Sphere No.48 (Jan 2020)

Timeline 29 OCT 8-17 Nov 26 Nov 2 DEC 6 DEC 10 DEC 13 DEC 18-24 Nov Announcement of HK$1 billion Crunch Time Instant Relief Fund programme Application period for Phase 1 (F&B) (10 days) Application period for Phase 2 (Retail) (7 days) Announcement of final round of computerised random selection of recipients Travel industry and Hawkers receive funding (9 days after applications close) F&B industry receives funding (9 days after applications close) Retail industry receives funding (12 days after applications close) Final round of funding arrives (12 days after final round announcement) Application period for Phase 3 (Travel and Hawkers) (6 days) 26 NOV 1 DEC - Sphere #48 2020 18 Crunch Time Relief for Hong Kong >> Retail therapy Phase 2 saw support flow to the hardest-hit retail industry sectors, in particular 1) clothing, footwear and allied products; 2) electrical goods and other consumer durable goods; 3) books, newspapers, stationery and gifts; 4) Chinese herbs and drugs; and 5) medicine and cosmetics. Retailers received either HK$30,000 or HK$60,000 in support, depending on their contribution to a provident fund for their employees – a show of commitment to employee welfare. Hawkers and travel Some of Hong Kong’s smallest businesses are hawker stalls, often one or two person, family-supported operations in busy public areas. Like bigger restaurants, they have had to close on many days and have suffered from reduced patronage. The travel industry has likewise been hit, with year-on-year visitor numbers dropping 44% in October and a devastating 56% in November – a disaster for travel agents and those who work for them, often on commission. These two sectors were supported in Phase 3. There are over 5,400 licensed hawkers in Hong Kong that were eligible. Small travel agents (with less than 50 employees) could also receive cash grants. To their immense – and material – relief, licensed hawkers and small travel agents received the full grant just nine days after the application period closed. Final four Phase 4 used a computerised random process to award grants to those that had previously applied but had not received funds. At this difficult time, many more had applied than could be accommodated, but this additional help provided another ray of light for many small businesses across the city. Rapid relief through top tech A programme that took months to design, more months to process, weeks to vet applicants and then finally deliver support would have arrived too late for beleaguered SMEs. The Foundation needed sound philosophies and solid technology to move quickly. A principle of “trust more, stress less” was followed to make applications simple and free from excessive delay. Partners followed this axiom to deliver swift results. And those partners were legion. Major multinationals and local companies, including HSBC, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Woo Kwan Lee & Lo, Google Cloud, ESD life , WeLab and Hongkong Post all brought their expertise – and their hearts – to support this project. Artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud technology in particular were used to create a global showcase for demonstrating how smart city technology can dramatically cut processing time. Google Cloud Professional Services integrated Cloud Vision AI into the ESD life -built application Famous folk got behind the Fund by appearing in explanatory videos. A celebrity weatherman, football coach and sand artist all supported the effort. From top to bottom: Mr Leung Wing-mo, former Assistant Director of the Hong Kong Observatory and celebrity weatherman; Ms Chan Yuen Ting, championship professional football coach; and a sand painting by Ms Tse Wai-chi, a famous artist.