The Hong Kong SAR government expects to spend HK$626.5 million on IT in 2012-2013, down 4.4% from last year, according to the Budget delivered by Financial Secretary John Tsang on Wednesday--his fifth Budget and the last of the current-term government.

The estimated expenditure includes money to be spent on IT used inside the government (HK$501.2 million); IT infrastructure and standards to be implemented for the SAR; (HK$48.5 million); and initiatives aimed at facilitating the wider use of IT in the business sector and the community, as well as building a digitally inclusive society (HK$76.8 million).

Some of the government IT projects include the implementation of government cloud platform; the deployment of the next generation government Wi-Fi program with enhanced provision of free Wi-Fi service for the public, and the development of mobile apps to facilitate the government's delivery for the public.

Whiling putting Hong Kong's GDP growth forecast at 1-3% and government revenue estimate at HK$390.3 billion, the government announced an estimated expenditure of HK$393.7 billion for 2012-13, up 7% from the revised estimate for 2011-12.

Tech initiatives

According to Tsang, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks will continue to revitalize its three industrial estates. "The government will invite Science Park to explore the feasibility of expanding the Yuen Long Industrial Estate by about 16 hectares," said Tsang. "To meet the needs for long-term development of the high-tech industry, we will continue to identify sites for the sustainable development of Hong Kong Science Park and industrial estates."

Legislative Councilor (IT constituency) Samson Tam agreed with Tsang on the Science Park expansion initiative."We need to take the development of the Science Park into a new fourth phase or build a new digital park--this will help up the edge of the local tech industry by enhancing the infrastructure for technology and innovation."

He added that new facilities can also provide job opportunities for local university graduates and opportunities for people who want to start their tech firms as well as attracting overseas tech companies to Hong Kong.

Facilitate datacenter building

In addition, the government will implement two time-limited measures in 2012-13 to ensure early provision of land for more datacenters to be built in Hong Kong.

According to Tsang, the government will exempt the waiver fees for using certain floors of eligible industrial buildings as datacenters. In addition, where lease modification is required for the development of an industrial lot into a high-tier datacenter, the government will assess the premium based on the use of the site as a high-tier datacenter. Tsang added that the government will announce the implementation details in due course.

While Tam agreed that these measures can speed up the conversion of existing industrial buildings into datacenters, he said these won't help much in promoting datacenter development in Hong Kong.

R&D among SMBs

To support the SMB's R&D, the government proposes to enhance the Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Program (SERAP) under the Innovation and Technology Fund (http://www.itc.gov.hk/en/funding/itf.htm) by increasing the funding ceiling for each project under the SERAP from HK$4 million to HK$6 million. Tsang said the government will also refine the operational details of the program and expand its scope of funding.

To encourage more young people to engage in R&D, Tsang noted that the government will increase the monthly allowance for each participant in the internship program under the ITF by nearly 20%. In the past three years, more than 800 internships were provided under the program, according to government figures.