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SCED's speech at Hong Kong International Computer Conference 2010 opening ceremony (English only)

     Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, at the opening ceremony of Hong Kong International Computer Conference 2010 today (September 28):

Mr (Stephen) Lau, Dr Cheung (Nim-kwan), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning!  It gives me great pleasure to join you today for the Hong Kong International Computer Conference (HKICC) 2010.

     Hong Kong offers one of the world's most affordable Internet connection and mobile phone service networks, with penetration rates among the highest in the world.  According to a survey on "Usage of Personal Computers and Internet Services by Hong Kong Residents from 2000 to 2009" conducted by the Census and Statistics Department, both PC and Internet use are increasingly common.  The percentage of households with PCs connected to the Internet have surged from 36.4% in 2000 to 73.3% in 2009.  Our mobile phone penetration rate at over 180% is also one of the world's highest, which gives us the mobility and convenience of getting in touch as well as surfing the Net for both work and leisure, anytime, anywhere.

     While the community at large is enjoying the huge benefits and opportunities brought about by technological advancement in terms of information accessibility, social connectivity, work productivity and personal independence, some sectors of the community are unable to access digital technology because of income, age and physical disability.  The digital divide among different socio-economic groups is apparent.  For instance, for families with monthly income less than HK$10,000, only 34.4% had PCs connected to the Internet, against 96.7% for families with monthly income over HK$50,000.  The percentages of elderly and people with disabilities having access to the Internet are only 6.7% and 15.1% respectively.  Hence, the theme of this year's conference, "IT Challenges in a Caring and Digital Connected Society", is indeed a timely one, and it echoes one of our objectives in the latest Digital 21 Strategy to build an inclusive, knowledge-based society.

     Digital inclusion is a vital means of achieving social inclusion.  We are firmly committed to transforming Hong Kong into a digitally inclusive society where different segments of the community can enjoy the benefits brought about by information and communication technology (or ICT for short) to create, access, utilise and share information and knowledge, thereby achieving their full potential and improving their quality of life.  Facilitating and supporting ICT adoption by underprivileged groups is our government's priority focus.  Our strategies can be summarised in three "A"s, that is to make ICT "accessible", "affordable" and "advantageous" to all.

     First, "accessible".  It is important to ensure that ICT facilities, Internet as well as associated training and technical support are easily accessible.  To this end, we have launched the District Cyber Centres (DCC) Scheme since February 2009.  This is a major initiative to enable different underprivileged groups in the community to access and use ICT in district-based cyber centres operated by various community organisations.  So far 57 cyber centres in various districts across the territory have participated in the scheme and over 20,000 local residents have benefited from the ICT training and support services through these centres.

     In today's information society, ICT can offer empowerment to help disadvantaged groups such as the disabled and the elderly to improve their quality of life.  To facilitate people with disabilities to perceive, understand, navigate, interact with and contribute to the web with ease, we have published web accessibility guidelines and encouraged public sector and private organisations to adopt them when designing their websites.  We will continue to regularly review and update these guidelines with reference to international standards and the latest web technology developments.  To facilitate people with disabilities to access and adopt ICT, we will also encourage technology exploration and support projects on the development of assistive tools and applications.

     As for the elderly, we have partnered with an elderly service organisation to set up a dedicated elderly portal, which commenced service in June 2010.  The portal is designed to enable easy use and navigation by the elderly with contents catering for their needs and interests, providing incentives for them to acquire Internet skills to expand their horizon and promote inter-generation integration.

     Second, "affordable".  We seek to ensure that ICT equipment, services as well as Internet connectivity are affordable to all segments of the community.  Earlier this year, we announced a two-pronged initiative to provide Internet learning opportunities to primary and secondary school students from low-income families.  Besides granting a direct Internet access subsidy to eligible students, we will also implement a support programme to help low-income families acquire affordable computers as well as Internet access for on-line learning at home, and provide students and their parents with free complementary training and technical support services.

     Third, "advantageous".  While ensuring accessibility and affordability of ICT for all, we also seek to promote proper, ethical and knowledgeable use of ICT to the advantage of all, with the protections of the justice system.  In this connection, we launched the "Be NetWise" territory-wide Internet education campaign to foster safe, healthy and responsible Internet use behaviour among primary and secondary students.  Activities including large-scale promotion events, roving exhibitions and training, school talks, inter-school activities, telephone hotline support, home visits, family counselling service, etc, were organised to promote an ethical Internet culture among youth and guide their daily online behaviour.

     We will continue our work along these three directions to ensure all those in our community who wish to access ICT and reap the benefits it brings are able to do so.

     Finally, I would like to congratulate the Hong Kong Computer Society for organising this conference.  The event provides a useful platform for Hong Kong IT professionals and local and overseas public and private sector organisations to exchange views and foster cooperation.  May I wish you all a fruitful conference.

     Thank you!

Ends/Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Issued at HKT 10:58


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