Collaborative Contribution to Hong Kong 2014 Digital 21 Strategy Public Consultation
To prepare for the digitized future, Hong Kong deploys what it calls it’s “Digital 21 Strategy“.
The idea is to draft a periodically updated strategy paper that can provide a blueprint for Hong Kong’s ICT development and set up task forces to ensure it’s implementation.
According to the Hong Kong government, the following is the outcome so far:
We have come a long way since issue of the first Digital 21 Strategy in 1998 setting out the blueprint for ICT development in Hong Kong. In its World Competitiveness Yearbook, the International Institute for Management Development ranked Hong Kong first in technological infrastructure in both 2012 and 2013. Our Internet connection speeds, and our broadband and mobile penetration rates at 85% and 231% are among the highest in the world. Adept use of ICT, among other things, has helped maintain Hong Kong at the global forefront of financial services, logistics and international trade. The Government and the public also benefit from the advanced use of ICT in bringing about enhanced efficiency, greater convenience, customised services and better quality of life.
And to further enhance their strategy, they are now calling for submissions to their “2014 Digital 21 Strategy Public Consultation“.
In response, two members of Hong Kong’s Dim Sum Labs and me got together and drafted a submission raising a few concerns.You can download the full submission here.
Besides general contributions to the clause-connected comments and suggestions, I contributed especially the following paragraph:
Dedicated commitment to Digital Empowerment and the Protection of
Freedom, Privacy and Security.
Especially in the wake of recent revelations of sweeping surveillance efforts by the NSA and other foreign agencies, the Digital Strategy’s emphasis on citizen empowerment needs to be revisited and strengthened in regards to the protection of the freedoms, privacy and security of the governmental, private and public sector.
One promising pathway towards a more free, secure and empowering ICT infrastructure is to divert from the use of proprietary soft- and hardware towards free and open alternatives. By definition, proprietary soft- and hardware always possesses an original “owner”, an (often foreign) entity that holds the sole power over the program’s source code or the hardware’s blueprint – through which it can exercise power over it’s users. As evidenced by the Snowden leaks, many proprietary products come with embedded mechanisms to spy on users, restrict them or censor them. Such software and devices signify the exact opposite of empowerment and endanger the privacy of citizens, the security of the private sector and can create vulnerabilities to the public sector.
Germany’s city of Munich is a prominent example for a successful shift towards free and open software and away from potentially harmful proprietary software. With their LiMux (Linux + Munich) programme the government has already replaced the majority of the proprietary governmental ICT infrastructure with Free and Open alternatives and actively strives towards a fully free and Open city. Munich’s success is not just impressive because it improved freedom, privacy and security but also because by doing so it was able to both save money and significantly reduce user complaints.
As Hong Kong is striving to be a leader and role-model in the digital age, it should seize the opportunity to be on the right side of history and commit to a proactive stand, ensuring the digital well-being of it’s institutions as well as private and public sector. The longer it relies on proprietary soft- and hardware, the more it will be become dependent, vulnerable and fundamentally dis-empowered.
To change this situation we recommend:
- the replacement and phasing out of running proprietary licenses for software in all governmental and administrative sectors
- the replacement and phasing out of proprietary hardware
- the introduction to and use of Free and Open soft- and hardware especially in education
- an increased emphasis on Hong Kong’s empowerment with regards to not just usability but also freedom, privacy and security.