The new system will also develop what Wong terms as an "e-brain"-a form of artificial intelligence-that will help officers deal with the more straightforward cases. By setting the minimum requirements and criteria for each process, it is hoped that the system can in time learn to process basic applications without human intervention.
For exceptional cases and special circumstances, human involvement will still be required for final decisions. But Wong even has a vision for the system to learn from such exceptional cases which can be added to the central database so that recurring cases of similar nature can be referenced and dealt with in an appropriate manner.
Wong acknowledges that this is hypothetical right now, but he believes that automation of the Immigration Department's processes can extend to the actual final decision-making. The immediate objective is to enable current manual processes to be fully automated so that mistakes and inconsistencies are minimized, noted Wong.
Projects of this magnitude present certain pressures on IT which are rare in the private sector. "We're spending public money," said Wong, "and it's not easy to come by." Typical projects like the Smart ID card, the e-channels and the current work on the new APPLIES system require Wong to justify the planned IT investments to the financial committee at Legco. But before that stage, Wong must also convince his colleagues at Immigration that each project is viable and meets a specific business need.