Seminar on SDG/ ESG/ Digital Asset “Diversity and Equality on Digital Assets”
Good evening, everyone. Thank you for inviting me to speak at this seminar to share my views on diversity and equality on digital assets.
For sure our world has become digital first. Over the past few years, the pandemic has propelled the use of digital tools in our daily lives, such as Internet banking, online shopping and virtual meetings and seminars like what we are doing now. At the same time, the advancement in technologies has led to the proliferation of digital assets, including cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFT). There are predictions that eventually digital assets like cryptocurrencies will replace traditional currencies. We can spend digital assets on items like clothing and cars at local retailers and trade them like traditional foreign exchange in stock markets.
Digital assets will no doubt play a tremendous and defining role in our future. Notwithstanding the potentials of digital assets and the opportunities arising from digital economy, we can’t help but wonder whether these developments will exacerbate digital inequality in society. At the EOC, we are most concerned whether everyone can have equal access to these new digital tools and information. Indeed, various groups in our society are still left digitally disconnected, either due to lack of infrastructure or digital illiteracy.
People with disabilities, for example, can use assistive technology like a screen reader to access digital content, but websites and relevant digital platforms have to be designed with accessibility in mind, such as providing text descriptions for images and captioning audio tracks.
Unfortunately, a 2018 EOC-funded study conducted by the Hong Kong Blind Union found that, among the 198 surveyed websites of public organisations, listed companies and Legislative Councillors, only 16.7% of the sites met the requirements of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, an international standard on web accessibility established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Hong Kong has a lot of awareness-raising to do in this regard, and the EOC has responded to the challenge by serving as an Independent Advisor for the Web Accessibility Recognition Scheme, which aims to encourage companies and organisations to adopt accessible designs on their digital platforms. We are encouraged to see a growing number of companies and organisations incorporating digital accessibility into their plans and agendas, which are in line with their SDG and ESG ambitions.
In addition to people with disabilities, the elderly and low-income families in Hong Kong may not have equal access to digital resources. According to a report released by the Census and Statistics Department in 2022, only 43% of the elderly aged 65 or above knew how to use a personal computer, and about one-fourth of the families with a monthly household income less than $10,000 did not have internet access at home.
We must recognise that digital inequality is a concerning threat to society. As much as keeping certain groups offline or excluded from society, it will limit or undermine our society’s ability to compete in the digital economy. According to The Global Risks Report 2021 published by the World Economic Forum, infectious diseases, livelihood crises, extreme weather events, cybersecurity threats and digital inequality are the top five most concerning short-term global threats.
To ensure that no one is left behind, it is essential that the Government, the business sector, as well as all community stakeholders work together to bridge the digital divide and provide equal access to digital communications and assets for everyone, regardless of body conditions, age, or financial situation. Such effort should aim to put in place proper policies and programmes that prioritise equality and inclusion in digital innovation. Only by doing so can we build Hong Kong into a truly world-class smart city and a digitally inclusive city.