Following is a speech by Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting, Mrs Carrie Yau, at the IBM Asia Pacific e-Government Executive Seminar today (August 30):
Mr Tai, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here today to speak at the Asia Pacific e-Government Executive Seminar organised by IBM. We are now in the year 2000, the start of the new millenium, during which the world is changing at ultra-speed due to the rapid development of information technology. The Information Age has already started and will continue to revolutionise the process of information exchange and the way individuals, businesses and the government interact with each other. It is shaping the way on how we communicate with each other, organise our daily activities and transact businesses.
The HKSAR Government has been at the forefront in the adoption of information technology. In the Digital 21 Strategy formulated in 1998, we have set out our vision to make Hong Kong a regional Internet hub in Asia-Pacific Region and a leading digital city in the globally connected world. One integral part to the implementation of the Strategy is the adoption of initiatives to strategically develop an electronic government, to proactively adopt electronic commerce in public service delivery and to set a leading example for the private sector to follow in the adoption of information technology.
The theme of today's seminar is e-government. What do we mean by e-government? Do we have a common idea of what e-government means? What agenda have we got under our e-government initiatives? In the UK, people talk about modernising government. In America, they have reinvented government. No matter what it is called, the core features of e-government are the same - applying information and communications technologies to change the way government operates to deliver better government services to the community. Under this broad umbrella, our e-government agenda in Hong Kong has three policy objectives.
The first policy objective is to develop an electronic and paperless government so as to improve the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and quality of public service delivery. These involve Government putting more transactions on-line, including inter-departmental and intra-departmental transactions and transactions available to the public. In this regard, the Government has made a lot of progress, both in introducing government-wide computerisation projects and in launching a number of major information technology projects to enhance the delivery of service to the public.
In terms of government-wide projects, numerous programmes have been carried out and will continue to be pursued by various Government departments. These include strengthening Government information infrastructure, equipping our offices with computers and supporting facilities, use of Internet and Intranet technologies, adoption of proper software asset management practices and establishing a secure electronic environment for departments to communicate confidential information internally. These projects enhance the Government internal information technology infrastructure to support the wider adoption of electronic transactions.
We will launch the Electronic Service Delivery (ESD) scheme very soon, which is our flagship Government-to-Citizen (G2C) and Government-to-Business (G2B) web site. Through the open and common information infrastructure of ESD, the public will be able to acquire a wide range of services through the Internet and public information kiosks, twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. Services from various Government departments and public agencies will be available, including submission of tax return, bill payment, renewal of driving and vehicle licences, application of business registration for sole proprietors, etc. Through ESD, we aim to improve the efficiency and quality of public services, and at the same time, reduce the cost of delivery of such services. The ESD system will have well-established system security and reliability features to ensure that electronic transactions can be conducted in a secure manner, and the user interface will be designed in a simple and easy-to-use manner.
Besides, the Government has also launched a number of pilot e-government projects in the past two years. Prominent examples include the Interactive Government Services Directory (IGSD), which is an Internet portal site enabling the public to obtain public information electronically over the Internet in an interactive manner, e.g. information on employment service, road traffic information and investment guide. The IGSD has become one of the most popular Government web sites in Hong Kong. The Community Map on the Internet, developed by the Lands Department and two business partners and launched in November 1999, provides useful mapping information to the community and tourists through the Internet free of charge.
These projects and initiatives enable us to conduct more transactions through electronic means which will increase the efficiency and improve the quality of the relevant business processes. With the Government taking a leading role in conducting businesses through electronic means, we will set a good model for the private sector to follow. This brings me to the second objective.
The second policy objective of the e-government agenda is to promote the wider adoption of e-commerce with Government setting a leading example. In January this year, we enacted the Electronic Transactions Ordinance which gives electronic records and digital signatures the same legal status as that of their paper-based counterparts and established a voluntary recognition scheme for certification authorities operating in Hong Kong. Under this legislative framework, the Hongkong Post has established a certification authority to provide authentication services for the conduct of secure electronic transactions. With this legislative and physical infrastructure in place, the Government has taken the lead in accepting submissions in electronic form under the bulk of the statutory provisions in the laws of Hong Kong starting from April 2000. The public can now make various submissions to Government under laws through electronic means. These include the submission of tax returns, application for holdover of provisional tax, making of proposals and objections against rates and Government rent assessment by ratepayers and rentpayers and notification of change of correspondence address. To facilitate electronic submissions, the Government is also converting some commonly-used public forms into the electronic format so that they can be completed electronically, signed digitally and submitted to the Government via the Internet. The adoption of an open and common standard for converting public forms into the electronic format will facilitate and encourage the public to submit information electronically to the Government. Moreover, through this project, the Government will set a common standard for adoption by the business sector in Hong Kong, particularly the small and medium-sized enterprises to facilitate information exchange on the Internet for the conduct of electronic commerce.
The Government also sets a leading example for the private sector in the area of electronic procurement. Implementing electronic procurement is crucial. It would improve efficiency and bring down costs in the government procurement process. More importantly, it helps pull small to medium-sized enterprises into the electronic commerce world.
We have taken a significant step in implementing electronic procurement through the Electronic Tendering System (ETS) which has been brought into operation since April this year for non-works tenders with value below HK$10 million. Being one of the first government electronic procurement systems in the world, the ETS allows suppliers from all over the world to receive notification of tenders, submit tender offers and receive notification of contract award through the Internet. Not only that it achieves savings in time and cost in the issue and despatch of tender documents and submission of tenders, it also significantly extend the reach of tender invitations and will bring information about intended purchases to new suppliers from all over the world through the Internet. More importantly, it drives the wider adoption of electronic commerce by our suppliers which are mainly small to medium-sized enterprises. So far, over 260 suppliers have already registered with the ETS and over 330 tenders of estimated total value over HK$470 million have already been issued through ETS since its launch. Our plan is to extend the coverage of the ETS to other procurement activities within Government, and to conduct other stages of the procurement process by electronic means as well.
The third policy objective of developing e-government is to, through the e-government programme, integrate service delivery across multiple departments and agencies. An e-government approach will identify ways of breaking down bureaucracies between departments and providing customer-oriented services to the public. We expect to see a new culture of collaboration where departments will work together to provide the most convenient services to the public. The conventional compartmentalised way of service provision on departmental basis will be reformed. In a way, the ESD project is spearheading such a change. The mission of my bureau in the coming months is to change some of the culture and existing practices within departments. This involves replacing a department-centric approach by a more customer-oriented one-stop-shop approach. The public will be able to, for example, change the records of correspondence address being held in various departments at one go, without the need to notifying various departments individually.
Last but not least, I want to make it clear that e-government is more than just standalone computerisation or information technology projects. At its heart is the next generation approach to managing government and to developing a new culture of public service delivery. Departments should get prepared for the process re-engineering that e-government brings about. This is important. With the advance in the use of IT, the public will look upon us for the delivery of much better quality and a lot more efficient services in the Information Age. We have to meet this aspiration of the community.
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope that I have outlined to you the importance of e-government to building up a new form of government and as part of our overall strategy to the promotion of electronic commerce in Hong Kong. I would like to take the opportunity to appeal to you for supporting our departments in the implementation of various e-government initiatives and in developing the HKSAR Government into a world-class and leading electronic government.
END/Wednesday, August 30, 2000