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Integrated Solutions eNewsletter
THEME STORY: The Other Side of COVID-19 Pandemic: 
Opportunities for Innovation

The Other Side of COVID-19 Pandemic: Opportunities for Innovation

The COVID-19 pandemic has thus far lasted for over eight months. Since July, Hong Kong has confronted with the third wave of coronavirus inflections. The daily confirmed cases stayed high for weeks, while more than a thousand of confirmed cases have been recorded in total. As a result, the government tightened the preventive measures, including the prohibition on group gathering (limit of two persons), restriction on dine-in services from 6pm to 5am, and the mask rules (under which people must wear masks at all public places). Several premises such as bars and clubs, fitness centres, places of public entertainment, beauty parlours and karaoke establishments were required to suspend operation. Meanwhile, in order to reduce the flow of people and the amount of social contact, the government announced the work-from-home arrangements for civil servants, with a call to the private sectors to do the same.

Indeed, the pandemic gives a blow to Hong Kong's society and economy. Yet, challenges always come with opportunities. The pandemic, on the other hand, inspires the talents from IT industry to innovate a variety of innovations and solutions to meet enterprises and employers’ different needs. Let's look at the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, and see the opportunities it brought for technology and innovation.

Fight the Virus Smartly

During the pandemic, the Hong Kong government has proactively promoted the use of innovation and technology in a number of disease prevention measures. In early March, Mr. Nicholas Yang, the former Secretary for Innovation and Technology, wrote an article titled “Collaboration among the government, industry, academic and research sectors to fight the virus and promote innovation and technology” on his blog to accentuate the key role of technology in combating this pandemic. Moreover, the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) has launched a special call for projects under the Public Sector Trial Scheme, with a view to supporting the product development and application of technologies for prevention and control of the pandemic, and to facilitating the commercialisation of these solutions.

As early as the outbreak of the first wave of coronavirus in Hong Kong, the government collaborated with the Smart City Consortium to launch the “Local Situation Dashboard”, which capitalizes on the technology of Internet and GeoInfo Map to provide updates of the local cases to the citizens. Besides, to complement the measure of home quarantine, the government teamed up with an inno-tech company from Hong Kong Science Park and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to develop the electronic wristband used together with a mobile app. By the use of geo-fencing technology and AI analysis, this technology solution is effective in monitoring those who are under home quarantine.

In light of the worldwide shortage of protective equipment, the Hospital Authority has also taken advantage of innovation and technology to ensure stable supply of protective equipment for their medical staff. For instance, the Hospital Authority has adopted the “Nanofiber respirator” developed by the Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB) as the substitute of N95 respirator. These examples demonstrate the contribution of how innovation and technology helps us fight the virus “smartly”.

Transform the Business Smartly

In the economic terms, the pandemic transforms many industries and businesses in Hong Kong. Owing to social distancing, most people choose to stay at home, giving rise to the trend of online consumption. Some far-sighted enterprises see such as an opportunity and catch up with this new trend by transforming their business models. These enterprises adapt to the online market and launch online services (e.g. online store) to meet consumers’ needs. Such environment also boosts the development of certain industries that are tied to technology like e-commerce and financial technology (FinTech).

As a facilitator, the Innovation and Technology Bureau has launched the Distance Business (D-Biz) Programme under the Anti-Epidemic Fund to support enterprises to adopt IT solutions to implement remote working or service during the epidemic. Under this programme, the ITB provides funding for enterprises to introduce IT solutions to their business operation. It covers both software and hardware application for a wide range of areas, including online order taking and delivery, and smart self-service systems, online customer services and engagement, digital payment/mobile point of sale, and the like.

On the other hand, the “smart transformation” of government services is also worth noting. The government plans to release the “Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong 2.0” in the fourth quarter of this year. Under the initiative, iAM Smart is a one-stop online portal for citizen to enjoy government services, such as application for public housing, eTAX, renewal of full driving licence, etc. Smart government can be an effective means to reduce the amount of social contact during the pandemic while meeting citizens’ expectations and needs.

Work Smartly

Due to the pandemic, the government and many enterprises have practiced remote working thanks to the use of technology and innovation. Apart from the aforementioned, the D-Biz Programme also supports the local enterprises to adopt IT solutions for the “work-from-home” practice. Categories include online/cloud-based human resources management systems, remote document management, cloud storage and remote access services, virtual team management and communications, and virtual meeting and conference tools. These solutions enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of remote working during the pandemic.

ReportNOW is precisely a mobile solution that can effectively help enterprises to arrange remote working for their staff and thus continue their business and services during the epidemic. As a mobile interchange platform, ReportNOW enables enterprises and their staff to receive and update the latest information of their business as long as one has a mobile device (be it smartphone or tablet) on hand. Once the personal device is connected to the company's database, one can stay connected with the business anytime anywhere. For example, the administrative staff can rely on ReportNOW to continue their clerical duties, while the manager can utilize ReportNOW's dashboard function to access to the key business data, thereby sustaining businesses’ daily operation.