While the government has a HK$9.5 million fund for helping departments and bureaus create mobile apps from 2012 to 2015, it doesn't care if they promote them to targeted users."

At a recent Legco Finance Committee meeting that examined estimates of expenditure of 2014-15, the government revealed the download numbers as well as development and routine maintenance costs of 114 mobile apps and 93 mobile websites as of Mar 31, 2014.

While popular apps like My Observatory--developed and maintained in-house by the Hong Kong Observatory--were downloaded more than 3.8 million times since its rollout in 2010, performance of many others weren't as stellar.

Some of the low numbers

Create Hong Kong's Inspiration Sparks HK app cost HK$360,000 to develop but was downloaded merely 729 times after its launch in Mar 2013.

The Red Tide Information Network--an app by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and launched in Jan 2014--had only 10 downloads but cost HK$ 128,000 yearly to build and maintain.

In addition, the "M" Mark Events app by Home Affairs Bureau recorded just 531 downloads after its rollout in Jan 2013. The app--costing HK$14,400 in annual maintenance--offers general information and past results of major sports events held in Hong Kong.

The lowest number of download belongs to the Restore King Yin Lei app of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD). The app's soft-launch in Dec 2013 brought about eight downloads. King Yin Lei is a declared monument on Hong Kong Island.

Each of the other four King Yin Lei-related apps--also soft-launched at the same time by the LCSD--had no more than 30 downloads each as of end-March.

No marketing support

While the OGCIO offers technical support and training on mobile apps creation to departments and bureaus, there's no help on how to market the apps even when a department has no idea how to go about it.

"There's no benchmark for download numbers nor do we provide marketing best practices," said a government spokesperson. "As each department has its own budget, each of them will decide on how it does apps promotion and for how long it'd continue to support them."

Mok: A waste of money and effort if you don't promote your apps

Lawmaker (IT Constituency) Charles Mok urges the government to do a better job in apps promotion. "People don't really know about the apps though many of them are useful tools," he said. "It's a waste of money and effort making these apps when there's no promotion of them to targeted users."

He advised the government to be creative and consider marketing channels like mobile click-through ads or promotions on social media.