Residents will be able to book inoculations and receive Covid-19 test results, register to vote, renew car licences, and pay taxes and utility bills on a new digital platform set to launch on Wednesday under the latest government initiative to turn Hong Kong into a smart city.
The one-stop-shop iAM Smart platform, which cost HK$60 million (US$7.7 million), will allow Hongkongers to freely use a single digital identity and authentication to conduct government and commercial transactions online, automatically fill in personal details on electronic forms and handle statutory documents and procedures.
Learning a lesson from its underused “Leave Home Safe” coronavirus risk exposure app, Secretary for Innovation and Technology Bureau Alfred Sit Wing-hang said on Tuesday the government would focus on marketing iAM Smart.
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“We aim to cover as many government services as possible and connect the private sector as widely as possible for the new app,” he said of iAM Smart.
The app, which needs to be linked to smartphones with biometric functions, is one of 130 initiatives mapped out in Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s smart city blueprint 2.0 during her policy address in November.
The new app replaces an electronic identity scheme which received a poor reception and was criticised as being clumsy.
It will be available for download on Wednesday, with 20 types of public services such as renewing car licences, and paying taxes, government rates, gas and electricity bills, available immediately. By the middle of next year, its reach will be extended to 110 types of public services.
In January, the app would become an option for Hongkongers to book Covid-19 jabs and record their vaccination progress, Sit said.
“As each person needs to receive two jabs over a period of time and requires a system to carefully record details, this app will be able to handle this,” he said.
Permanent residents would be allowed to register as voters via the app, but there was no function yet to cast a vote, he said.
Victor Lam Wai-kiu, the government’s chief information officer, said 180 companies, mostly financial institutions were undergoing tests on the app.
“Some bigger banks are interested in offering services such as opening accounts via the app together with some virtual banks,” he said, adding that some of them would join the platform in the first half of next year.
The IT industry widely welcomed the app. Mark Webb-Johnson, chief technology officer of cybersecurity service provider Network Box, was among them.
“It sounds good, and an improvement over the personal digital cert scheme, which is cumbersome and has very limited deployment,” he said. “But the devil is in the details. We need to know how the app will work, and how smooth and easy things like provisioning and replacement, in the event of a lost, damaged, replaced, phone will be.”
Francis Fong Po-kiu, honorary president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said iAM Smart represented convenience and would unify different government apps.