example, improving the management of the road network by the government reduces carbon emissions, which in turn improves air quality and slows global warming, benefiting all of society as a whole, including people who do not use the road network.

Based on the three characteristics above, the report makes recommendations to the authority. I think the one related to political decision-makers is particularly relevant for us.

Even though geospatial data can produce enormous economic and social benefits, the report points out that such data is often not fully used or even left unused. This may be due to a lack of knowledge in the application of geospatial data by policy makers and hence geospatial information is not used in the decision making process.

In the 2017 Hong Kong Political Speech, openness of government data was identified as one of the eight broad directions to promote the development of innovation and technology. Since 2019, the number of open datasets has exceeded 4,670, which has laid a solid foundation for a Common Spatial Data Infrastructure (CSDI), a data supermarket to be officially launched next year. However, with open data, what about usage? Have the public and government made the best use of data resources? What value has open data created?

In fact, the government has already reaped the benefits of open data and information sharing. One of the examples is a common operational image (COP), an electronic platform launched by the Civil Engineering and Planning Department in 2019. The shared geographic information system platform allows the different services to exchange views. real-time information on accidents related to natural disasters, such as landslides, floods resulting from rainstorms, seawater floods, thus facilitating coordination and distribution of responsibilities between different departments . Early last year, in response to the raging COVID-19 epidemic, various government offices and departments jointly developed an interactive map dashboard, “Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in Hong Kong” for providing the public with updated one-stop information about the epidemic, which greatly eased the tension of the general public. Asia’s first bilingual epidemic dashboard in Chinese and English attracted more than 58 million views as of mid-October of this year. This is another case to demonstrate the success of inter-ministerial cooperation and sharing of geospatial information.

Currently, the main livelihood problem in Hong Kong is the housing shortage. CSDI with geospatial data as a basis can be used to troubleshoot problems. In the planning of old districts like Kowloon East, or the development of new towns like the 30,000 hectares of Northern Metropolis, Tung Chung or Lantau Tomorrow, the authority must make good use of the CSDI, and not let the value of investments turn into vanity.

I hope that policymakers can recognize the importance of geospatial data and promote its use. This will not only accelerate the pace of our development towards a smart city, but also improve the competitiveness of Hong Kong.

– Contact us at [email protected]

Dr Winnie Tang

Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, University of Hong Kong


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