Smart City

GOVT’S SMART CITY DATA STUDIO TO BE “SUNSETTED” FOR FOCUS ON FINTECH

Data Studio served as a secure bridge between sensitive corporate information and data-hungry app developers

A government-funded project to open up Smart City data is quietly closing its doors to all but fintech applications, Transit Jam has learned, with the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park (HKSTP) Data Studio notifying users it will be “sunsetted” at the end of the financial year.

Launched in 2016, for an undisclosed investment from the government-owned HKSTP, Data Studio aimed to connect corporates with app developers, providing 422 real-time and historical data sets from 62 organisations including Uber, Airport Authority, green minibus companies and Pricerite. Over 1,300 registered developers used the data to develop Smart City solutions.

A HKSTP spokeswoman says the datasets “will be migrated to a new service platform”, and that transport data accounted for 7.5% of the available data sets.

Lawmakers tour the publicly-funded Data Studio in 2017

The government used Data Studio as a sandbox for upcoming Smart City technology – for example, all data from the city’s first Smart Lampposts was available to Data Studio users.

Some Data Studio data was made publicly available through the Hong Kong government’s data.gov.hk portal: app developers can access the number of people queuing for buses at HKSTP in real time, for example, and the locations of shared bikes within the science park.

But most data was available for vetted users only, creating a secure and trusted environment for data sharing and experimentation. Uber, for example, reportedly opened up its real-time transport data for startups to build new applications – a bonus in the city, where Uber’s official data programme, Uber Movement, is not yet available.

However, one former user said a major problem with the Data Studio, at least several years ago when they last used it, was that the majority of the data was from government sources, with very few private or commercial companies braving the open data world.

HKSTP is funded by the government and enjoyed a HK$40 billion funding windfall in 2018 on condition it develop the Lok Ma Chau Loop, the first phase of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park, owned by HKSTP. Revenues for 2020 were $1.2 billion, up from $1 billion in 2019.

Recent government figures showed fewer than 3,000 monthly visitors to the Data Studio web page every month. The centre was open to the public for any data-related innovation projects.

“We look forward to supporting even more projects that generate positive economic and social value through open and big data,” says the HKSTP spokeswoman. Users will be notified of the new platform in due course, she says, while another colleague says the team has “a new and more exciting plan ahead.”

A website pop-up informed visitors the Data Studio would be “sunsetted” on 31 March 2021.

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