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Opening Ceremony of the Symposium on "Y2K Readiness in Tertiary Institutions" and PolyU IT Showcase 99
Opening Address by Mr K C Kwong
Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting

16 March 1999

Professor Poon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to participate in the opening of the Symposium on Y2K Readiness in Tertiary Institutions and PolyU IT Showcase 99. The good attendance today is a reflection of the serious attention the Y2K problem is receiving in our tertiary institutions. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of our experiences in dealing with the Y2K issue.

In the past year, I have spoken on many occasions about the potential impact of the Y2K problem, and the importance of early rectification action. I am glad to say that my words have not fallen on deaf ears and considerable progress has been made. For example, in the Government sector, some 90% of our mission-critical systems have been rectified as of January this year; similar progress is seen in the financial sector. And almost all organisations providing essential services in Hong Kong, be they in the public or private sector, are targeting mid-1999 for completion of their Y2K rectification work. The results are encouraging, but we must not be complacent as Y2K rectification is only part of the work required to prepare ourselves for a smooth and orderly transition into the new Millennium.

Here, I would like to talk about two important areas of work in a comprehensive Y2K programme, namely joint testing and contingency planning.

First, joint testing. For organisations whose systems are linked with or dependent on external systems, joint testing is an essential part of their Y2K work programmes. This is because they have to make sure that their systems and data interfaces are able to test the acceptability or otherwise of external data and respond accordingly. And the same consideration applies to the systems and interfaces of their counter-parties. Taking the financial services sector as an example, the Hong Kong Interbank Clearing Ltd had conducted a series of joint testing on the interbank clearing and settlement systems with individual banks from August to November last year. The securities and futures companies have just conducted an industry-wide testing in January this year and will carry out two more rounds of testing this month and in June. All members of the Stock Exchange and Futures Exchange are required to participate in at least one of these joint testing exercises.

In the telecommunications sector, Hongkong Telecom and the Hong Kong Police Force have successfully completed a joint testing for the 999 Emergency Centre last December. The Telecommunications Authority is now discussing with the industry on the arrangements for industry-wide testing to be conducted later this year. Considering the diversity of, and the extent of information exchange between, IT systems in the tertiary institutions, I would think that some joint testing will be necessary.

Now I would like to turn to my second point - contingency planning. Y2K contingency planning is of critical importance. There are broadly three levels of contingency planning - at the business entity level, across certain essential services sector and at the community-wide level.

At the business entity level, contingency plans are formulated to safeguard business continuity in the event that non-compliant systems within the organisation cannot be rectified on time. There is also a need to formulate business contingency plans to cope with disruptions in, or excessive demand for, the services they provide as a result of Y2K-induced incidents either within the organisations or encountered by their business partners.

For certain essential services sectors, sector-wide contingency plans are required to ensure that the contingency plans developed by individual organisations in the sector will not be inconsistent, to identify any gaps or major risks which cannot be addressed by the contingency plans of individual organisations, and to arrange sector-wide rehearsals for activating the contingency plans.

At the community-wide level, the focus of the contingency plans will be on major systemic failures which will have a serious impact on the community as a whole, and preparations for remedial arrangements, including emergency support.

Within the Government, apart from preparing contingency plans at the departmental level on a "as required" basis, we are also looking into the need for sector wide contingency plans in various essential services. We have also started to work on a community-wide contingency plan. To this end, we have set up a Working Group on Y2K Contingency Planning, comprising key Government bureaux and departments, to co-ordinate the formulation of Y2K contingency plans. There is perhaps a common perception that you would only need contingency plans, when your rectification work has not been done properly. This cannot be further from the truth. The truth is we need contingency plans even if we are well prepared. For example, the Government has well-established contingency plans for a wide range of emergencies, from typhoons to aircraft disasters. Some of these emergencies may never materialise, but we need to be prepared just in case. The same is true of our preparations for the new Millennium.

I am sure that what I have briefly covered this morning will be thoroughly discussed later in the Symposium. I look forward to receiving the considered views of participants on this very important issue. Our ability to enter the Year 2000 in a smooth and orderly manner depends critically on efforts by all concerned.

Thank you.