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SCED speaks at Universal Postal Union e-Commerce Conference (Hong Kong) (English only)

     Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, at the Universal Postal Union (UPU) e-Commerce Conference (Hong Kong) this morning (May 21):

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning! It is my pleasure to join you at the Universal Postal Union e-Commerce Conference organised for the first time here in Hong Kong. I would like to welcome delegates and speakers from all over the world who have come to participate in the conference. "Delivering e-Commerce to the people" is surely a meaningful topic worthy of exploring amongst postal operators and supply chain partners.

     Since the 1990s, the world has seen a new age of global connectivity made possible by the emergence of the Internet. Today, the total number of the world's Internet users has reached a high level of over 1.5 billion i.e. nearly 24% of the world population now surfs the Web. Here in Hong Kong, the broadband networks cover virtually all commercial buildings and households. The household broadband penetration rate is over 77%, which is among the highest in the world. In 2008, 1.6 million households i.e. more than 70% of the total households in Hong Kong, had PCs connected to the Internet at home. Hong Kong is without doubt an information and communications technology (ICT) ready city ideal for e-commerce activities. The burst of creativity, communication and commerce brought forth by the Internet is only the beginning of a wave of innovation and progress that the Internet medium will foster. It is full of business opportunities for creative, industrious Internet communicators and business people from all over the world to capitalise on.

     While many remain sceptical about the economic outlook for 2010 there are many more others who take a different view and see e-commerce as presenting a golden opportunity to restart the economic engine.  People in difficult economic times tend to compare prices more and use cheaper delivery means.  Internet shops which have a lower operation cost have more flexibility to meet these new demands from consumers. Postal operators also have a variety of delivery means at different prices and speeds for consumers to choose from. Service innovation and customisation are undoubtedly key to success.  As a strong advocate of the free market, Hong Kong has consistently been rated for 15 years in a row as the freest economy in the world by the Heritage Foundation.
     As we facilitate economic development through business friendly policies, we also enable ICT infrastructure to be provided for e-commerce to thrive.

     As at the end of March 2009, Wi-Fi facilities were installed at 302 government premises for providing Internet connection service to citizens. Since its launch in March 2008, the GovWiFi programme has supported over one million Internet connection sessions.  The public can access Internet facilities and perform e-transactions easier throughout the territory.

     To promote our e-readiness and enhance the ICT infrastructure of Hong Kong, we have also introduced various e-initiatives such as self-service immigration clearance at control points installed with e-channels for HK citizens with smart identity cards from December 2004. Recently, we installed express e-channels at Lo Wu Control Point to further cut the time required to pass through the gate by one third.

     Apart from these "hardware" enablers for the ICT industry, a highly qualified IT workforce is also pivotal to the successful implementation of e-commerce projects.  The HKSAR Government is committed to enhancing the quality of manpower in the ICT sector. We have provided the necessary support to ICT student exchange programmes and graduate internship programmes, and relaxed the criteria for the Internship Programme under the Innovation and Technology Fund to allow more local talent to join ITF-funded projects. Over HK$2 billion has been earmarked under the Innovation and Technology Fund to set up five R&D centres, all of which exploit applications of ICT. These centres will be dynamic hubs that forge partnerships among multiple players including the ICT industry, different industrial sectors, academia, overseas and Mainland enterprises in the development, application and commercialisation of new technology.

     Last but not the least, our one-stop portal, GovHK, the main Internet gateway to government information and services officially introduced in August 2007, has continued to deliver high-level user-friendly e-government services. I am proud to say that in the "World e-Government Mayors Forum 2008", Hong Kong, out of 86 cities, won the first runner-up for "Best Practices e-Government" (behind Seoul), and our one-stop portal GovHK was ranked first in terms of content and services and second in overall e-governance. We will shortly begin to develop a personalised interface on GovHK to better meet the needs of citizens.

     Ladies and gentlemen, these are just some of the e-Government measures which directly and indirectly facilitate e-commerce and e-trading to and from Hong Kong. For most e-commerce transactions of which physical products are traded, the last mile delivery to the consumers is equally important to complete the final loop in the full supply chain. Postal operators in the world would be in the best position to grasp such a business.

     No doubt this conference will provide a good opportunity for postal operators and their supply chain partners to share experiences and identify new ways to benefit from the imminent business opportunities of cross border e-commerce activities and counteract the current economic crisis.

     In closing, I wish you all a successful and fruitful conference. For our overseas participants, I wish you a most happy and enjoyable stay in Hong Kong, Asia's world city and a city that never sleeps.  Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, May 21, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:30


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