The following is the speech by the Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting, Mrs Carrie Yau, at the business luncheon hosted by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and the Hong Kong Economic Trade Office (Brussels) in Dublin, Ireland, today (August 1) :
Mr Miley, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
I am delighted to be invited to speak at this luncheon, organized by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. Before my visit to Dublin, my two deputies had the chance to meet with Mr Miley in Hong Kong and exchanged views on the development of IT in Ireland and Hong Kong. Hong Kong is one of the best places to do business and invest. Today, I would like to share with you our strengths and the latest progress of IT development in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's Strengths
One of our greatest strengths in promoting the development of the Internet, e-commerce and telecommunications is undoubtedly our first-class business environment. It is no good having an advanced economy without a business-friendly environment. Hong Kong has been consistently rated the world's freest economy. We have no controls on capitals flows into or out of Hong Kong, we have a freely convertible and stable currency, low taxes, no foreign investment controls, no tariffs, no trade barriers and no customs duties except for alcohol, tobacco, perfumes and petroleum products. The rule of law is rigorously upheld by an independent judiciary and we have a clean, corruption-free administration.
Hong Kong is a pluralistic, tolerant society. We have a hard-working, entrepreneurial workforce, many of whom are bilingual. We have a deep pool of professionals in key sectors such as law and accounting, logistics and transport, management and corporate services. We have long and close ties with the Mainland of China. We have well-regulated financial markets and Asia's best regulated banking sector. All of these add-value factors make Hong Kong a great place - we believe the best place - to do business in Asia.
IT Development in the HKSAR
To build on our existing strengths and sustain our IT development, the HKSAR Government set up the Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau, i.e. my Bureau, in April 1998 to formulate and co-ordinate policies on IT, broadcasting, telecommunications, and film. And we launched the "Digital 21" IT strategy in November 1998 to provide a framework for IT development in Hong Kong.
The "Digital 21" IT strategy has identified four enabling factors for developing IT in the HKSAR, and has, based on these enabling factors, set out our initiatives and work schedule for the years ahead. The four enabling factors are -
(1) developing a high capacity telecommunications infrastructure;
(2) establishing an information infrastructure with an open, common interface for secure electronic transactions;
(3) empowering our people with know-how to use IT ; and
(4) cultivating an environment that stimulates creativity and welcomes advances in the use of IT.
As we all know, a fully digitised, efficient and high capacity telecommunications infrastructure is a pre-requisite for the development of IT as it enables information, including multi-media content, to travel expeditiously, without interruption. On this front, we are proud to say that our telecommunications system was already fully digitised as early as 1995, which laid a concrete foundation for our IT development. Today, our telecommunications infrastructure is amongst the best and most advanced in the world. All commercial premises and nearly 90% of our households are covered by broadband connections. Our external capacity, 44 Gbps at present, is amongst the top in Asia, and will further increase by ten-fold in the next three years. This first class infrastructure is complimented by our policy to further liberalize the telecommunications market, focusing on free competition and providing a level playing field to encourage investment. As a result, our telecommunications market is now characterized by efficient and innovative services with competitive prices.
Moreover, we encourage and welcome the introduction of new IT and telecommunications services into the HKSAR. We are advanced users of technology. We are currently conducting public consultation on 3G mobile communication licencing, and are planning to issue licences by end of this year.
To foster the development of electronic commerce, the HKSAR Government is committed to providing a favourable environment for promoting the wider adoption of electronic commerce in the community. A pre-requisite is to instill public confidence in the security of electronic transactions. Our Hongkong Post has already set up a certification authority to offer certification services via a local public key infrastructure. Supported by the operation of certification authorities and with the use of digital certificates, we can address the issues of authentication, integrity, confidentiality and non-repudiation in electronic transactions.
In order to provide a secure and clear legal framework for electronic commerce, we have enacted the Electronic Transactions Ordinance early this year. The Ordinance is largely based on the United Nation's Commission on International Trade Law-Model Law on Electronic Commerce. It gives electronic records and digital signatures the same legal status as that of their paper-based counterparts. The HKSAR Government has also taken the lead in accepting submissions in the electronic form under the bulk of the statutory provisions in the laws of the HKSAR after the enactment of the Ordinance.
To encourage the use of IT, the Government will also take the lead and implement the Electronic Service Delivery (ESD) scheme in October this year. The ESD will provide an open and common information infrastructure for the public to obtain Government services on-line. A wide range of services will be covered which include submitting tax return, paying Government bills, renewing driving and vehicle licences, and registering as a voter, etc. Through the Internet and other access means like public information kiosks installed at convenient public locations, the community can obtain Government services 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The ESD scheme will also serve as a catalyst to pump-prime the electronic commerce development in the private sector, through allowing commercial services to be provided via the same information infrastructure electronically.
