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Speech by the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology

The following is the full text of the keynote speech given by the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Mr Henry Tang, at the business luncheon held today (September 6, Canada time) in Waterloo, Canada:

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to be here in Waterloo today. Indeed, this is my first official overseas trip after being appointed as the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology in the Hong Kong Government in July this year. And I am glad to have the opportunity of visiting Canada's Technology Triangle, and seeing it myself how Waterloo emerges as a fast growing city in Canada, producing successful ICT companies which have commanded both domestic and international recognition.

The Hong Kong delegation I am leading to visit Waterloo comprises representatives from the Hong Kong Government, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and the ICT industry. During this visit, we aim to know more about the latest developments of the Canadian ICT industry and to explore possible collaboration opportunities between Hong Kong and Canada, to our mutual benefits.

We visited Research In Motion in Waterloo this morning. This afternoon, we will have a trade-matching event between members of the Hong Kong delegation and ICT companies in the Technology Triangle. And then the delegation will leave for Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island tomorrow to attend Softworld 2002 . I am sure our delegates will make good use of this visit to establish business contacts with the leading IT and telecommunications companies in Canada to foster closer co-operation in the ICT field.

Hong Kong is indeed your strategic partner in the Asia-Pacific region, which can help you seize the ample business opportunities arising from the region. First and foremost, we are an early and mature user of ICT ourselves. We have attained a very good record of technology diffusion in the community. In the area of IT, we have a 60% PC penetration rate and 50% Internet penetration rate among our households, with one-third of all households using broadband services. Indeed, broadband coverage reaches all commercial buildings and over 95% of domestic buildings in Hong Kong.

With the development of an advanced information infrastructure in Hong Kong, various online services have been successfully rolled out in both the public and private sectors, making Hong Kong a leading digital city. The Hong Kong community is now one of the most avid Internet users in the region and we are moving towards an IT-savvy society. One clear example I can cite for illustration is the wide use of smart cards in Hong Kong. Over 8.5 million e-payment smart cards are already in circulation in the market, averaging more than one card per person. And the card is used for payment for various types of public transport services as well as in small-value retail transactions. We will also start rolling out multi-application smart ID cards to our 7 million citizens next year, with the option of providing a digital certificate to be embedded in the smart ID card to facilitate the public to prove their identity in carrying out secure electronic transactions. This means that we will have a potential local e-commerce market of 7 million customers.

With all these developments, we have been ranked amongst the top in terms of e-commerce readiness and potential as well as E-government development by prestigious international agencies. And with such a population-wide e-platform and client-base, I can foresee that Hong Kong will have an even more prosperous future in terms of e-commerce and E-government.

Hong Kong also has one of the world's most open and vibrant telecommunications market. With our fair, transparent and pro-competition regulatory regime which provides a level playing field for all operators, we have one of the most competitive telecommunications markets in the world. This leads to a win-win situation for network operators, content and service providers, as well as consumers. Not only do we have ubiquitous mobile coverage all over the territory, and 86% of our population are mobile phone users - one of the highest penetrations in the world, we are also one of the first in Asia to introduce General Packet Radio Services (GPRS), or 2.5G, and we are also the first in Asia to launch multimedia messaging service (MMS). We have also issued licences for 3G services to be rolled out next year.

The development of a leading-edge information infrastructure, a technology savvy population, and the compact size of our city are all positive factors making Hong Kong an ideal testbed for the introduction of new technologies and services. And such technologies and services can be readily customised and adapted in Hong Kong for roll-out in the Mainland China market or in other parts of the Asia Pacific region.

In order to enhance co-operation between Hong Kong and Canadian companies in the ICT field, we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on co-operation between the two places in May 1998. Various collaborative activities have been organised under the auspices of the MOU in both the public and private sectors, which include exchanges, visits, business partnerships etc. Let me highlight just a few of the successful cases to illustrate the value of this MOU.

I mentioned Research In Motion a moment ago. It has partnered with Hutchison Telecommunications Ltd, one of our major mobile operators, and launched the palm-sized BlackBerry Wireless Handheld in Hong Kong, which is the first in Asia. Under the partnership, Research In Motion supplies the BlackBerry devices and solution integrations while Hutchison is responsible for the marketing and delivery of the services through its GPRS infrastructure.

Another successful case of collaboration is Teranet of Toronto, an expert in land title registration system solutions, which has partnered with Computer And Technologies Holdings Ltd of Hong Kong to develop and maintain an Integrated Registration Information System for the Lands Registry of the Government. The contract has a value of C$30 million over a ten-year period. Further, our post office, which operates also as a certification authority, has worked with Diversinet Corp of Toronto, to launch the world's first mobile digital certificate system for community adoption to facilitate the conduct of secure mobile commerce. Moreover, virtual trade mission (VTM) was jointly organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and the Ontario Exports of Canada to provide a convenient platform for trade matching for ICT companies in the two places through video conferencing.

These successful cases speak for themselves and illustrate the mutually beneficial working relations between Hong Kong and Canadian ICT companies. With our strategic geographical location and advanced information infrastructure, Hong Kong is an ideal place for you to expand your business to the Asia Pacific region. Over 3,200 overseas businesses have set up their regional headquarters and offices in Hong Kong. The recent ones include Philips of the Netherlands - the world electronics giant, and Checkpoint of Israel, which is the world leader in firewall technology. Many Canadian companies also enhance their operation in Hong Kong. This of course includes Northern Digital Inc (NDI) of Waterloo which specializes in 3D real-time measurement systems. It has also established its Asia Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong this year.

With China's accession to the World Trade Organisation, Hong Kong stands ready to seize new business opportunities arising from the opening up of the Mainland IT and telecommunications market. Capitalising on our special relationship with the Mainland and our knowledge and expertise in the operation of the Mainland market, Hong Kong is a strategic partner for Canadian ICT companies to tap the Mainland post-WTO market. I sincerely hope that the visit of the Hong Kong delegation this time will stimulate more collaboration between the Canadian Technology Triangle and Hong Kong.

I would also like to take this opportunity to encourage you to join the Canadian delegation which will visit Hong Kong in December to attend the major international telecommunications event, ITU TELECOM ASIA 2002. I understand that your Industry Minister, Mr Allan Rock, has already agreed to lead the Canadian delegation. Come to Hong Kong and you will be able to see it yourself what the vibrant digital city of Hong Kong can offer to you.

Thank you very much.

Saturday, September 7, 2002