Executive Council member Fanny Law said in a recent interview with Cable TV that the re-proposed ITB (Innovation and Technology Bureau) should merge with the existing ITC (Innovation and Technology Commission) and replace it to reduce the number of new hires.

"In the future, a permanent secretary--instead of an innovation and technology commissioner--will lead the ITB and manage all the R&D centers and other organizations under the existing ITC," she noted.

But the new bureau shouldn't take over 'anything related to communications and broadcasting', according to Law. "I wonder if the bureau's chief will have time for innovation and technology when he or she has to deal with politicized issues such as TV licenses and RTHK," she said.

While understanding Law's concern about 'politicized broadcasting issues', Legco member (IT Constituency) Charles Mok said the communications sector--now regulated by the Communications Authority--is an integral part of the ICT industry. "The more ideal situation is to have the Communications Authority eventually incorporated into the ITB," he said.

R&D and industry development are equally important

In addition, Mok pointed out that the ITB must see both R&D and industry development as equal priorities. "I assume the new bureau will also have the OGCIO incorporated," he said. "While OGCIO's priority is more about industry and market development, ITC's is R&D. The new bureau must not skew towards either priority."

Of late, a representative from China's Ministry of Science and Technology said he's delighted with the ITB proposal. "The ITB will help drive tech R&D--now only 0.74% of Hong Kong's GDP--and benefit the SAR's economy," said Cao Guoying, the vice director general of the Department of Basic Research at the ministry.

Under the 12th Fifth-Year Plan, Hong Kong R&D professionals and educational institutions have already participated in some important national R&D projects in China, he added.

While Mok welcomes Cao's support, he said Hong Kong has different needs and challenges and thus must seek its own path when it comes to long-term technology R&D.

Gaining support from the public

He doesn't comment on whether 'Cao's support' will further fuel a filibuster that People Power's Chan Wai Yip said he's likely to stage so he can delay the ITB discussion in Legco.

"The most important for us from the IT sector is to educate and convince the Hong Kong public that the ITB will not only benefit the sector but also the entire Hong Kong," Mok said.