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Sunday, Jul 25, 2021

Smart city Hong Kong out of reach for ‘remote’ village

Smart city Hong Kong out of reach for ‘remote’ village

Two years on, smart city Hong Kong is still out of reach for ‘remote’ Sai Kung village
On December 31, 2018, you published my letter concerning the lack of progress on the Chief Executive’s “Smart City” initiative unveiled in her 2017 policy address, whereby service providers would be paid a government subsidy to provide fibre optic internet to “remote” villages.

Two years later and there has been no change; my village of Hoi Ha, one of the villages specifically mentioned in the plan, still has poor internet service and no mobile phone coverage.

Although the money for the fibre optic initiative was released by the Legislative Council in July 2019, and HKT/PCCW were awarded the contract to provide a fibre optic feed to Hoi Ha and nearby villages last February, there has been no sign of any work starting and my latest request to PCCW on the subject has met with the reply that there is “still no provision plan on your address” (sic).

Meanwhile, discussions on improving the mobile phone service at Hoi Ha have been ongoing for at least 15 years and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and HKT, despite having had several recent meetings concerning my suggestion that the base station be sited within the new Hoi Ha Visitor Centre complex, still cannot agree on a site for a mobile phone base station.

So, here we are in 2021, and Asia’s “World City” has significant centres of population and tourist hotspots, which attract over 100,000 visitors a year, with no mobile phone coverage and limited internet connectivity.

During the ongoing pandemic, many people are trying to work from home and are finding it extremely difficult with such poor communications coverage. Meanwhile, visitor numbers to Hoi Ha have markedly increased and there have been several incidents where tourists getting into trouble or injuring themselves have been unable to summon assistance because of the lack of mobile phone coverage.

The Smart City initiative seems to have been all hot air and the service providers are spending millions of dollars on providing fibre optic and 5G services in city areas while providing nothing for many rural areas. People in the New Territories are, as usual, treated as second-class citizens. Who can provide impetus to get these projects moving – or is there nobody with influence who cares?

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