Macau | Politics and fear of taking risks hinder technology innovation in Macau – Tech entrepreneur

Macau (MNA) – Macau is “even more conservative than Mainland China” when it comes to introducing Artificial Intelligence (AI), e-commerce and blockchain technology, the president of the Macau Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain Institute, Rocky Chan, told Macau News Agency (MNA) on Thursday during the G2E Asia 2018 Conference.

According to Chan – who is also a partner in Silicon Valley venture capital fund Mind Fund – the use of blockchain ande-commerce technology and applications in Macau always follow the stances of the Chinese government or large business groups.

“For example, when you talk about e-payments, it is either Alipay or WeChat pay. If you are not on one of these teams you cannot develop anything. Do you think China allows it? No. It is a closed door area. Macau just follows China’s direction,” he argued.

The same can be seen in terms of the use of blockchain technology, with Mr. Chan stating that Macau just follows the hard-stance Mainland China has exhibited towards the encrypting technology that powers cryptocurrencies.

“My fund invests heavily in blockchain, especially in the technology part behind the scenes. We believe this technology is here to stay and that the technology behind these cryptocurrencies will be hugely beneficial for mankind; for example, for smart contracts,” he added. “You can significantly reduce the cost and make it transparent with less room for illegal activities.”

However, the links between cryptocurencies and blockchain technology and illegal or unregulated activities have led to a conservative approach by the Chinese government towards their uses, a move that Mr. Chan considers counter-innovative.

“There is no question that there has been illegal behaviour happening through blockchain, such as money smuggling or trafficking. It is definitely a problem but you cannot just stop the whole development. A knife can kill people but you can’t stop people from using knifes to cut fruit or [food for] dinner,” he told MNA.

However, while AI has experienced considerable development in Mainland China, Mr. Chan believes Macau residents and companies take much fewer risks and invest much less in this area.

“In China, AI is going very crazy right now, with the US obviously a leader. Macau has a lot of seminars going on [but] people […] are not doing anything. They are still in the learning phase and waiting to see what will happen. They have the money and the interest but they don’t take the risk to take the initial step,” said Chan.

According to him, there are different reasons for the lack of risk-taking in AI, with Macau players maybe “not familiar with AI” or “not seeing it as urgent.”

Nevertheless, the technology entrepreneur has been surprised by the amount of food delivery companies appearing in the city such as iFood Macau, Food4you and Aomi since he had previously considered the Macau market too small for such products.

“There are restaurants in every street, people can just go down from their building and buy food, but these companies have developed well. People also have higher salaries than in Hong Kong so there is money to spend,” he claimed.

[Edited by Sheyla Zandonai]