Following is the full text of speech delivered by the Acting Director of Information Technology Services, Mr Cheng Yan-chee, at a conference on e-government today (November 14):
Professor Young, distinguished speakers, ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be able to speak at the E-Government Conference organised by the School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPACE) of the University of Hong Kong. The SPACE has a notable mission in promoting life-long learning in the community for the pursuit of professional excellence and quality of life. Life-long learning is an important building block of a knowledge-based economy.
The theme of today's conference is "e-government". In this Information Age, we may add an "e" to the beginning of almost every noun in the dictionary. We can already find a handful of examples just by glimpsing through the conference brochure. They include e-government, e-commerce, e-business, e-action, e-service, e-procurement, e-transformation, and even e-police! I shall touch on some of them in a moment but shall leave it to other speakers to elaborate on the meaning of all these newly invented words.
Today, I would like to share with you the various initiatives of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) in developing an e-government strategically, adopting e-commerce in public service delivery proactively, and setting a leading example for the private sector to follow in the adoption of information technology (IT).
It would not be possible to talk about "e" topics without mentioning the Internet. The Internet has a profound effect on all of us. We can now communicate with our business partners, families, friends, and colleagues over long distances more easily at lower costs.
It also has a real great impact on our economy. According to a recent industry research, the value of global Business-to-Business e-commerce, under the catalytic effect of the Internet, would reach US$7.3 trillion by 2004. Dr Andrew Grove, Chairman of Intel, said that in five years' time, there won't be any "Internet companies", because companies will all be Internet companies.
What about e-government? According to Gartner Group, "e-government is the transformation of public sector's internal and external relationships through net-related operations, information technology and communications to optimise government service delivery, constituency participation and governance."
The keyword here is relationships. Information and communication technologies are only the means, not the ends to e-government. E-government requires us to make use of technologies to strengthen our internal "relationships" within the Government, and also to make use of technologies to improve our external "relationships" with our customers, i.e. the Hong Kong community. And more importantly, link up the Government and the community, so that we can provide top quality service to our citizens, and our citizens are satisfied with the services rendered to them.
So, what has the HKSAR Government done to build an e-government?
I am proud to say that we have been at the forefront in the adoption of IT and the Internet to build an e-society so as to help Hong Kong retain its competitive edge and drive its overall economic expansion. In the "Digital 21" IT Strategy formulated in November 1998, we have already 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. When our Chief Executive, Mr Tung Chee Hwa delivered his Year 2000 Policy Address last month, he reiterated that in gearing up Hong Kong for the knowledge economy, innovation and technology are essential to enhance productivity for our sustained economic growth.
In the light of the Chief Executive's Policy Address and the recent technological developments, we are now reviewing the "Digital 21" IT Strategy and its new release will be available for public consumption very soon.
Our e-government policy is implemented with the top level commitment as promulgated in the "Digital 21" IT Strategy and the Chief Executive's Policy Address. The major initiatives are-
(a) to develop a community-wide information infrastructure that supports e-government;
(b) to make use of the infrastructure to deliver on-line public services and to conduct e-commerce with the business sector;
(c) to introduce inter-departmental and intra-departmental electronic transactions and to adopt proper IT management practices within the Government; and
(d) to nurture an IT-savvy culture in the civil service and the community.
I shall now go through our e-government initiatives one by one in greater detail.
First of all, we have adopted a series of measures to improve our information infrastructure. A fundamental infrastructure for the Internet is telecommunication links. To facilitate the rapid development of a high capacity telecommunications infrastructure required for the Internet and e-commerce, we encourage competition and innovation under an open, fair and predictable regulatory framework.
Our broadband networks cover all the commercial buildings and nearly 90 per cent of the households. Our external network connectivity is amongst the highest in Asia, second only to Japan. Our current submarine cable capacity stands at about 44 Gigabits per second for external communications, which is expected to increase by 10-fold in the coming three years.
We also have one of the most vibrant mobile telecommunications markets in the world with a mobile phone service penetration rate of about 70 per cent, amongst the highest in the world. The licensing framework for the 3G services would be finalised around end 2000/early 2001 and 3G licences would be issued in 2001.
Our liberalisation policy helps ensure that Hong Kong will continue to have a world-class telecommunications platform sustainable to the rapid growth of e-commerce in the Information Age.
Another key initiative of developing our e-commerce infrastructure is the introduction of a clear legal framework to provide a secure environment for the conduct of e-commerce in Hong Kong.
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. Besides, the Ordinance establishes a framework to promote and facilitate the operation of recognized certification authorities (CAs).
The Government has taken the lead in the establishment of a public CA through the Hongkong Post to enable an early implementation of a public key infrastructure (PKI) in Hong Kong.
