Concepts such as “open data” and “smart city” have been so frequently mentioned that they almost become clichés in themselves, without many actual actions and returns. After publishing the framework for the banking industry to open their APIs on 18 July, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority released yesterday the first 50 batches of financial data and important information, making a big step for Hong Kong towards open data.

API (application programme interface) enables transmission of data and instruction between devices, databases and applications, simplifying processes and thus enhancing user experience. Taking finance as an example, when APIs from banks and financial institutions can be used by a third party to develop an independent app, allowing users to review their accounts across different banks and even purchase banking products via one single platform, similar to travel websites collecting information from different travel agents for the consumer to make their selection.

According to HKMA’s framework, the opening of API from the banking industry will involve 4 stages, depending on data sensitivity and risk. The first stage involves product and service information, while the second stage allows clients to apply for the products. At the later two stages, users will be able to read and amend personal particulars, and eventually to purchase financial products.

While the idea of open data has been discussed for many years, the first step has finally been made. Even though it is more or less delayed compared to western countries, it is never too late for the city. The application of API is in fact wider than imagined: in addition to financial services, it can also be used to aspects closely related to daily life such as real-time traffic situation on the road and vacancies of parking lots, or as a tool of monitoring the government given that related data such as governmental expenses is made openly available. If Hong Kong is to become a smart city, open data is something that must be done; experience derived from this first step by the banking industry must be absorbed and reflected by the government in order to structure wider planning.

Image source: Unsplash