Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam wants her administration to embrace new technologies and to set up a training academy for the city's civil servants to keep up with the times.
On the second day of her two-day visit yesterday, Mrs Lam said she looks forward to more exchanges and collaboration with Singapore, her first overseas destination since taking office last month.
She said Hong Kong's 170,000 civil servants deserve a well- resourced training facility similar to Singapore's Civil Service College.
"I visited the Civil Service College five years ago. The reason why I came again is... to explore in Hong Kong a dedicated civil service academy or college in order to provide more training for our civil servants, especially in several areas such as leadership, public participation and also in terms of the application and use of technology," she told reporters.
Mrs Lam, who has nearly 37 years of experience in the civil service, was chief secretary, the city's No. 2 official, before she became Hong Kong's first female chief executive. Yesterday, she said she hoped the new training college would be set up within her five-year term of office, which is due to end in 2022.
She said the plan is still at "a very preliminary, conceptual stage", and that the Secretary for the Civil Service, Mr Law Chi Kong, will visit Singapore for more discussions.
During her meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday, they exchanged views on civil service training and reform, tertiary and vocational education, and research and development.
Mrs Lam, 60, also visited the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and GovTech Hive, an innovation lab for digital services under the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech).
Singapore and Hong Kong leaders reaffirm close ties between both cities
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam reaffirmed the close relations between Singapore and Hong Kong, and noted that the two cities share many similarities and challenges, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Mr Lee and Mrs Lam discussed deepening Singapore-Hong Kong and Asean-Hong Kong cooperation in wide-ranging areas, including trade and investment, finance, civil aviation, and exploring potential collaboration on the Belt and Road Initiative.
They welcomed the conclusion of the Asean-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement negotiations on Monday, and looked forward to its signing and early implementation.
Mr Lee congratulated Mrs Lam on the 20th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to the mainland this year, and noted that both sides have an interest in the success of "one country, two systems", said the statement.
He hosted a dinner for Mrs Lam at the Istana last night.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean hosted a lunch for her at the Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise in the National University of Singapore's University Town.
Mrs Lam also called on Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong at the Istana yesterday. They discussed ways to enhance cooperation between the two cities, such as in transportation, civil aviation, culture, human resource development and civil service exchanges.
"I have picked these three points of visit because of my own vision for what I want to do back in Hong Kong," she told reporters.
At a briefing session held at GovTech Hive by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, and Education, and Mr Chan Cheow Hoe, deputy chief executive of Gov Tech, Mrs Lam was interested in finding out how data and technology can be used in the provision and delivery of public services, and how institutional inertia towards new technology can be overcome.
She was briefed on new initiatives such as the OneService app, which makes it easier for residents to report town council issues, and the Singapore Civil Defence Force's myResponder app. She said the Hong Kong government had found it hard to overcome difficulties it encountered in using new technologies and data-sharing to come up with solutions that benefit the people.
At a media doorstop afterwards, she made clear she was not criticising her civil service colleagues. But as it would be for "any institution that has been well-established for many years and doing things in the same manner for many years", it is not easy to think out of the box and to try new ways, she said.
"So we do need some sort of disruption... to stimulate my colleagues to really think in a more innovative way," she said. There needs to be "a wider application of technology" if Hong Kong wants to stay competitive and become a smart city, she added.
At the URA, Mrs Lam was briefed on Singapore's developmental plans for the second Central Business District in the Jurong Lake District. She left for Thailand last night.
In a Facebook post on Friday (July 4) morning, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the two leaders had a "good discussion" on co-operation in trade and investment and the Belt and Road Initiative, and also welcomed the free trade agreement between ASEAN and Hong Kong.
He also wrote: "On a lighter note, Mrs Lam recently started her Facebook Page so we got the chance to swap Facebook tips!"