Information Technology changes by the minute, and only people who have a steadfast passion and innovation can excel in the profession.
For the first time in the history of Hong Kong's IT industry, the Hong Kong Computer Society is launching the HKCS Outstanding IT Achiever Awards 2008 to reward and recognise the contributions of Hong Kong IT professionals.
"Without passion, it's difficult to keep pace with fast-moving technology and knowledge," says P C Ching, pro-vice-chancellor and professor of electronic engineering of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
A member of the HKCS Outstanding IT Achiever Awards judging panel, Professor Ching considers the competition not only a platform to acknowledge the significant contributions of prominent IT professionals but also a stimulus to motivate and lure newcomers.
"Although IT is a relatively new industry in Hong Kong, it's an indispensable part of the city's economy and thereby deserves social recognition," he adds. "Hong Kong is a small market but its dynamic nature helps to expedite the development of IT industry which benefits the society as a whole."
Home and away
While market demand can serve as an engine to drive sustainable IT development, innovation also plays a core role.
"Hong Kong is never short of IT talent. The Octopus card is one of the most successful stories that demonstrates the innovation and flexibility of local IT professionals," Professor Ching notes. "While the technology itself isn't innovative, its applications are remarkably far-reaching."
Initially developed as a payment method for public transport, the card has since grown into a convenient payment system that can be used at many retail and service outlets.
The size of the Hong Kong market does however mean some limitations for technology development. Using the digital broadcast system as an example, Professor Ching points out that the relatively small local market impedes the formulation of an international standard and as a result, the mainland standard has to be borrowed.
"Conversely, the mainland market is so huge that it encourages a wide range of IT applications which are absent in Hong Kong. For instance, their mobile phones are generally used as payment platforms. The mainland's large volume of SMS transmission has created immense business opportunities," he says.
In light of this, Professor Ching suggests an integration of local IT innovation and vision with the mainland's market demands. "Currently, the majority of local IT companies are only taking advantage of the mainland's low cost for manufacturing purposes. In order to penetrate further into the mainland market they must think big and build their own brands."
He believes branded products tapping into a niche market can stand out from the keen competition in the IT field both locally and internationally.
"For example, they can explore the business opportunities of distance learning via the internet in China, especially for remote areas," he asserts, noting that only markets requiring higher level of technological integration can avoid direct competition.
"Local IT elites are not being marginalised," Professor Ching emphasises. "Their innovative ideas and extensive experience in the international markets can definitely help their mainland partners to open the door to the outside world."
Local professionals' sound knowledge of international law is another merit that can help bridge the gap between mainland partners and the global market.
He adds, "The Chinese interface for most IT applications alone is a big market. Foreign companies can't easily work on such projects."
Professor Ching reveals that his judging criteria for the HKCS Outstanding IT Achiever Awards 2008 are based heavily on the candidate's contributions to the industry and Hong Kong society.
"Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are both creative and knowledgeable in the sense that they've revolutionised the global IT industry. Although local professionals are not as high profile, some of them have by and large exhibited their innovative competence and have been influencing the community," he notes.
Professor Ching believes the IT industry has a positive business outlook. "Mobile technology has fast become an everyday necessity. Newcomers in the IT field may not receive a huge pay packet to start with but the job satisfaction lies in the ever-changing technology and the unlimited market potential," he concludes.