Automation fast-track

In 1995, the Immigration Department packed 89 million visitors and residents across the various checkpoints into and out of Hong Kong. By 2005 that figure had more than doubled: to 191 million.

During that time the number of staff has remained relatively constant: 6,000-strong compared to 5,900 in 1995. The rapid rise in productivity and service delivery capability is mainly due to the contribution of technology, said Raymond Wong, assistant director, Information Systems, Immigration Department, Government of the HKSAR.

According to Wong, the first information systems strategy began in 1995 and did much to establish an effective IT support structure which has enabled the department to cope with the increased traffic. The department has in the last two years embarked on its second major strategy to help further automate existing processes.

Five-stage plan

This second strategy comprises of five key stages, some of which have already been implemented. The first stage is the Smart ID card project which is being rolled out across the territory. The second: new control point systems and general IT infrastructure upgrades. The third phase involves e-channels at all checkpoints. These include the recently installed automated passenger channel (APC) that utilizes built-in biometrics in the Smart ID card. Automated vehicle processing is also being deployed at mainland checkpoints.

The next phase according to Wong is an ambitious redevelopment of the department's core mission-critical system-the applications and investigations e-system (APPLIES). This is expected to begin implementation at the end of this year and will replace the existing processing system.