Following is a speech by the Secretary for Trade and Industry, Mr CHAU Tak Hay, at the Gala Dinner in Celebration of the Launch of the 10th Anniversary of the Hong Kong Article Numbering Association today (Friday) :
Mr Taylor, Professor Cheng, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be here this evening to celebrate the launch of the Technology Centre for Electronic Commerce Standardisation and the 10th Anniversary of the Hong Kong Article Numbering Association, the HKANA.
We have witnessed in the past few years very rapid growth in the use of information technology. In particular, the growth of the Internet has been phenomenal. Once a tool reserved for scientific and academic exchange, the Internet has now become an integral part of our daily life. The number of users of the Internet worldwide now exceeds 100 million and is expected to increase to 320 million by the end of the year 2 000. Besides, the number of websites doubles every two months. The Asian-Pacific region is forecast to be the fastest growing area in the world in Internet usage. All this has immense relevance to all of us.
As one of the leading business centres in the world, Hong Kong must ensure that we keep pace with developments in information technology. Electronic commerce, or e-commerce, is a key to our continued competitiveness. It enables our firms to find ways to be more responsive to changing market trends and to conduct business activities more efficiently and more cost-effectively. Consumers can search and order products on-line, exchange product information and negotiate with sellers for lower prices and better quality. Through e-commerce, firms can gain a better understanding of the needs and requirements of customers and provide tailor-made products and services for them. This new form of doing business will transform international trade and become the foundation of our future commercial world.
Hong Kong is well-placed to reap the full benefit that e-commerce will bring. Our telecommunications infrastructure is world-class. Our people accept and adapt new ideas and technologies readily. With its high flexibility and cost-effectiveness, e-commerce will be a particularly suitable means to enhance the businesses of small and medium-sized enterprises, which constitute the bulk of Hong Kong companies.
The Government fully recognises that it has an important role to play in promoting e-commerce in Hong Kong. We have done so through a wide range of measures and initiatives. We have taken the lead in introducing the electronic submission of trade documents. We are also committed to introducing the Electronic Service Delivery Scheme. The Scheme will establish an information infrastructure with an open common interface, through which the public can transact business with the Government electronically, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We believe that the Scheme will act as a catalyst for the development of e-commerce in Hong Kong.
Besides, the Government is committed to providing a sound legal framework to foster electronic transactions in Hong Kong. An Electronic Transactions Bill is now going through our legislature. In addition, we will establish certification authorities to enhance the security and reliability of electronic transactions over open networks. And we keep pace with world developments in the field of e-commerce through our active participation in international fora such as the World Trade Organisation and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
At the end of the day, however, the bulk of commercial activity takes place in the private sector. It is therefore vital that the further development of e-commerce has the strong support of the private sector. I am pleased to see this evening a concrete example of the effort of the private sector in contributing to the promotion of e-commerce.
Over the past decade, the Hong Kong Article Numbering Association has played an important role in strengthening the competitiveness of Hong Kong's business through its effort in promoting and implementing article numbering, bar coding, electronic trading and supply chain management.
I am pleased to see that the Association is now joining hands with the University of Hong Kong to establish the Hong Kong Technology Centre for Electronic Commerce Standardisation. I understand that the Centre will aim at facilitating the development of an e-commerce infrastructure for Hong Kong through the promotion and development of standards-based enabling technologies. It will also seek to enhance the training and education of expertise for the development of e-commerce.
With the experience and know-how of both the HKANA and the University of Hong Kong, I am confident that the Centre will play a valuable role in accelerating the development of Hong Kong in the era of e-commerce.
I would like to congratulate the HKANA on its achievements over the past decade. I would also like to congratulate the Association and the University of Hong Kong on the establishment of the Technology Centre for Electronic Commerce Standardisation. I wish the Association and the Centre every success in all their future endeavours.
End/Friday, October 29, 1999