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THE INTERVIEW | DANIEL LAI, HONG KONG GOVERNMENT CIO

F.Y. Teng | Sept. 23, 2013
After an illustrious 45-year career in the private sector, Hong Kong's CIO opted for public service and is now leading the charge for ICT-enabled collaboration across borders and onto the Cloud.

As this government post came up again, I thought about what had been done in my 13 years at MTR and wondered that if I were to stay on for another 13 years at the company what else we would be doing. Also, at the time I had done almost all the recommendations for the China projects, so pretty much we had done what we set out to do, and most of what was left was running another round of system replacements, which would not have been as exciting.

In turn, I looked at the Government CIO position. It was much, much broader and the scale it offered was larger. For instance, at MTR we typically ran about 60 projects concurrently, and in government we are now running concurrently more than 600 projects-so the scale we are dealing with now in government is 10 times that of one of the private sector's most aggressive ICT users.

Then there's the appeal of pursuing a public mission. Public service is something I had been doing for a number of years, and I believed that if I were to put all my energy into it, I could do a good job of helping to steer Hong Kong's ICT.

Also, I asked myself one question: Should I be retiring? No. I think I'm still too energetic and I still want to continue working. So why not use my next few years to do something different, where I can exercise bigger positive impact on the community?

Certainly, that's the biggest reason for my decision to move.

The role is definitely not financially more rewarding, but it's more gratifying to me on a personal level because I get to contribute a lot more from what I know and what I've learnt in my career to Hong Kong society and to the ICT industry here.

For instance, I believe that with my recent experience in the mainland, I can more effectively help foster better cooperation and collaboration between the ICT industries of Hong Kong and the mainland. Another area in which I can be more effective is in driving ICT adoption by small and medium enterprises [SMEs] in Hong Kong, getting them to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the smart use of ICT. By extension that would also help Hong Kong's economic development as a whole.

Have you found your experience and the skills you acquired through the years at HKJC and then MTR particularly useful for your present job?
Yes. For starters, I'm comfortable working with volume and scale. If we're talking about HKJC, there we had a million punters, our customers, people our IT served. At MTR, initially we were serving around 2.8 million passengers a day, but with the KCRC merger in 2007 that's increased to four million. So then I was responsible for ICT systems that were highly elastic and scalable to serve a sizable portion of the mass public. Now with the government, the job is a matter of serving all the seven million citizens of Hong Kong.

 

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