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Electronic Commerce
3rd APEC Ministerial Meeting on the Telecommunications and Information Industry
Speech by Mr KWONG Ki-chi
Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting

3 June 1998

Minister Mah, fellow Ministers , ladies and gentlemen,

I will try to be brief because, as always, time presses.

Our Korean friends have made an interesting demonstration of electronic commerce for us; mainly from the consumers' perspective. But electronic commerce means different things to different people. For telecommunications service providers (and no doubt for the manufacturers of the equipment they use), electronic commerce is "the killer application for the development of the information infrastructure", an information infrastructure which will replace the narrowband of today with a broadband world of tomorrow, hosting a range of innovative services, all clocking up valuable revenue; for entrepeneurs of those innovative services electronic commerce means potentially a whole new world of opportunity, limited only by our imagination. For businessmen (the users of our telecommunications services), electronic commerce offers new ways to reach customers and to procure goods and services more efficiently, integrating processes and generally improving supply chain management. For governments, electronic commerce and Electronic Service Delivery Systems offer more efficient ways of two-way communication with their citizens, and in governments' roles as suppliers or purchaser of goods and services, electronic commerce provides most of the same advantages that accrue to businessmen. Finally, but not least, for consumers, electronic commerce offers opportunities for wider choice of goods and services. Yes, there are many opportunities.

We have all heard of forecasts of US$200 billion+ by the year 2000, being the value of commercial transactions through electronic commerce. Large sums but to keep it in perspective, only a small percentage of world trade ~around 1%.

We have also heard about barriers to electronic commerce. But much of the legal framework applicable to ordinary commerce can be applied to electronic commerce. In closed networks where trust has developed, security is less of a problem. But to gain trust for the use of open networks there seems to be a world trend towards the formation of certification authorities. The work being done in the Telecommunications Working Group and the Electronic Commerce Task Force is informing us all of ways being considered to overcome these barriers. But I am reminded of the famous saying, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself". In that respect, I would urge Members to enter the brave new world of electronic commerce now. We cannot afford to wait for all the answers to be ready before we act. We should, instead, develop solutions to the problems in parallel with the development of electronic commerce.

In Hong Kong, with over 95% of our firms falling into the category of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), extending electronic commerce to them is a priority. Initiatives are being put together using an Internet base by organisations such as the Hong Kong Article Numbering Association, a representative of which was here with us this morning, in conjunction with IBM. Being trialled now is Office on Demand which will offer 25Mbit access for all conceivable demands by industry, meet their training requirements and provide an instant help desk. I said conceivable demands but with the growth in computing and telecommunications power, yesterday's inconceivable becomes today's commonplace and tomorrow's minimum requirement.

So that we can all reap early benefits from electronic commerce, we in APEC should work closely together in developing standards, applications and common interfaces. We are not playing a zero-sum game. With co-operative efforts, we can all be winners.

Thank you.