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LCQ11: e-Certs embedded in smart ID cards

    Following is a question by the Dr Hon David Li and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Frederick Ma, in the Legislative Council today (April 23):


    In order to promote electronic commerce, the Hongkong Post (HK Post) offered the public the option of embedding a digital certificate (e-Cert) in their smart identity cards (IDs), for free use in the first year, between June 2003 and March 2007. The free use period had subsequently been extended several times, and eventually was extended to three years for all smart ID e-Certs issued on or before March 31, 2007. In November 2006, the Government awarded a contract to an outside contractor to run the e-Cert programme for four years. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the total number of the above free e-Certs which were issued between June 2003 and the end of 2004, and were therefore due for renewal in or before the end of 2007; among them, the number of those which were renewed upon the expiry of the three-year free use period and the total revenue collected thereon;

(b) whether HK Post or the above outside contractor is responsible for meeting the cost of managing the renewal exercise for smart ID e-Certs; if HK Post is responsible, of the costs of managing the renewal exercise up to the end of 2007, including but not limited to the costs of publicity, printing, mailing, computer equipment, web development and personnel;

(c) of the standard number of reminder notices sent to a holder of smart ID e-Cert which is due for renewal, broken down by the means (i.e. mail, e-mail and Short Message Service) of sending the notices; and

(d) whether the contract between HK Post and the above outside contractor stipulates a minimum number of valid e-Certs during the contract period; if so, of the nature of any associated penalties or fees should the number of valid e-Certs fall below the minimum requirement?


Madam President,

    The Hongkong Post Certification Authority (CA) was set up in January 2000 to issue e-Certs under the operation of the Hongkong Post (HK Post). With effect from April 1, 2007, the Government has outsourced the operation of the e-Cert services to a contractor for a period of four years. The Contractor receives no revenue from HK Post but is entitled to collect and retain subscription and renewal fees from e-Cert subscribers. The Contractor is responsible for the full operating cost in providing the e-Cert services. These arrangements mean that the Contractor bears the commercial risk and upside related to subscriber numbers and therefore has a commercial incentive to improve ease of use of the e-Cert and to maximise renewals. The Government monitors the service provided by the contractor to the public and the Postmaster General remains the recognised CA under the Electronic Transactions Ordinance (ETO) (Cap. 553).

    Regarding the questions raised by the Dr Hon David Li, my reply is as follows:

(a) The number of free e-Certs that were issued between June 2003 and the end of 2004 amounted to 702 520, of which 1 347 of the smart ID Card holders have renewed their embedded e-Cert before the end of 2007. The revenue collected from renewal of embedded e-Cert was $67,350.

(b) When the first batch of free embedded e-Cert began to expire starting from 2006, the renewal of embedded e-Cert was treated as part of the normal e-Cert subscription and no itemised cost of renewal is available. After the e-Cert operation was outsourced starting from April 1, 2007, the cost of managing the e-Cert subscription including the renewal of embedded e-Cert was borne by the Contractor.

(c) Reminders for renewal of embedded e-Cert are posted on HK Post's website. E-mail reminders are only sent to e-Cert holders where email addresses are provided to HK Post. Up to the end of 2007, around 230 000 e-mail reminders had been sent.

(d) There is no requirement of minimum number of valid e-Certs under the contract between HK Post and the Contractor.

Ends/Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Issued at HKT 12:12


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