In the name of competitiveness, Hong Kong has announced that it will expand the free wi-fi available at government buildings to 350 public locations around the city, Xinhua reports.
The GovWiFi program now gives free access to wireless Internet at over 30 government buildings and will have put in place around 2,000 hotspots to cover about 350 locations by mid-2009, said Frederick Ma, secretary for commerce and economic development. ...
The program will cover libraries, government offices, job centers, public inquiry centers, sports, cultural and recreation centers, community centers and parks.
Targeted hotspots are a nice consolation prize, as many cities discover that pervasive municipal wi-fi is not going to happen soon--as alluded to most recently by this New York Times editorial. The Times board concludes:
Broadband service is no longer a luxury. It has become a basic part of the infrastructure of education and democracy. EarthLink should fulfill the commitments it made. Even in these tough economic times, cities should keep pushing municipal Wi-Fi and looking for partners and plans that can make it a reality.
Broadband isn't quite the immediate goal in China, where basic internet literacy and computer ownership has a long way to come. The country has more than 200 million internet users, but by comparison, it has somewhere in the range of 200-300 million migrant laborers, most of whom have little or no access to the web for lack of money. As nice is it would be for them to be able to call home using Skype or write e-mail to family, the internet is serving a different population here.