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Hong Kong Confirms Commitment To E-Commerce

Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

27 November 2000

According to a survey released last week by Hong Kong's Census and Statistics Department, e-commerce in the former British territory is booming. The survey, conducted between January and March 2000, found that e-commerce reaped HK$4.6bn (US$590m) in 1999. Last week also saw the Hong Kong government reiterate its commitment to promoting e-commerce.

At an information technology forum in China, Hong Kong's Director of Information Technology, Mr Lau Kam-hung, told how the Hong Kong government had in 1998 formulated the "Digital 21" IT Strategy with the aim of making Hong Kong a leading digital city in the 21st century. Facilitating the development of e-commerce and promoting its adoption in the Hong Kong community is one of the initiatives, said Mr Lau.

Mr Lau outlined a number of factors which give Hong Kong an advantage in the development of e-commerce, including the availability of a comprehensive and secure information infrastructure. He said: 'Hong Kong is one of the most open telecommunications markets in the world, and is one of the regions that has the best telecommunications infrastructure and services. With our policy to liberalise Hong Kong's telecommunications market, and that the 3G service will be available next year, there will be more business opportunities offered for Hong Kong.'

He continued: 'We will ensure that Hong Kong will be able to participate in the development of the next-generation Internet technologies, and we also have reviewed the administration and assignment of Internet domain names and Internet protocol addresses in Hong Kong. Such measures help encourage the development of innovative and attractive web sites in Hong Kong, especially those that will help develop Hong Kong as a gateway to the mainland's e-commerce....all these factors are supportive to the development of e-commerce in Hong Kong.'

The Hong Kong government has been one of the first jurisdictions to address concerns over the legal security of e-commerce, enacting the Electronic Transactions Ordinance in January 2000. Mr Lau said: 'The Ordinance gives electronic records and digital signatures the same legal status as that of their paper-based counterparts.' The government has also set up a public certification authority through the Hongkong Post. Another further development in facilitating e-commerce in the SAR has been the Cyberport project which, Mr Lau says, 'provides a high quality living and working environment to create a strategic cluster of IT companies which are specialising in leading edge IT applications, in information services and in multi-media content creation.'

Showing no let-up in its designs to become a major force in e-commerce, the Hong Kong government is to launch the Electronic Service Delivery (ESD) scheme by the end of this year. It's an information infrastructure that allows members of the public to obtain round-the-clock public services via the Internet and other electronic means. Mr Lau commented: 'The ESD scheme not only enables the public to familiarise themselves with electronic transactions which will further enhance their confidence in e-commerce, the information infrastructure developed for ESD will also become available for use by the private sector for the conduct of e-commerce at a later stage.'


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