Through the PKI, participants of electronic transactions can now establish the identity of the other party engaged in electronic transactions; ensure the integrity and confidentiality of data exchanged electronically; and safeguard the non-repudiation of electronic transactions.
We encourage private sector initiatives to provide CA services, and so there is no mandatory licensing requirement under the Ordinance. Nevertheless, in order to protect consumers' interests and enhance public confidence in electronic transactions, CAs are free to apply for recognition from the Government.
Under the voluntary CA recognition scheme, the Director of Information Technology Services is the authority for granting recognition to CAs which have achieved a trust standard acceptable to the Government and have adopted a common and open interface in their operation.
The HKSAR Government also promotes and adopts common standards which apply to both the public and private sectors. In particular, we have established a common interface based on international standards for the use of Chinese in electronic communication and data exchange among the Government, businesses and individuals.
Developing a Chinese language interface is crucial to the development of e-commerce in Hong Kong, as Chinese is the mother tongue of the majority of Hong Kong people. It also helps to strengthen Hong Kong's position as an information gateway to the Mainland of China.
Our work in this area includes publishing the Hong Kong Supplementary Character Set (HKSCS) in September 1999 and the on-going updating of this character set. We are also working closely with other governments and institutions under the aegis of the International Organization for Standardisation in the development of the ISO 10646 standard, which is an international coding standard aimed at encompassing all ideographic characters, including the traditional and simplified Chinese characters, into one single common character set.
Our ultimate goal on developing an e-commerce infrastructure and framework is to drive our community in the early adoption and integration of digital technology into their daily life at home, work and leisure.
To lead by example, we will launch the Electronic Service Delivery (ESD) scheme before the end of this year. The ESD is our flagship Government-to-Citizen and Government-to-Business (G2B) web site, through which the public can acquire a wide range of services on the Internet and public information kiosks, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Services from various government departments and public agencies will soon become available online. They include submission of tax return, bill payment, renewal of driving and vehicle licences, application of business registration, etc.
We aim at improving the efficiency and quality of public services, and at the same time, reducing the cost of delivery of such services. Moreover, the intuitive, secure, reliable and open information infrastructure developed for the ESD will become available for use by the private sector for the conduct of e-commerce at a later stage. This will act as a catalyst to pump-prime the development of e-commerce in Hong Kong.
The HKSAR Government also sets a leading example for the private sector in the area of e-procurement. Successfully implementing e-procurement is crucial to Business-to-Business, and in our case, G2B e-commerce. It will improve efficiency and bring down costs in the government procurement process. And more importantly, it helps pull small to medium-sized enterprises into the e-commerce world. We have taken a significant step in implementing e-procurement through the Electronic Tendering System (ETS) which has been put into operation since April this year.
Being one of the first government e-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. Since its launch, some 460 suppliers have registered with the ETS and over 70 per cent of our tenders below HK$10 million have been issued through the ETS. The ETS not only achieves savings in time and cost in the issue and despatch of tender documents and submission of tenders, it also makes full use of the Internet to significantly extend the reach of tender invitations to potential suppliers from all over the world.
To fully realise the benefits, the Government Supplies Department is working on extending the ETS for more contract types, and the Works Bureau is working on e-tendering for works contracts. Further development of e-procurement, such as e-marketplace, contract management, supply chain management, electronic product catalogue, electronic payment, etc. are also being considered.
To develop a true e-government, the launching of front-end electronic processes is not enough. Our e-government programme has to be extended to include integration of public service delivery across departments and agencies. An e-government approach will identify ways of breaking down boundaries among 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 have to be reformed. In a way, the ESD project is spearheading such a change. To complement ESD, we have built a comprehensive infrastructure within Government.
We have installed almost one PC per two civil servants. To connect them together, we have established the Government Backbone Network (GNET) for interconnecting departmental networks and central services over a broadband, wide-area communication backbone. On top of the GNET, we have implemented the Government Communication Network and the Government Office Automation (GOA) programme to provide computer facilities as well as e-mail, document exchange and bulletin board services to over 10 000 government users. The GOA programme will soon be extended to all officers with operational needs and will more than double the existing number of users.
To pave the way for providing more interactive services, we have implemented the Central Cyber Government Office (CCGO) in August this year.
The CCGO is an Intranet platform to facilitate government-wide electronic services and information dissemination. Within three months, we have connected 20 000 government users to this Intranet platform. Apart from portal services, the CCGO will be further enhanced to support digital libraries, information databases, intra- and inter-departmental transactions and a web-based training environment.
On inter-departmental electronic transactions, we have identified two pilot projects: the online ordering of unallocated stores of the Government Supplies Department and the online ordering of printing orders of the Printing Department.
