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Speech by SCED at Hong Kong Computer Society Outstanding IT Achiever Awards (English only)

     Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, at the Hong Kong Computer Society Outstanding IT Achiever Awards 2008 Presentation Ceremony today (March 26):

Sunny (Lee), Samson (Tam), Daniel (Lai), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good evening! I am delighted to join you tonight at the presentation ceremony of the Hong Kong Computer Society Outstanding IT Achiever Awards 2008.

     As Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, I have the opportunity to see the work of many IT professionals on many worthwhile initiatives. On every occasion, I have been deeply impressed by their skills, professionalism and dedication. So it is with great pleasure and excitement that I look forward to the moment later tonight when these outstanding people and their contributions are announced, recognised and celebrated by all here.  

     Much has been said about the present financial turmoil and the adverse impact it is bringing to all sectors of the community. In times like these, it is all too easy to give in to despair. However, as community leaders, our responsibility is to be positive, to work hard to help the community weather this difficulty time.

     History is a useful guide. I recently came across some of the speeches made by public officials and community leaders back in 2003. Those were the days when everyday lives were seriously disrupted by the outbreak of SARS. Smiles were scarce then and were sadly hidden behind facemasks. The economy was almost paralysed. There was a deep sense of despair. This is, of course reflected in the speeches. But that was not all to be found. As I read through these pieces made in the darkest moments, I also saw strong statements about hope, encouragement, economic relief packages, community campaigns, and wonderful stories of how citizens and strangers in the community rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to help with the recovery of Hong Kong.

     As in the past, the Government today is committed to helping the community weather the economic downturn. The Government's strategy for facilitating the ICT sector is two-fold. In the short term, we must help preserve jobs.  And in the longer term, we must create the conditions to allow the ICT industry to prosper.

     As one of Hong Kong's largest users of IT, our IT programme has a major impact on the health of the sector. Our IT spending has been kept at a high level in recent years, rising by about 20% in the past two years to $4.7 billion. With several large-scale projects in the pipeline, such as the major upgrade of the Multimedia Information System for the Hong Kong Public Libraries and the replacement of the Computerised Social Security System, we expect a further increase in expenditure in the year ahead.

     These new projects will assist employment in the private sector, as we outsource more than 90% of our system development work. We are also simplifying the way we procure IT services, to accelerate projects and to expand the participation of local small and medium enterprises.  

     We will inject $6 million into a training programme for SMEs in various sectors to help them embrace ICT as a strategic tool for business and improve their operational efficiency and competitiveness. The programme itself will create 50 temporary jobs. If the ICT sector can follow up with SME trainees and develop business opportunities, far more employment opportunities in the ICT sector will be created.

     The Government has also earmarked $63 million to launch a one-year territory-wide education campaign to teach Internet users, especially young students, how to use the Internet appropriately and safely. We have already invited youth-related non-government organisations to submit proposals on the planning and co-ordination of the campaign. It is expected that the campaign will create about 500 temporary jobs, most of which would require expertise in IT.

     History demonstrates that economic downturns come and go, but opportunities always arise for the well-prepared. We will set up a task force on ICT industry facilitation to work out how the Government can best ensure a supply of talent for the ICT sector, how we can sustain and improve the local ICT infrastructure, and how we can facilitate collaboration between local and Mainland ICT companies. We will seek to develop a brand proposition for the ICT sector, and a plan for promoting Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta as a destination for sourcing software and IT services, and as a gateway for overseas SMEs to tap the Mainland ICT market.

     Talent is the key to all activities. The Government is committed to enhancing the quality of manpower in the ICT sector. We will continue to provide the necessary support to ICT student exchange programmes and graduate internship programmes, and will relax the criteria for the Internship Programme under the Innovation and Technology Fund to allow more local talent to join ITF-funded projects.

     The Government will also work closely with the industry bodies to draw up a road map for the development of professional qualifications. This will help ICT professionals plan their career development and enable us to identify areas where the Government can support the development of ICT talent in the long-term.

     I will not go on about all the measures the Government is undertaking. We have been working so closely with the ICT sector, I guess you are now familiar with a lot of these measures and are probably involved in one way or other. The message I would like to put across is that all these measures are not going to work without you. And I know I can count on you for your continued support and collaboration. I urge you all to make the most of these opportunities.

     I would like to congratulate all the award winners on their outstanding achievements and hope that they will continue to excel in their profession and contribute to ICT development in Hong Kong. The community will look up to you as a source of inspiration and as an example to follow. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the Hong Kong Computer Society and Career Times Online Limited for organising this special event and for giving recognition to the outstanding people in the industry.

     Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, March 26, 2009
Issued at HKT 19:15


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