Hong Kong rural leaders seek tech help to improve villagers’ living conditions

Yau, convenor of the ‘smart countryside’ study, said the kuk was earmarking some roads in the New Territories for a pilot scheme to install a smart traffic light system. — SCMP

Hong Kong’s rural leaders want to capitalise on the expansion of fibre optic networks to villages to create a “smart countryside”.

Among their suggestions are smart traffic lights to avoid congestion and reduce accidents, a hill fire detection and monitoring system, and online doctor consultations.

Leaders of the Heung Yee Kuk, a government-recognised body that represents the interests of rural villagers, said they believed the ideas could be put into practice with the completion of a HK$770mil (RM411.25mil) government scheme to subsidise network operators to build fibre-based networks in some 235 remote villages in the New Territories and outlying islands by next year.

“It is not rocket science,” said Dr Yau Wing-kwong, a kuk member and the convenor of the “smart countryside” study. “The technology is already there. The problem now is that fibre optic Internet is not available in many villages. It is not for the local villagers only. It can also benefit holidaymakers going to spend leisure time in the countryside.”

The ideas were recently presented to the Information and Technology Bureau as well as Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Yau also said the kuk was earmarking some roads in the New Territories for a pilot scheme to install a smart traffic light system. Traffic detectors built at opposite ends of a section of road would use video analytics to detect, track and count passing cars and compute vehicle queue lengths for each side. The duration of green signals is adjusted on a real-time basis to reduce overall delays.

Yau also spoke in favour of using information technology to help fight hill fires.

“We can install a thermal remote sensing system to detect and analyse open vegetation fires. The system can work 24 hours a day and seven days a week. It can be linked by the Internet to the local fire station or village office, so firefighters can be alerted without any delay when fires are detected.”

At present, during the hill fire season from October to April, officers from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department are on duty around the clock to detect hill fires in country parks.

According to the Fire Services Department, there were 1,045 hill fire cases in 2018, up from 991 and 537 in 2017 and 2016 respectively.

In December 2004, a major hill fire in Pat Sin Leng Country Park lasted for 34 hours, destroying some 11,000 trees across 105 hectares (260 acres).

Lam announced plans in 2017 to provide the telecommunications infrastructure for the conservation and revitalisation of rural and remote areas.

The Hong Kong government has implemented a HK$770mil (RM411.25mil) subsidy scheme to provide operators with incentives to encourage the extension of fibre-based networks to villages in remote areas.

There are about 700 villages in the New Territories. – South China Morning Post

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