Hong Kong 2013: privacy issues go public

Computerworld Hong Kong took an in-depth look at the top ten events that shook the local and global IT world in 2013.

NSA whistleblower trusted HK...for awhile

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden rocked the world when he revealed the US government's extensive Internet spying effort. NSA surveillance programs that collected Internet data on US and overseas citizens included Netizens in Hong Kong and China.

Snowden's revelations continue to raise concerns about online privacy and insider threats in the enterprise IT world.

The Snowden saga was a shock to our local IT and political communities as he initially chose to flee to Hong Kong and reveal his first batch of information here. His trust in the local judiciary system didn't last long though. After three weeks he flew to Russia and was later granted asylum there.

PDPO amendment transforms HK businesses practices

Media spotlights shone on data privacy even before Snowden landed Hong Kong, as an amendment to the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO) took effect on April. The amendment required organizations to seek customers' consent and provide opt-out channels before using their data for direct marketing. As a result many local IT executives become the guardians to ensure compliance.

Hong Kong hosts IT Fest, the OpenStack Summit, and APICTA

Many tech experts visited Hong Kong for global and regional tech conferences. The OGCIO hosted the city's first International IT Fest, where more than 25 events took place within two weeks. The OpenStack Foundation also chose the city for its first international summit, bringing more than 3,000 cloud developers to Hong Kong. And the AP ICT Alliance (APICTA) Awards returned to the city for the first time since 2004.

Hong Kong steps up as top tech hub

The city achieved recognition as a breeding ground for tech ventures. It was a pleasant surprise when Hong Kong was named by Forbes as the top tech capital to watch, after Silicon Valley and New York.

The recognition came from its expanding ecosystem to provide co-working space and small funding for startups. Google also announced a partnership with CUHK to create an incubation program to provide mentoring and community support for young local entrepreneurs.

Iconic tech leaders retire

Jack Ma, China's Internet icon and founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, announced plans to step down only a week after the group made major restructuring moves, including plans for an IPO. His successor, Jonathan Lu, is described as a "low-profile leader."

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also called an end to his career after 13 years in the position. The news came a month after the company announced a $900 million write-off for an oversupply of Surface RT tablets.

Other tech leaders announced retirement this year included Juniper Networks' Kevin Johnson and Intel's Paul Otellini.

Microsoft buys Nokia

Microsoft made more headline news this year with its acquisition of Nokia. The company will pay US$7.2 billion to buy the Finnish phone maker as Microsoft seeks to boost its flagging mobile business. For Nokia, the deal represents an admission that it lacks the resources to compete with Samsung and Apple.

Rotten Blackberry--for sale or not-for-sale?

Nokia isn't the only mobile player struggling to stay afloat. Despite releasing new handsets, changing its company name and cutting 40% of its workforce, Blackberry still struggled to turn things around. The company reportedly offered itself to six suitors, but ended up taking a US$1 billion loan from Fairfax. The next step is still unknown.

Massive layoffs from the big boys

A pair of tech giants also contributed to major job cuts within the industry. Big Blue reduced its workforce by cutting 3,000 jobs, including some at IBM China and IBM Brazil. Cisco's belt-tightening announcement in August eliminated some 4,000 jobs, or 5% of its workforce--a move to "rebalance" its business.

Twitter's triumphant IPO

In contrast to Facebook's rocky and disappointing IPO, Twitter had a much more enthusiastic IPO experience. The company ended its first day of trading 75% higher than its IPO price. Though the company has yet to make a profit, analysts noted that its bankers--led by Goldman Sachs--did a good job stoking demand for the social media firm's shares.

Yahoo China says goodbye

Yahoo China went offline in September, ending more than ten years of service within the country. The shutdown was a decision by Alibaba Group--who operated China Yahoo since 2005--to take down all Yahoo-branded services within the country. Last December, Yahoo's music service in China ceased, and Yahoo's email services in China shut down two weeks before the portal closed.

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