Following is a speech (English only) by the Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting, Mr K C Kwong,at Finnish IT and Telecommunications Seminar:
Mr Heinonen, ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to be invited to speak at the opening of the "Seminar on Finnish Information Technology and Telecommunications" today. It is very encouraging to see so many reputable Finnish companies participating in the Seminar to share their views and experience on the topics of the day in IT and telecommunications, including particularly mobile computing and Internet security.
The convergence of IT and telecommunications is reshaping the world as we know it. The hurdles created by geographical distances and time zone differences in the past are being removed and we can now explore business opportunities wherever and whenever they arise in any part of the world. Electronic business conducted over the Internet will be the norm in the future and we must confront this mega-trend with vision and skill and set right strategies to maximise the opportunities and minimise the threats.
Like most other economies, Hong Kong fully recognises that e-business will be the engine of growth in the new millennium. And Government has a key role to play in providing a favourable environment to facilitate e-business, and to help it to grow and flourish. I would like to outline some of the initiatives we are implementing in Hong Kong to achieve this.
First, we note that a primary reason people have not taken up electronic commerce over the Internet as enthusiastically as they have taken up browsing is the concern over security of such electronic transactions. To resolve this, we will provide a safe and secure environment for the conduct of electronic commerce in Hong Kong through a local public key infrastructure supported by properly registered certification authorities. With the use of digital signatures and public/private key mechanism, we will be able to establish the identity of the parties to an electronic transaction, authenticate the electronic messages transmitted, guarantee the integrity and confidentiality of the messages exchanged and ensure that the transactions made with these messages cannot be repudiated.
Second, the HKSAR Government is taking the lead in electronic business by providing public services on-line under our Electronic Service Delivery Scheme. Under the scheme, we will provide Government services to the public over the Internet and through other electronic means via an open and common information platform. The services will be provided in a citizen-centric and seamless manner, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Third, we are establishing a proper legal framework to provide certainty for electronic transactions. We have recently enacted the Electronic Transactions Ordinance. The Ordinance gives electronic records and digital signatures used in electronic transactions the same legal status as that of their paper-based counterparts. It also establishes a framework which will promote and facilitate the establishment and operation of certification authorities in Hong Kong.
I am confident that with all these initiatives, we shall see the wider adoption of e-business in Hong Kong. Indeed, Industry estimates suggest that the total value of products and services transacted over the Internet in Hong Kong will increase from US$60 million in 1998 to US$2.4 billion by 2003. These statistics and forecast indicate that Hong Kong is poised to ride the electronic commerce wave.
Of course, the potential market in the Mainland of China is going to be even more impressive. The number of Internet users in the Mainland has doubled, from about 2 million in 1998 to some 4 million in 1999. If this growth continues, China will have the second largest Internet population in the world in a few years time. And industry experts have forecast that electronic commerce turnover in the Mainland will leap from a minuscule US$8.1 million in 1998 to US$3.8 billion by 2003. And this forecast was made before the successful conclusion of the negotiations between the US and China on China's accession to the World Trade Organisation last November. The potential for electronic commerce to develop in the Mainland of China is thus enormous. With the increasingly close ties between the Mainland and Hong Kong, and the affinity on the basis of a common language and culture between the two places, businesses in Hong Kong are uniquely well placed to capitalise on the opportunities in the Mainland by taking advantage of the development of electronic commerce there.
I am confident that you will find excellent and rewarding opportunities for doing business, either by yourselves or in partnership, in Hong Kong. And of course, you should also consider using Hong Kong as a bridge to the enormous market in the Mainland of China. We look forward to partnering with you to jointly exploit the opportunities in the Information Age.
I am very pleased to inform you that this afternoon, Minister Heinonen and I will sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Information Technology and Telecommunications. I am confident that cooperation under the MOU will help our businesses to better exploit the IT and telecommunications opportunities in both Finland and Hong Kong in the years to come.
Friday, January 14, 2000