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Now and then: a Hong Kong tech guru's view

Sheila Lam (Computerworld HK) | Feb. 19, 2014
Interview with Hong Kong IT veteran Stephen Lau

CWHK: You were recently presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by APICTA--the second person to receive this award after APICTA's founder and former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Tell us about your history with APICTA.
SL: APICTA stands for Asia Pacific ICT Award or Alliance. This annual event aims to provide an opportunity for benchmarking ICT products, innovators and entrepreneurs across the region.

I heard about this at a speaking engagement in Malaysia and suggested that the Hong Kong Computer Society (HKCS) participate by nominating winners from the IT Excellence Award--the only local IT-related award program back then--to participate.

Hong Kong hosted APICTA for the first time in 2004 and I was the chief judge. In 2007 I was elected president of APICTA and held the position for two terms.

The role that I enjoy the most is helping local entries prepare for the APICTA presentation. HKCS assigns two mentors in each category to help entrants with their presentations. Every year I set up a presentation workshop and spend two days advising.

CWHK: Why do you think it's important for Hong Kong organizations to participate in APICTA?
SL: APICTA is considered "the Oscars" of the regional IT industry. Like Hong Kong's entries, all APICTA participants are winners of their respective local ICT-related Awards. It's a gathering place for elite regional products and innovators.

The judging criteria at APICTA are strict. In each category, there's only one winner—along with one or two Merits. Achieving Merits is not an easy task, as the entry needs to score at least 95% to be considered.

Besides showcasing products and innovations to the judges, APICTA also presents business opportunities—the Trade Development Council sponsors the Hong Kong Reception every year during APICTA. This allows our entrants to showcase their products to other participants and potential customers.

Hong Kong has done extremely well in the past three years by winning the largest number of awards. I hope we will continue to excel as our IT industry matures.

CWHK: What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the local IT industry?
SL: The major problem we are now facing is the lack of talent. Our pool of IT talent has shrunk in the past 15 years. The burst of the dotcom bubble discouraged many talented students from pursuing IT careers.

Many at the HKCS, including myself, meet with potential students at the universities to promote IT careers, hoping to revive interest. The popularity of various gadgets during the past few years has started to turn things around and now we see more talented students deciding to pursue a career in IT.

Hong Kong's strength has always been our service industry. Our achievements at APICTA also demonstrate our high standards for [business] applications. Though we are very small geographically, Hong Kong is a melting pot for entrepreneurs from all over the world. The only thing we are missing is a globally recognized tech venture. Some successful tech ventures, like Outblaze, were acquired before they had a chance to grow and build their own brands globally.


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