Following is the full text of the speech delivered by the Director of Information Technology Services, Mr Lau Kam-hung, at the opening ceremony of an application service provider conference today (July 24):
Mr Chan, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning! I am honoured to have the opportunity to speak at this "Application Service Provider Asia Conference".
Advances in information technology (IT) have brought about huge changes in the way we live, communicate, and do business. Inevitably, the way that the IT solutions are delivered has also been affected. Conventionally, the major options of application systems development and implementation are either done through in-house or contract-out services with the host computers housed within the enterprises. Nowadays, we are talking about application service providers (ASP). By applying the ASP model, owners of the enterprises do not need to worry about many of the nitty-gritty of IT, e.g. hardware, software, networking, etc., especially when such technologies are developing at a fast pace. With this approach, the enterprises, especially the small and medium enterprises, can focus their attention to their core businesses.
By leveraging on IT, e-commerce has become a key tool in enhancing the competitiveness of the enterprises and the economy as a whole. The most important challenge we are now facing is how to grasp the opportunities offered by e-commerce.
The Government of the HKSAR fully recognises the importance of e-commerce as a major engine to drive our economic growth and is committed to providing an environment for electronic commerce to flourish in Hong Kong.
E-commerce needs to run over telecommunication networks. A high quality and high capacity telecommunications infrastructure is a pre-requisite. We are proud to say that our telecommunications infrastructure is amongst the best in the world. To maintain our pre-eminent position, we encourage competition and innovation under an open, fair and predictable regulatory framework. And our telecommunications market is now characterised by easily accessible, efficient and innovative services at affordable prices.
Internet security is always a concern for those who adopt e-commerce. In addition to an excellent telecommunications infrastructure, it is equally important to have a sound legal framework to instill trust in conducting electronic transactions and to protect the interests of individuals and enterprises. To this end, we have enacted the Electronic Transactions Ordinance earlier this year to provide the necessary legal framework.
The Ordinance gives electronic records and digital signatures the same legal status as that of their paper-based counterparts, and provide a framework for the operation of certification authorities (CAs) which enable the large scale deployment of public key infrastructure (PKI) technology that in turn facilitates e-commerce development. PKI enables us to authenticate the identities of the parties involved, to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of the messages exchanged, and to make sure that the transactions cannot be repudiated.
The Government does not intend to impose a ceiling on the number of certification authorities to be set up in Hong Kong, but will leave this entirely to market forces. Instead of a mandatory licensing requirement, a voluntary system of recognition has been established whereby CAs are free to apply for recognition from the Government. The Director of Information Technology Services is empowered under the Ordinance to be the authority for granting recognition to the CAs by taking into account the capability of the CAs in complying with the relevant provisions of the Ordinance and the Code of Practice.
To lead by example, the Government will introduce the Electronic Service Delivery (ESD) Scheme by the end of this year. More than 30 types of services will be available on-line. Our ultimate target is to roll out ESD for all government services which are amenable to the electronic mode of delivery.
We believe that ESD will not only improve the public services but also help to familiarise our citizens with and give them confidence in e-commerce. Moreover, the open and common information infrastructure of ESD will serve as an open platform for the private sector to conduct e-commerce at a later stage.
By implementing these initiatives, the Government aims to create a user-friendly and conducive environment for the development of e-commerce to drive our economic growth. However, Government's efforts alone are not enough. Support and participation of the private sector are equally important.
It is encouraging to see that our enterprises have taken initiatives to actively exploit new opportunities in e-commerce in order to maintain their competitiveness. However, lack of resources and expertise in building e-commerce solutions will hinder the enterprises' initiatives. I am pleased to see that the ASP model has emerged as one of the foremost global trends in the delivery of IT application services to help in addressing these issues.
This Conference provides a valuable opportunity for all of us here to exchange ideas and to keep abreast of the latest advances in information technology. I am glad to be with you today and wish you all a fruitful discussion in the Conference.
End/Monday, July 24, 2000