As for intra-departmental electronic transactions, we will conduct a pilot in the first half of 2001 on the Electronic Leave Application Processing System with which leave applications of civil servants may be submitted and processed electronically. We will continue to make use of the CCGO to implement similar applications.
Good application systems are always backed up by effective security measures. To this end, we have stepped up our security infrastructure through the implementation of the Central Internet Gateway (CIG) in March this year.
The CIG enables government bureaux and departments to gain access to the Internet, and to disseminate information and communicate with the public over the Internet through a secure and centrally managed system. There are now over 5 000 government users connected to the CIG and it is expected to increase to over 8 000 by the end of this year. Action is being taken to increase the capacity of the CIG system to cater for over 20 000 government users next year.
The CIG has adopted internationally accepted Internet security standards. It is also equipped with security devices including firewalls, virus detection systems, and intrusion recognition and response systems. Automated tools are employed to continuously monitor and control all incoming network traffic. With these tools, log analyses on incidents can be performed and suspected intrusion activities can be handled promptly and effectively.
Appropriate IT management guidelines and practices are also important parts of our information infrastructure.
On our security infrastructure, we have issued a set of comprehensive guidelines on information security to all government bureaux and departments to assist them in effectively implementing their own information security measures. These guidelines set out security standards for computer equipment, networks, archiving and retrieval of data, usage of software, etc.; and recommend measures on security auditing and arrangement to deal with emergency cases. We have also set up an Information Security Management Committee to coordinate the IT security management work within Government.
It is Government's policy to maintain a strong intellectual property protection regime. Government bureaux and departments are required to adopt proper software asset management practices, which include ensuring that only authorised software is used, and maintaining an inventory of users' software
Publishing IT guidelines is only one of our means to nurture an IT-savvy civil service. We need a culture that can deliver value in the Information Age. To this end, we have organised regular forums for our Chief Information Officers in bureaux and departments to ensure that they can have a good understanding on our vision, strategies and plans in developing an e-government.
For officers with IT responsibilities, we provide training to them such as courses targeting at departmental security administrators on Internet security tools and data encryption technology.
As for the general IT skills, the Civil Service Training and Development Institute (CSTDI) has been joining hands with the industry to provide training on IT-related subjects to civil servants. To further the efforts, the CSTDI has also set up the Cyber Learning Centre for delivering training courses on-line. Its target is to provide training on any subject using multimedia web-based technology.
The HKSAR Government is also actively promoting IT awareness to different sectors of the community. For example, in order to enhance the awareness and understanding of e-commerce among small to medium-sized enterprises, we organize various seminars on e-commerce. Booklets on success stories of e-commerce applications are also distributed to participants of our e-commerce seminars.
In addition, we work closely in partnership with industry support bodies to provide seamless solutions, which are comprehensive and inexpensive, to support the adoption of e-commerce by small to medium-sized enterprises.
To reach out to members of the public, promotional materials in different media and forms are produced. CD-ROMs on basic concepts of e-commerce with interactive simulations are distributed at outlets accessible to the public, such as post offices, district offices and libraries. Promotional video clips on e-commerce services, service hotline, public key infrastructure, digital certificate and ESD are also produced and shown on the television and in various exhibitions. We also cooperate with other quasi-government bodies to produce pamphlets and magazine articles on personal privacy and Internet security. This helps to educate and provide guidance to the consumers on the proper use of the Internet.
We have established community cyber points with PCs installed at over 60 different convenient locations and which are open to the public free of charge, including free access to the Internet.
Some of these PCs have also been installed with facilities to enable accessibility by the visually impaired. Furthermore, in a bid to help children of the poor, we will allocate HK$200 million for public sector secondary schools to purchase notebook computers for needy students to borrow. Our aim is to raise computer literacy among all sectors in the community to support the development of a knowledge-based economy.
To further our efforts on IT promotion, we have launched the "IT Hong Kong" campaign in September this year. Through this campaign, we further enhance the community's understanding on IT and promote the use of IT. We have organised a wide range of activities for the general public in Hong Kong in order to encourage and enable them to use IT as part of their daily lives. These activities include a series of free IT awareness courses for the different community groups, including e.g. the elderly, housewives and the disabled.
Over the past two years, the Government has made a lot of progress in developing a digital society, from building the necessary infrastructure to introducing community-wide computerisation projects; and from creating a service culture within Government to promoting the effective adoption of IT by all sectors in the community. The concept of e-government at its heart is the next generation approach to managing government through process re-engineering and developing a new culture of public service delivery. This is of paramount importance. 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 our vision on e-government and our initiatives to make it happen. I hope you would enjoy this Conference. And last but not the least, I wish you every success in your efforts in helping to build an e-society.
End/Tuesday, November 14, 2000