LCQ6: Promote use of ICT among SMEs
Following is a question by the Hon Andrew Leung and a reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council meeting today (June 5):
Some members of the information technology (IT) industry have relayed to me that the application of information and communications technology is of particular importance to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as it helps them improve workflow, enhance the efficiency of business operations and service standards, as well as boost their competitiveness. The cloud technology, which has become increasingly popular recently, may even help SMEs adopt IT application systems that are suitable for their scales of operation via the Internet and mobile networks with low start-up costs. However, many SMEs are still sceptical about accessing IT services via cloud computing, and they are particularly concerned about the security problems with cloud computing. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether the authorities have new measures to promote the use of information and communications technology by SMEs; if they have, of the relevant measures; if not, the reasons for that;
(b) regarding the potential risks in information security of cloud computing, how the authorities help SMEs understand and remove such risks; and;
(c) as the authorities have indicated that they are cooperating with the Hong Kong Productivity Council in studying ways to help SMEs adopt cloud computing services for enhancing operational efficiency, productivity and customer services, of the details of the study and the expected time when the relevant measures can be launched to help SMEs?
My reply to the three-part question is as follows:
(a) The effective use of information and communications technology (ICT) by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can greatly enhance their operational efficiency and competitiveness as well as facilitate their business development, thereby fostering the sustainable economic growth of Hong Kong. In view of this, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer has launched the Sector-specific Programme (SSP) since 2004 to promote the use of ICT among SMEs. Under SSP, a total of about $12 million was provided to support 16 projects for 12 sectors, benefitting over 11 000 practitioners from SMEs so far. With the advent of cloud computing, two of these projects, namely "Consumer Connect" (a cloud-enabled marketing platform for the wholesale and retail sector) and "Security Cloud" (a cloud-based tele-protection system for the security industry), also adopt cloud technology.
We launched a new round of SSP on May 31,2013, setting aside $3 million for sponsoring projects that develop applications and solutions for individual SME sectors to encourage SMEs to suitably adopt ICT to enhance their operational efficiency and create business opportunities.
Cloud technology allows SMEs to adopt ICT solutions that are suitable for their scales of operation with low start-up costs. The use of cloud services can also significantly reduce the need for technical know-how and manpower resources to cope with system maintenance and upgrade. To drive the adoption and development of cloud computing in Hong Kong, we launched a portal on cloud computing ("InfoCloud") in January 2013 to provide SMEs with various information on cloud computing as well as user guides and best practices, including the "Practice Guide for Procuring Cloud Services" (Practice Guide) and "Success Stories (Use Cases) of Using Cloud Computing Services", etc. These publications help SMEs understand the benefits of using cloud computing, how to select cloud services as well as common issues that SMEs should be mindful of when adopting cloud services such as security and switching between service providers. We are inviting feedback from the industry, including SME-related organisations, on cloud computing adoption. In addition, we plan to hold a roundtable meeting in the fourth quarter of 2013 to discuss ways of enhancing and enriching the above information to SMEs.
To further promote the adoption of cloud computing services by SMEs, we will step up promotion, including publicity through online media, distributing information leaflets, co-organising promotional activities with IT industry and SME-related organisations, participating in seminars, and continuously enriching the content of the Practice Guide and the security checklists.
(b) Cloud services provide users with ICT services that are suitable for their scales of operation via the Internet and mobile networks. However, cloud services are inevitably exposed to potential risks of cyber attacks given their connection to public networks. Moreover, data processed or stored by cloud service providers may contain valuable, sensitive and personal privacy information. To protect such information and minimise the risks arising from cyber attacks, enterprises should adopt preventive and security measures when selecting and using cloud services.
The Government has been disseminating up-to-date reference materials and news on information security via various channels, including the "InfoSec" portal, talks, seminars and publicity leaflets/pamphlets, to help SMEs understand various security risks and the necessary security measures. Moreover, we have published materials on information security, including the "Security & Privacy Checklist for Cloud Service Providers in Handling Personal Identifiable Information in Cloud Platforms" and "Security Checklists for Cloud Service Consumers" through the above-mentioned "InfoCloud" portal for reference by SMEs. When formulating information security guidelines, we make reference to international standards on information security and industry guidelines.
(c) We are now working with the Hong Kong Productivity Council to explore how to support SMEs in the adoption of cloud computing services. In late 2012, we consulted the industry on how to develop a sustainable commercial cloud platform, in order to understand the requirements and concerns of SMEs and service providers. We received a total of 22 submissions providing views from the perspectives of both service providers and SMEs in areas like information security, technical and user support, whether sufficient solutions are available on the cloud platform to address the operational needs of SMEs, arrangements of switching among service providers, charging and promotion, etc. We are now considering ways to facilitate the development of a sustainable commercial cloud platform, with a view to formulating practical measures to encourage participation of SMEs and service providers in the platform. We are still working out the details.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013