Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Industry, Mr CHAU Tak Hay, at the First Regional E-Commerce Convention in Hong Kong today (July 6) (English only):
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In my capacity as both the Chairman of Tradelink and the Secretary for Commerce and Industry of the Hong Kong Government, I have the pleasure to welcome participants from different parts of Asia to this Convention.
The Internet and electronic commerce have revolutionised the way business is transacted. They are changing rapidly the way firms compete, deal with their business partners, and deliver products and services to customers. They are also spawning new industries for information and knowledge-based intangible products. The potential market that e-commerce can generate is enormous and is growing at tremendous speed.
I quote some remarkable figures to illustrate this. The number of Internet users worldwide already exceeded 100 million in 1999. This number is expected to triple by the end of this year. The number of websites doubles every two months. Internet traffic doubles every 100 days.
These figures clearly tell us that the stakes are high for doing nothing to capture the opportunities offered by the Internet. Those businesses that do not operate online will be at a severe disadvantage.
We in Hong Kong fully recognise the importance of e-commerce. We also recognise the need to move quickly. Hong Kong's businessmen, true to their world famous dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit, are rising to the challenge. They are exploring new ways to use the Internet to create new products and services, to extend their networks and clientele, to streamline supply chains, and to increase efficiency and productivity.
On the part of the Hong Kong Government, we are committed to providing the most favourable environment for the development of e-commerce. We have already laid a solid legal foundation for electronic transactions. We have enacted the Electronic Transactions Ordinance to give electronic records and digital signatures the same legal status as that of their paper-based counterparts. We have established the essential public key infrastructure which is supported by local certification authorities. These measures provide the much needed security and reliability for electronic transactions.
Hong Kong is also served by an excellent infrastructure. We have had the world's first fully digital telecommunications network since 1995. All commercial buildings and over 80 per cent of domestic households are accessible to broadband services. Our external connectivity is among the highest in Asia, and is set to increase ten-fold over the next three years.
Trade by electronic means will still require movement of goods on the ground. Thanks to our excellent physical facilities and sophisticated operators, Hong Kong is the world's busiest international air cargo hub as well as container port. Our traditional strengths in transportation and logistics enable our firms to deliver products and services to all corners of the world in a timely manner.
To induce the Hong Kong business community to conduct transactions electronically, the Hong Kong Government requires the submission of statutory trade declarations and textile export licence applications by electronic means. To practise what we preach, we are launching an Electronic Service Delivery Scheme to provide a wide range of government services online to the community, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
I am sure that our overseas guests will agree with us on the exciting prospect of e-commerce. The Convention today provides a valuable opportunity for experts and practitioners to share their views and vision on the development of e-commerce in Asia.
I wish you a fruitful discussion today. To our overseas guests, I also wish you a pleasant stay in Hong Kong.
End/Thursday, July 6, 2000