Following is the full text of the speech by the Director of Information Technology Services, Mr Lau Kam-hung, at the Hong Kong International Computer Conference '99 today (Wednesday):
Mr. Lai, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I'm delighted to be associated with the opening of the Hong Kong International Computer Conference. If my memory serves me well, the Conference has been an annual event since 1978, making it one of the longest running of its kind in the region.
Who would have dreamt, back in 1978, that in the space of 20-odd years, manufacturers would be producing personal computers that would fit into the palm of your hand and perform tasks that were probably unheard of in those days. In fact, just two years earlier, the first commercially available personal computer on the market in the US weighed some 22-and-a-half kilos and was the size of a small filing cabinet.
Now, there's talk of molecular-scale computers of the future which could be billions of times faster than today's most powerful PCs. Although researchers say there is still a long way to go and significant barriers to overcome, they believe they can now see a path beyond the limits of silicon.
While these present challenges and offer the promise of fantastic developments to come, in the more immediate future we are setting our sights firmly on building Hong Kong as a hub for e-commerce --- another revolution of the electronic age.
So, how do we fare in the global development of e-commerce and information technology?
In formulating Hong Kong's "Digital 21" strategy, our primary objective is to make Hong Kong a leading world digital city by enhancing and strengthening our information technology infrastructure and services.
We already have a world-class telecommunications infrastructure; more than 130 Internet service providers; on-line businesses are developing quickly; the number of Internet users has now passed the one million mark; and, in the past year, there has been a 100 per cent increase in the number of Hong Kong people making purchases over the Internet. This impressive growth indicates there is a huge potential market for local and international business to tap and explore.
To further encourage the adoption of electronic commerce, the Government is taking the lead and putting its services on-line under what we call the Electronic Service Delivery (ESD) Scheme. We will provide government services to the public through the Internet and other on-line electronic means, round the clock, and through an open and common information infrastructure.
Not only do we aim to provide more efficient and better quality services to the public through electronic means, we see it as a way of encouraging the community to accept e-commerce as an integral part of their daily lives. And, the open and common information infrastructure we will be developing for the scheme will be available to the private sector for conducting electronic commerce.
The tendering exercise for the Electronic Service Delivery Scheme is nearing completion and we hope to have the first phase up and running towards the end of next year.
Of course, we will be addressing one of the most important concerns in conducting transactions through the Internet - security. We will enhance public confidence in the system by providing a safe and secure environment which ensures the integrity and confidentiality of messages exchanged in electronic transactions. We have also introduced into the Legislative Council a clear legal framework to provide the legislative backing for the conduct of electronic transactions.
These and other related initiatives in the Digital 21 Strategy spearhead our bid to create a favourable environment for electronic commerce to take hold and flourish in Hong Kong.
However, government action alone is not enough. We need the full support and participation of industries and businesses. This Conference will enable us to get together, exchange views and experience, and sharpen our understanding of IT's role in running a business in the Information Age.
I am sure we will all benefit.
End/Wednesday, September 15, 1999