Both Tsang and Four Directions’ Rick Woo believe the government could be doing more to help their industry. But Tsang believes what the government does offer is either not widely known or is under-utilised.
“The government doesn’t give a lot of resources, but they are there. What’s interesting is that people don’t apply for funding as they think the amount available is too little. So in the end, it’s really easy to get it if you apply.”
As for Madhead, its office is located in the Hong Kong Science Park, where it has been exempted from paying rent for the first two years. With a sweetener from the government and an efficient, low-cost platform for selling his products, Tsang’s greatest concern is the difficulty in recruiting expertise in the field.
Unlike in Taiwan, there are no undergraduate degrees on games programming in Hong Kong. Universities may offer courses in programming, but not majors. Only the Institute of Vocational Education (IVE) provides such programmes.
Tsang adds Hong Kong lacks successful role models and flagship companies in inno-tech, and therefore few people join the industry.
“In the US, many university buildings are named after Bill Gates and HP. In Taiwan, many teenagers dream of becoming entrepreneurs whereas in Hong Kong, you can only think of property tycoons Lee Ka-shing and Lee Shau-kee. People do not dream of venturing into this field.”
To help remedy the situation, the representative for the Information and Technology functional constituency in the Legislative Council, Charles Mok has proposed the setting up of a Technology and Communications Bureau, on top of the existing Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) and the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC).
“The setting up of this bureau would not only enhance the image of the inno-tech industry, but it could specifically develop the industry, from nurturing talents to marketing and investment,” he says.
Currently, the ITC is just a subsidiary branch under the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB). Mok says the limited resources offered by the CEDB makes designing and executing industry policies very difficult.
Without the status and authority of a bureau, these existing bodies are in a weak position to negotiate terms with other bureaus, like the Education Bureau, for cooperation in carrying out policies favourable to the inno-tech sector.
But while Mok believes the government should be playing a more active role in promoting and supporting the industry, financial analyst and former executive director of UBS, Stephen Wong Yuen-shan, says the government should not bear the responsibility.
“It is quite silly to ask the government, a bureaucratic setup, to innovate,” says Wong, adding that unlike the Singapore government, the Hong Kong government should not interfere with the market since it has little experience in directing market resources.