Making its grand return to Hong Kong after four years, Asia’s flagship innovation and technology event, the Digital Economy Summit (DES) 2023 took place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) on April 13-14, 2023.
The two-day summit was jointly organised by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Cyberport, and took place in a hybrid format physically at the HKCEC as well as virtually.
Over 100 international speakers gathered to share their specialised input into innovations and technologies that are shaping a smarter city future, along with insights into the advancements that will kickstart the next evolution of the digital economy.
With Cyberport as a Hong Kong SAR Government-owned digital technology hub and entrepreneurship incubator, it comes as little surprise that many leaders in business, academia and government were at DES 2023 to explore the role of technology to boost economic growth and to supercharge the building of futureproofed digital societies.
Innovation and technology at DES 2023
“DES 2023 creates a platform for leading thinkers and decision makers from government, business, and academia to come together and explore the exciting possibilities the future may hold,” said Simon Chan, Chairman of Cyberport.
With a theme of ‘Emerging with Resilience: Fostering a Smarter Future’, the opening ceremony was officiated by the Hon. John KC Lee, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR, accompanied by Shumin Cao, Deputy Director of the Cyberspace Administration of China; Dong Chen, Deputy Minister of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong SAR; and Professor Sun Dong, Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry of the HKSAR Government.
“Our country’s key strategies of the National 14th Five-Year Plan and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development support Hong Kong’s development into an international innovation and technology (I&T) centre,”
said Mr John Lee in his opening remarks.
“To echo the theme of today’s Summit, we must embrace the sweeping changes brought about by the digital revolution, in order to emerge stronger than ever in a smarter future.”
“On this journey of transformation, I&T is one of the key driving forces. The wider adoption of I&T could revitalise traditional industries, spawn new businesses, foster a diversified economy and create quality employment opportunities in Hong Kong,”
said Professor Sun Dong in agreement.
“This term of Government has accorded high priority to I&T development with promoting digital economy development and developing Hong Kong into a smart city as one of the key directions.”
Sustainable societies and smart cities
A key highlight of the first day of DES 2023 was the various sessions focused around constructing more sustainable societies alongside more competitive businesses, held at the newly expanded forums. Global sectoral experts spoke at the highly anticipated Visionary Forum around the theme “Re-create Future Sustainable Societies”.
The application of tech to further the development of the digital economy was a major focus in afternoon sessions at DES 2023. The Chambers Forum, supported by six major chambers of commerce including the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong and Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce discussed how the speed of tech innovation was reinventing business models and customer behaviours, and how embracing it was integral for businesses to maintain a competitive advantage despite economic challenges.
At the same time, the Smart City Forum organised by Smart City Consortium laid the groundwork to expand on the role of information and communication technologies (ICT) and the internet in growing Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area, in particular, when it came to smart city opportunities.
High-level representatives from tech giants including Microsoft, Panasonic, SenseTime, Tencent Cloud and Dmall took to the stage at the forums to share their expertise and know-how.
At the Digital Government Symposium, Symposium Industry Partner Huawei shed light on the trend of digitising government and public services, with particular emphasis on Huawei’s efforts for the Hong Kong SAR Government.
Web3 in the spotlight
Day two of DES 2023 featured four impactful specialist forums – the Fintech Forum, Beyond Web3 Forum, Smart Mobility Forum and New Industrialisation Forum. Acknowledging Hong Kong’s position as a forerunner in the Web3 and virtual assets space, developments in these areas and how they are transforming the digital economy were of particular note.
Keynote sessions emphasised on building out the data economy, virtual asset and stablecoin regulatory frameworks, ESG and a streamlined digital financial infrastructure. Dr Feng Xiao, Vice Chairman and Executive Director of China Wanxiang Blockchain Inc, gave a keynote on how Web3 will enable a new model of economy.
An industry dialogue moderated by OneInfinity by OneDegree Co-Founder Alvin Kwock and featuring HashKey Capital CEO Chao Deng, Chairman of Global Fintech Institute and Singapore University of Social Sciences Professor Dr David Lee, Chainlink Labs Chief Ecosystem Growth Officer Adelyn Zhou, and Blocktracer’s Fintech Consultant Hanjin Tan, discussed their perspectives on building a sustainable and comprehensive Web3 ecosystem.
“First and foremost, governments can develop supportive policies such as tax incentives, funding support, and strengthened legal protection to attract more businesses and individuals to participate in the Web3 ecosystem,”
commented Chainlink Labs’ Adelyn Zhou.
“Next, governments can foster talent by promoting Web3-related education and training. They can also clarify regulation towards Web3 technology that safeguard the rights of users and investors, reduce technical and security risks, and enhance social trust and acceptance of Web3 technology.”
“I am a firm believer in Asia as a hub for digital assets. NFTs are just the tip of the iceberg,”
added Blocktracer’s Hanjin Tan.
“Blockchain tech is surely a pillar in the future of internet development. Especially for builders, blockchain startups are not for the fainthearted.”
And Cyberport’s Head of Fintech, Victor Yim, moderated a panel discussion on the various aspects of workforce challenges facing the Web3 industry since the Policy Statement on Development of Virtual Assets in Hong Kong was released last year.
“I think talents will find their way where there are opportunities, and hence a vibrant fintech ecosystem in Hong Kong will be key to attract fintech talents, Web3 inclusive, to the city,”
said Professor Chun Kwong Chan, Programme Director of Fintech Division at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“Our view is that fundamental technical skills training is critical, so university curriculum and research in computer science, and system engineering will need to be continually upgraded to lead the development in Web3, and hence to nurture local talents.”
Not to be outdone, the New Industrialisation Forum and the Smart Mobility Forum narrowed down on how industry could boost digital economy development, and explore smart city connectivity powered by high-performance 5G mobile communication tech, respectively.
Alongside these informative specialist forums, an experience zone featuring game-changing innovations from Cyberport’s ecosystem of startups and partners were on display. In accordance with the directives of the Hong Kong I&T Development Blueprint, many of the applications revolved around the digital economy, smart city, smart mobility, and emerging smart living and smart retail solutions.
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