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Acting FS speaks at World Information Society Day in Hong Kong Launch Ceremony (English only)(with photo and video)

    Following is the speech by the Acting Financial Secretary, Mr Stephen Ip, at the launch ceremony of "World Information Society Day in Hong Kong" this afternoon (May 17): (English only)

Chung-kai, Hubert, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good afternoon. I am delighted to be here on this special occasion. It so happens I have a keen interest in history, and considering that this event has links dating back to 1865, and the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention, it is a privilege to be addressing this meeting.

     Firstly, let me recap some significant developments in recent years. In December 2003, world leaders met in Geneva to set out a global vision for an all-inclusive and equitable information society. A society in which everyone can access and share information and everyone is assisted by technology to achieve their full potential.

     To turn their vision into reality, the Geneva World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) agreed that all stakeholders should work together across a range of issues, and targets were set. Foremost among these were improving access to information and communications infrastructure, respecting cultural diversity, and encouraging international and regional co-operation. In 2005, the 17th of May was officially declared World Information Society Day (WISD) by the United Nations General Assembly to help raise awareness of the importance of information and communications technology (ICT) in bringing opportunities to people worldwide, and to explore ways to reduce the digital divide.

     Now let us look at Hong Kong, and where we are in this evolutionary process. In 1998 we set out our vision to develop Hong Kong into a leading digital city. This we called our Digital 21 Strategy. Since then this strategy has been updated, taking into account the evolving needs of the community and technological advancements.

     I am glad to say that since then we have succeeded in making Hong Kong a world leader in ICT. Every school is connected to the Internet, 72 per cent of households have personal computers, the majority of which are connected to the Internet, and the telecommunications network is fully digitalised. Mobile phone subscribers exceeded 9 million at the end of 2006, making our penetration rate of 137%, one of the highest in the world. Walk around town - especially at peak hour - and you'll see for yourself why we have more mobile phones than people!

     This year's draft Digital 21 Strategy seeks to build on these achievements. Our vision is to make broadband Internet access available to all citizens in Hong Kong, regardless of whether they are at home or on the move. The Government will invest around $210 million over the next two years to provide free-for-use Wi-Fi networks in government venues. These Wi-Fi networks will be installed in around 350 Government premises, including public libraries, major cultural and recreational centres, community halls and even public parks. At the moment, we also provide free Internet access from some 5,500 free public computers spread around Hong Kong.

     There are many good reasons for us to invest heavily in ICT. It represents a powerful tool for increasing social harmony by connecting people and businesses; it promotes the sharing of knowledge, and enables disabled people to gain better access to information and services. That is why, in addition to providing access to ICT facilities we also sponsor various NGOs and associations to conduct digital inclusion programmes, and bring ICT hardware to all corners of our community.

     Additionally, we have launched a range of support measures, including awareness programmes, support centres, advisory services and financial incentives, to assist the business sector, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, in adopting ICT. Our efforts are paying dividends. In 2007, Hong Kong was ranked 8th among 181 economies in the Digital Opportunity Index of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

     Ladies and gentlemen, the notion of an "Information Society" is fast evolving, and has reached different stages of development in different societies. Although Hong Kong has made solid progress in bridging the digital divide we know there is no room for complacency. We know that we must maintain our momentum in applying ICT in areas that will enhance the quality of life of our people and the productivity of our businesses.

     World Information Society Day serves as a timely reminder to all of us to dedicate ourselves to building a more equitable, inclusive, people-centred and development-oriented society, and to help areas of the world less fortunate than ourselves in accessing these privileges.

     I would like to thank the organisers for staging this important and meaningful event. And to the prize winners, I congratulate you on your achievement, and wish you every success in your future endeavours.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Thursday, May 17, 2007
Issued at HKT 17:54


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