Missing Components of Smart People within the HK Smart City Blueprint 2.0

Using Hong Kong Traffic Injury Collision Database by Street Reset as an Example

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8 min read

Rationale of Writing This Article

"Smart City" is a term used often in governmental policies and pushed into recent agenda of well developed cities, Hong Kong is no exception. However, there is a critical inadequacy in the area of "Smart People" for Hong Kong. Due to recent local civil efforts in making the city a safer place for pedestrians, I would like to use them as an example and address why the Smart People dimension of Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong 2.0 should be extended. First, allow me to go on a tangent and state why the Hong Kong Traffic Injury Collision Database is a great example of smart people in Hong Kong.

Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong 2.0

Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong 2.0 - from Brand Hong Kong Facebook page

Recent Civil Efforts in Creating a Better City

Earlier this week, the Hong Kong Traffic Injury Collision Database was released by a local civil society group named Street Reset and co-developed by Hong Kong Districts Info. The website contains traffic collisions data between 2015 and 2019, with interactive dashboards and pedestrian collision hotzones. According to Street Reset, the aim of the website is to:

  • To alert the public on the current severity of traffic collisions in Hong Kong, with particular dire implications for pedestrians and cyclists,
  • To draw attention to how street design has contributed to the current situation, and what systemic remedies should be made to enhance the safety of vulnerable road users, and
  • To provide journalists, district councillors, and government departments with insights and map-based data evidence to understand this issue.

Several Things Impressed Me on this Project

1 - Great application of Spatial Analysis!

Clustering techniques' usage are often limited to heatmaps without careful thoughts on the rationale and subject of matter. If you calculate a simple heatmap of collision points on the map, you may be able to spot areas with higher brightness but the relationship between collisions are arbitrarily defined (perhaps will elaborate on this in another time).

The hotzone analysis technique was built on top of academic research, it looks to identify continuous road segments that collisions tend to occur in. The output of the analysis are road segments that collisions had repeatedly occured. For detail explanation, refer to Tsoi, Ka Ho Jason (2020) Where are the most dangerous road locations in Hong Kong?

This seems kind of obvious, but I've only gotten to read more on the methodology due to the links and references on their site. There is also an extensive report published this month, I'll be honest and admit that I have not gone through their reports, as I'm more of a spatial analysis nerd than a civil engineering / traffic nerd. They are available in Chinese and and English, if you would be interested.

3 - Clear Map and Dashboard Design

Dashboard

Screenshot of the dashboard page

Often, the dashboard term is abused and the power of interactions is limited. I must point out that the the maps and dashboard on the website successfully provided the big picture of traffic collisions in Hong Kong. The dashboard page provided key figures and clear summary of the number of collisions during the study period. It also allow users to interact through several filters and explore the dataset through several attributes of collisions. Some of the attributes include year, severity, collision type and vehicles involved. The map page allows you to explore the spatial distribution of collisions as well.

Quick Few Words to End the First Section of this Article

Street Reset's efforts clearly show how citizens can consolidate data, understand data, process data, and provide legitimate insights in city related aspects. In the next section, I will elaborate more on the inadequacy in the "Smart People" dimension of the Hong Kong Smart City Blueprint 2.0.

Smart People

image.png

Dimensions of the smart city. Refer to 3: Smart People for Smart Cities: A Behavioral Framework for Personality and Roles: Smarter People, Governance, and Solutions

Smart people is one of the six dimensions of Smart Cities, but the definitions and details (and even the dimensions) are constantly evolving and interpreted differently. I will try and summarize from several articles (links at the bottom of this article).

Lets have a look at keywords used to describe smart people:

Qualitative
  • Affinity to lifelong learning
  • Flexibility
  • Creativity
  • Open-mindedness
  • Participation
Quantitative
  • Access to eduction
  • Social capital or an educated labor force
  • Inclusion and equality
  • Knowledge management or efficient access to information

The Blueprint's Interpretation of Smart People

According to the website of HK Smart City Blueprint, Smart People Initiatives mainly includes funding higher education school programs, encouraging youth into taking STEM courses and funding local entrepreneurs. In doing so, they hope to nuture highly adapting population that can embrace technological changes.

My Interpretation

In principle, I do believe in general direction is correct. Through fundings of sorts can encourage and secure the paths younger generation into tech related jobs. However, kids these days are already so adaptable to new trends, new mobile apps and new internet norms, that I don't think they will ever have problem embracing change in technology.

More importantly, the blueprint is not tapping into one of the key benefits of having smart people: problem solving. Hong Kong has a well developed, well educated and very adaptable population in general, I believe the true direction we should be leading to is:

Improve data literacy and open data management, such that people could come up with, collaborate and build on top of each others work in finding creative solutions.

Inadequacies and Way Forward

That said, the open data accessibility is not high enough in Hong Kong. Often, data already exists, but we could only acquire them through Code on Access to Information. The process is not transparent enough, and we do not know what is or is not available from the beginning. Back in the days I was studying, it is quite difficult to find datasets in Hong Kong. Upon email enquiry, sometimes you would realize the government officials actually do have some sort of data (often incomplete or do not have the attributes you need). The situation has already drastically improved since releasing platforms like data.gov.hk, but I believe there are still plenty of datasets that we do not know exists as public as they were not initially designed to be opened to public. That said, the government should aim to continue providing further datasets to the public, and keep in mind the daily data they work on should be available for the public.

Data literacy is also a crucial area that needs to be improved. A good example of being data literate is having the general public to understand the data source and potential caveats, when statistical terms are used. Next, having people who could read and find insights in data is nice, but they are not the ones who create the datasets. In fact, data in the city may need to keep in mind that the data is to be publicized for public access in future, such that the documentations and data standards will be useful enough for drawing insights.

At the end of the day, the citizens are the ones who live in the city, whereas government policies are made in government buildings. If a citizen, group or corporate spots an issue in the city, they should be able to access open data to retrieve general purpose data to support solving the problem. Through having access to data and being data literate, they can find insights and evidences through various analysis techniques and make suggestions, advise policies or productize the solution. That, is the true potential of smart people.

Going Back to Street Reset

I admire the efforts and work done by Street Reset. They have compiled and studied traffic collision data and found insights in hot zones for traffic collision. Moreover, with the insights, they are now capable of objectively influencing the government policies in street development policies to become safer for pedestrians.

Note that they are not on their own. In fact, the algorithm for hotzone calculation is built on top of knowledge from the local academia, and probably experience from their members' previous works. They also rely on others to co-develop their website. That being said, there is plenty of room for smart people to participate, not only on the search for creative solutions but also policy making.

Final Words

By improving open data accessibility and data literacy of the smart people dimension, I believe we would be setting up our citizens to succeed. This is not limited to entrepreneurs trying to create a new business, but also an opportunity for our citizens to find creative solutions to our city.

I hope that more organizations like Street Reset will emerge, influencing policy changes through the use of city data and logical findings. Lastly, I hope my two cents is interesting to read!


Further Reading

News Article on Street Reset

Hong Kong pedestrians are most at risk from car crashes on Wan Chai Road, advocacy group finds

Smart Cities

3: Smart People for Smart Cities: A Behavioral Framework for Personality and Roles: Smarter People, Governance, and Solutions

Smart Cities - Six Dimensions (A Scholarstical Articles Review)

SMART CITY INDICATORS

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