Hong Kong spent millions developing apps few download

Hong Kong government agencies forked out over HK$26 million (US$3.35 million) over 2012 and 2013 building mobile apps that few end up downloading. Another HK$12.9 million will be spent over the next two years.

The Hong Kong government has come under fire for spending millions building mobile apps that few actually end up downloading, with critics saying efforts should have been spent marketing the apps. 

Details revealing the mismatch in investment and returns were released this week, prompting policy makers to point the finger at the government for not monitoring the use of the apps, reported South China Morning Post (SCMP). 

MyObservatory app was one of few star performers, clocking over 3.8 million downloads.

More than HK$26 million (US$3.35 million) was spent over 2012 and 2013 to build the apps, and another HK$12.9 million (US$1.66 million) has been earmarked over the next two years. The worst-performing app, attracting only 10 downloads, was developed under the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department in January to provide red tide information. The app cost HK$128,000 (US$16,502) to develop and maintain for the first year. 

In comparison, stellar performer MyObservatory clocked 3.8 million downloads. The app provides location-based weather information. 

Other dismal performers included the Environment Bureau app that sought feedback on waste charges, which cost HK$65,300 (US$8,418) and registered 42 downloads. The Labour and Welfare Bureau's Social Capital Winner app cost HK$113,625 (US$14,648) and was downloaded 317 times. 

"The biggest problem is that many departments develop apps and forget about them," Charles Mok, a lawmaker in the IT sector, said at a special meeting of the Legislative Council Finance Committee. "It's a waste of effort." He noted that several of the apps provided useful information but few in Hong Kong were aware of their existence due to the lack of marketing or promotional activities.

Mok urged the need for a more coordinated effort to increase awareness of apps built by the various government departments.

The SCMP report also cited People Power's lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen who added: "Some of those apps cost quite a lot to develop. How can we tell if they are cost-effective?"

Mok said Hong Kong's Leisure and Cultural Services Department also built five apps about the King Yin Lei mansion, which was declared a monument in 2011, but each app clocked just 30 downloads since they were launched in December.

The Office of the Government CIO had set aside some HK$9.5 million (US$1.22 million) to support app development efforts undertaken by the public sector over three years through to 2015. 

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