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Li Ka Shing Foundation leverages Google Cloud AI to handle HK$1 billion relief fund applications

In October, the Li Ka Shing Foundation announced that it would donate HK$1 billion to help Hong Kong’s small-and-medium enterprises to cope with the current economic downturn. Thanks to Google’s Cloud AI, the foundation has almost completed giving out the fund in under than two months.

With the assist from Google, applicants and staff at the foundation have enjoyed a mutually faster process. Applicants were required to submit an image of their business registration certificates, a relevant license, and a recent photo clearly displaying their shop front. After receiving applications, the Google Cloud Vision AI system would automatically detect, extract, and analyse relevant text from the images greatly expediting the process. An optical character reader was also used to enable the information to be automatically filled in with a high degree of accuracy.

“Our collaboration with the Li Ka Shing Foundation builds on Google’s efforts to foster a smarter digital city in Hong Kong. We have been exploring with local corporates and organisations how to innovate using cloud technology and AI,” said Lucy Werner, head of Google Cloud Hong Kong.

After announcing the relief fund in late October, the foundation has already given out HK$900 million to businesses in the food and beverage, retail, and travel industries (as well as several hawkers) in just more than a month.

According to the foundation, 60% of applications were submitted via a mobile device wherein it took only five seconds for Google Cloud Vision AI to process the text in each image. Each application submission could be completed within eight minutes, with the foundation able to process over 43,000 applications within the first three weeks.

“Ordinarily, a technical project like this could take weeks to build but the Google Cloud Professional Services Organisation successfully integrated Cloud Vision AI into the application in just three days. Since the scheme announcement was made on 29 October, the entire application platform was created within 14 days,” said Tony Ma, CEO of ESDLife.

The foundation has collaborated with various major corporations in the implementation of the relief fund, including HSBC, Google Cloud, fintech company WeLab, and ESDLife, the latter of which was responsible for building the application site for the foundation.

Speaking of the cooperation, Laura Cheung, spokesperson of the Li Ka Shing Foundation, commented, “This joint effort with Google Cloud is a perfect example of how technology can greatly benefit both large enterprises and SMEs equally. The application website was designed with great detail and thought, and we’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback from applicants and trade associations about its ease of use. The new platform embraces technology to serve community respectfully.”

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