HQ Profile: Bridging the gap between technology and society

Asia Pacific Association of Technology and Society (APATAS)
7th Jul, 2017

Founded in early 2013 to promote dialogue between social scientists, IT practitioners and technologists, APATAS is a budding professional membership association based in Hong Kong with close to 100 members, including criminologists, sociologists, law professors, IT practitioners, biotech scientists, civil servants and even students from Australia, Hong Kong, North America and Western Europe. Dr. Laurie Lau, the founding chairperson and an expert on cybercrime risk and security, explains why it’s important to bridge the gap between technology and society.

Dr Laurie LauHow different is APATAS compared to other similar organisations in the region?

One unique feature about APATAS is that it provides a rare platform for both social scientists and technologists to mingle and exchange the latest research ideas. More importantly, APATAS is more agile than most of other similar organisations in the region, because these associations are normally based in publicly funded universities so their organisational structures generally are orthodox and very rigid in their approach, whereas APATAS does not carry the burden of traditions or legacy so we would be more open to embrace the latest ideas.

Why is it important to bring together technologists and social scientists?

In the past, these two disciplines only crossed each other’s path and neither group met or socialised at the same venue; there is a clear and pronounced division between these two specialisations. However, as modern technology is now permanently impacting on our society with far and wide consequences, it gave APATAS a fantastic chance to achieve our aim by bringing multiple disciplines together under one roof, in doing so we can gather more knowledge on technology and society while at the same time opening up new opportunities for collaboration.   

It seems that the relationship between technology and society is now more important than ever with the rise of social media, widespread use of smartphones, and development of AI and automation.  How does APATAS address this complex interplay between the two?

I completely agree with what you said. What is also very clear that almost every day we are seeing newer technologies introduced into the commercial market and impacting the society. APATAS is playing an important role in the region from expert-expert and expert-public perspectives. As expert-expert, we bring together these experts so they can meet and share their ideas. At the expert-public level, we also serve as a neutral platform for these experts to question, debate and identify the pros and cons of technology’s impact in a society and hence we can give a clearer and better informed perspectives to the public. As a result, these two perspectives are interconnected with each other.

How has APATAS evolved over the years?

In recent years, we saw a significant shift and ever-evolving landscape in terms of how we are relaying our core message not just to our member community, but to the society-at-large, we are now more proactively using the social media channels than ever before, which are evolving fast.

What is your biggest event?

Our biggest event is our annual International Conference on Cybercrime and Computer Forensics (ICCCF) conference, with about 160-300 attendees, depending on where the conference is held, because from my experience that the turnout has everything to do with location, location and location.

Looking back, what makes you proud during your time at APATAS?

As a Hong Kong-based association, I am proud that we could step outside Hong Kong to organise all our activities. More importantly we won the trust of our Western counterparts to collaborate with us, which is sometimes not that easy for many Asian-based associations.

How do you see association meetings in general?

Speaking as a qualified professional, I’d like to add that at the moment almost all convention bureaus are likely to look at association meetings as a ‘tourism spin-off’ and a source of revenue, but the truth is that association meetings are more than just a source of revenue, but is a major contributor for global economic, academic and professional development that feeds into governmental policy objectives, such as inward investment, talent attraction, knowledge transfer and innovation or creation. Therefore, I urge convention bureaus around the world to change their traditional thinking on association meetings and realise the breadth of these impacts on their own policy priorities.

Any plans in the pipeline?

Our longer-term plans include publishing our own journal and providing professional training on cyber risk and security. In term of expansion of our membership base, we would like to reach into regions in the Middle East, Africa and South America.


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