The following is the speech by the Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting, Mr K C Kwong, at the annual dinner of the IT Division of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers today (Monday):
I am honoured to be invited to speak at the Annual Dinner of the IT Division of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers this evening.
First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Division and all your members for their achievements over the past year. Under the able leadership of Mr Chan, you have spearheaded and organised a number of major IT events, including the Asia-Pacific Mobile Communications Symposium 1999 and the Asian IT Exposition 1999. You have also actively participated in the Information Infrastructure Expo held in March this year. These events not only contribute to the continuing development of our IT industry, they also facilitate useful exchanges between local and overseas IT professionals and businessmen. They help to keep Hong Kong abreast of the latest developments and trends in IT, and strengthen our status as a leading IT centre in the region.
Apart from organising those worthwhile activities, you have also worked diligently on the Electronic Transactions Bill which was introduced by Government into the Legislative Council in July 1999. Your useful comments to the Legislative Council Bills Committee will no doubt help to improve the Bill and ensure that we have a truly user friendly ordinance which encourages and facilitates the conduct of electronic business. We look forward to passage of the Bill by our legislature early in the new year.
Whilst on the subject of IT, one cannot avoid talking about the most prominent development in the Information Age, namely the Internet. The rapid development of the Internet is the result of the rapid development and convergence of IT, telecommunications and content. Technology convergence is making it possible for new media types and applications to be developed and transmitted over the Internet at high speed. This generated an increasing appetite for more and better content and applications, which in turn spur further technological development to enable this appetite to be fulfilled efficiently and effectively. As a result, the Internet has grown from a relatively small base of about 3 million users in 1994 to more than 150 million users world-wide. Also, the business sector is finding increasing opportunities for exploiting the Internet to improve productivity and save costs, to enter into new markets and to reach out to their customers more effectively.
A complementary development is the emergence of multi-purpose Internet-enabled devices. This has been made possible by the rapid increase in computing power at practically no increase in real costs, and advances in digitisation and miniaturisation technology. Thus, we no longer have to rely on PCs in order to make use of the Internet. It will not be idle dreaming to think that before too long your refrigerators can talk to the supermarket via the Internet to order replenishments of food items and drinks.
To take full advantage of all these developments, we need to have people who know how to use IT. I am glad to say that our higher educational institutions are rising to the challenge. They are currently producing more than 4,000 graduates in IT-related disciplines at degree and sub-degree level annually. And they have taken the initiative to collaborate with industry to ensure that the IT education and training they provide will be relevant to industry's need. For example -
* The University of Hong Kong has set up the world's first authorised Java Campus;
* The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology has recently become an Authorised Training Partner with Microsoft.
Moreover, new courses have been launched focusing on IT or e-commerce, like the Master of Science Programmes of the University of Hong Kong on e-commerce and Internet computing. These courses have been well received as evidenced by the keen competition for the limited spaces available. I also understand that the Law Faculty of the University of Hong Kong will soon launch Bachelor and Master programmes in information technology law.
I am also glad to see that our universities are engaging in industry relevant research and development. For example -
* The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has developed systems on automated visual inspection for the manufacturing industries. This seeks to replace human visual inspection which is subject to error or fatigue. Under the project, a variety of reconfigurable visual inspection stations would be made available to manufacturing companies for carrying out feasibility study and quality check on their parts and products; and
* The University of Hong Kong has researched into the design and implementation of a strong cryptographic infrastructure for electronic commerce, which has led to the development of strong cryptographic software locally. The Hongkong Post which will serve as a public certification authority will make use of this software in support of the digital certificates which it would issue for the conduct of secure electronic transactions.
In the face of rapid technological advances, formal education alone is not adequate in ensuring that our professionals remain competent to meet our needs. The professional practitioners must constantly update themselves on the latest development and trends. This is particularly relevant in the case of IT. For example, the Internet, which is making such a widespread impact to every industry in the world today, was only used by a small group of scientists in the 1980s. And programming language taught in our universities 5 or ten years ago may be rarely used today. To cope with these rapid advancements, IT engineers must engage in life-long learning to continuously update and upgrade their skills and knowledge. This is where professional bodies like the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers can help by providing continuous professional training to your members. I am glad to see the Institution taking the lead by providing training opportunities, such as the Linux Fora, the Internet Workshops and the seminar on Striving Quality Excellence in IT. I would encourage the Institution to continue and expand your efforts in this important mission and I would strongly encourage your Members to take full advantage of such training opportunities.
To make Hong Kong a leader in the globally connected world of tomorrow, Government, industry and educational and professional bodies must join hands and work together in developing our human capital. I look to you all, IT engineers, to help Hong Kong rise to new heights in the knowledge-based economy of the next millennium.
End/Monday, December 13, 1999