We have also been actively investing in major infrastructural projects, and the Cyberport is a notable example. By building the Cyberport, we will provide a world class working and living environment so as to attract to, and retain in, Hong Kong a strategic cluster of IT companies and a critical mass of IT professionals. The Cyberport is a comprehensive development which comprises a mix of offices, residential, commercial and recreational facilities, supported by state of the art telecommunications and information infrastructure and a wide range of high-tech facilities such as multimedia laboratory and cyber library, etc. The Cyberport is not just an ideal place for multinational corporations to locate their regional business centres, but also a "niche" for promising local companies to set up their operations. Situated within a pleasantly landscaped campus-like environment, the Cyberport will act as a focal point for the like-minded companies and professionals to exchange ideas, expertise and unleash creative synergy. The Cyberport will develop itself into an international IT centre famous for creative and innovative IT applications.
Cyberport is our IT flagship project and is proceeding quickly. The building works are in progress and the Cyberport will be completed in three phases between 2001 and 2003. To date, 15 leading IT companies have signed letters of intent to become anchor tenants, such as Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Yahoo! Hewlett-Packard, etc. Another 140 companies, local and overseas, have also registered interest to become tenants. I also encourage interested Irish IT companies to discuss with us so as to put up their presence among these world-leading IT players in this state of the art infrastructure.
IT Education and Manpower
On IT education and manpower training, the HKSAR Government has formulated a comprehensive policy to ensure a stable supply of quality manpower to sustain the development of our IT industry. On basic education, we have launched a five-year strategy on "Information Technology for Learning in a New Era". In simple terms, we will use IT to turn our schools into dynamic and innovative learning institutions to develop the capabilities of our students to process information effectively and efficiently. We will also foster their attitude and abilities in life-long learning, so that they will eventually be able and willing to use IT to meet the challenges in their studies and in their future work.
Manpower training is no doubt a critical factor for the development of an IT society. We have at present nearly 20,000 (or 25%) full-time degree-level students studying in IT-related field. On top of that, our vocational training institute also offers around 17,000 sub-degree level IT places to provide the necessary IT manpower. There are also retraining programmes to provide basic IT courses to school leavers and the unemployed.
In addition to local supply, we also welcome very much IT professionals from overseas. The HKSAR's long-standing policy of encouraging overseas professionals, complimented by its excellent business environment, has prompted many IT companies to set up offices in the HKSAR and bring in relevant professionals. We expect that our major infrastructural projects, such as the Cyberport, will also attract overseas professionals, including those from the Mainland of China, to contribute to the local IT industry and develop our indigenous talents.
IT in the Community
Indeed, IT has become an indispensable element in the daily lives of Hong Kong's people. Over one-third, or 2.5 million of our population, are Internet users. Internet traffic doubled from 5.3 billion minutes in 1998 to 11 billion minutes in 1999. To promote the wider use of IT, the HKSAR Government has implemented a wide range of measures, which include the provision of computers, Internet and electronic mail services at community halls, post offices and libraries for use by the public free of charge. This substantially increases the opportunities for the public to learn and experience how IT could benefit them in their daily lives.
Hong Kong - Ireland Partnership
I would now like to turn to how Hong Kong and Ireland can partner together to capture the market niche and sustain our development so that both of us can prosper in the IT world.
As e-commerce will continue to be the focus of the new economy, demands for essential software such as those for customer relationship management, supply chain management, enterprise resource planning and so on are bound to be huge. I understand that the software industry in Ireland, particularly Dublin, which is the home for many reputable Irish IT corporations, is firmly established and plays an important role in the European market. The industries in both places can partner together to develop and market these intellectual products. Besides, the Mainland of China will soon enter into the WTO and this will open up yet another, perhaps the most promising, market in the coming decade for Irish IT industry. Hong Kong, being the Mainland's traditional springboard for foreign investors, will therefore further become an indispensable partner for Ireland, and indeed for all other places in the world. There are certainly more windows for business collaborations between Ireland and Hong Kong in the IT field. I trust that the Chamber and its members will be able to explore the enormous opportunities.
To conclude, ladies and gentlemen, the entrepreneurs of the HKSAR are renowned for their flexibility, responsiveness and experience in co-operating with foreign partners. With the rapid development of IT in the Asia Pacific Region, in particular that in the Mainland of China, we are taking active initiatives to maintain our competitiveness and to exploit new opportunities in the electronic commerce market. The Government of the HKSAR is also fully committed to providing a conducive environment and the necessary infrastructure for our enterprises to thrive. We will also continue to upkeep our basic fundamentals and our success formula by maintaining the rule of law, a level playing field, a clean and efficient government and the free flow of information. I believe that our partnership in IT development will not only help us reap the business opportunities in the information world, but also help improve the quality of living of the global community.
I wish you every success. Thank you.
End/Tuesday, August 1, 2000