Following is the speech by the Secretary for Trade and Industry, Mr CHAU Tak Hay, at the Opening Ceremony of the Centre for the Advancement of E-Commerce Technologies today (Thursday) :
Professor Li, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be here this morning to say a few words at the opening ceremony for the Chinese University of Hong Kong's Centre for the Advancement of E-Commerce Technologies.
The past few years have seen a very rapid growth in the use of information technology. In particular, the growth of the Internet has been phenomenal. Over a short period of time, the Internet has evolved from a means of scientific and academic exchange to an indispensable tool in our daily life. The number of users of the Internet worldwide now exceeds 100 million and is expected to triple by the end of the year 2000. Besides, the number of websites doubles every two months and Internet traffic doubles every 100 days. 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, we in Hong Kong must ensure that we keep pace with developments in information technology. 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. The potential market that e-commerce can generate in cyberspace is enormous. There is little doubt that this new form of doing business will become a powerful engine for future economic growth. It is therefore imperative that we grasp the opportunities brought by e-commerce quickly or else we will lose out.
Fortunately, Hong Kong is well placed to reap the benefits that e-commerce will bring. Our telecommunications infrastructure is world-class. Our people accept and adapt to 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 the important role that it can play in encouraging the use and development of e-commerce in Hong Kong. We are committed to providing a favourable environment for e-commerce to thrive and flourish in Hong Kong. A good example is the Government's Electronic Service Delivery Scheme, which will be introduced in the near future. The Scheme will establish an information infrastructure with an open and common interface, through which the public can transact business with the Government electronically, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Besides, the common information infrastructure to be developed for the Scheme will be made available to businesses for the conduct of e-commerce in the private sector. Our aim is not only to provide more efficient and better quality services to the community, but also to encourage the community to accept e-commerce as an integral part of our daily life. We believe that the Scheme will act as a catalyst for the development of e-commerce in Hong Kong.
We also recognize the importance of a sound legal framework for the adoption of electronic transactions in Hong Kong. An Electronic Transactions Bill is now going through our legislature. This Bill seeks to give electronic records and digital signatures the same legal status as that of their paper-based counterparts. In addition, the Bill will facilitate and promote the establishment and operation of certification authorities in Hong Kong. This will go a long way towards enhancing the security and reliability of electronic transactions over open networks.
Obviously, Government action alone is not enough. We need the full support and participation of the community to further promote the development of e-commerce. The Centre that we are opening today is an excellent example of how the private sector and academia can work together.
The information technology research group of the Faculty of Engineering of the Chinese University of Hong Kong has established itself as one of the leading IT teams in the region. I am pleased to see that the Faculty is now joining hands with major players in the IT industry to set up the Centre for the Advancement of E-Commerce Technologies. The Centre will promote the development and application of new technologies to provide enterprise solutions for e-commerce. It will also provide consulting services as well as training programmes and workshops on e-commerce. This new venture is a fine example of university-industry collaboration in the promotion and development of e-commerce in Hong Kong.
I would like to congratulate the Chinese University of Hong Kong and its sponsors on the establishment of the Centre for the Advancement of E-Commerce Technologies. With your expertise and experience, I am confident that you will play a valuable role in accelerating the development of e-commerce in Hong Kong. I wish the Centre every success in its future endeavours.
End/Thursday, November 4, 1999