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Launching Ceremony of The Digital Library Initiative
Address by Mr K C Kwong
Secretary for Information Technology & Broadcasting

19 March 1999

Prof King, Prof Wactlar, Prof Lee, Prof Zhang, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to be invited to speak at the launching ceremony for the Digital Library initiative. Today's event signifies an important achievement in the collaborative efforts within the academic community, and an important addition to our information infrastructure.

The most prominent feature of the information world is the rapid expansion of cyber space. This is evidenced by two telling statistics. First, Internet users world-wide have grown from 40 million in 1996 to 150 million in 1998. Second, Internet traffic is estimated to double every 100 days. And cyber space has its own characteristics quite distinct from the physical world.

For example, physical distance will have less of an effect on us in cyber space. This is becoming more true as telecommunications, especially broadband telecommunications, become more ubiquitous and less expensive. Nor is separation by time zones any real constraint in cyber space. As a result, we are seeing the world becoming more and more closely connected. This global connectedness has spurred both the exchange of information and the conduct of business electronically between different cultures, different geographies, and different economies. In order to fully exploit the new opportunities in cyber space, we need to develop new and innovative approaches to life and to business.

To cite just one example, while there is of course a lot of scope for the consumption of Internet services and content in Hong Kong, I think an even greater potential lies in the development and supply of those services and content from Hong Kong to the rest of the world. Given our bilingual capability, the freeflow of information in and through Hong Kong, the freedom of expression that we enjoy and our unique position as a Special Administrative Region of China, Hong Kong is particularly well placed to serve as the Internet content hub for the Asia Pacific region and as the digital intermediary for doing business with the Mainland of China.

One of the initiatives that we have undertaken in order to achieve that goal is the proposed development of the Cyberport which will be implemented through partnership between the Government and the Pacific Century Group. We plan to build in the Cyberport an ultra-modern intelligent building complex, equipped with state-of-the-art telecommunications and information backbones to meet the needs of leading multinational and local information technology and services companies. It will provide the infrastructure and a quality working and living environment for companies applying the latest information technology in the multimedia and content creation fields, e.g. film production, 3-D graphics and animation, as well as in the development of software applications and provision of information services.

Also, the Cyberport will provide a range of shared facilities for tenants, such as a media laboratory and a cyber library. There will be educational, entertainment and recreational facilities related to information technology and services for local visitors and tourists.

The Cyberport can accommodate some 130 companies and create 12,000 jobs. We expect that both overseas and local talents will be attracted by the working opportunities in the Cyberport. They will also be able to exchange ideas and expertise in the latest technological advances and market trends. And local companies will also be able to benefit through working closely with market leaders in the IT and services fields.

While we are confident that the Cyberport will help to spur the development of the information technology and services industries in Hong Kong, Government action alone is not enough. We need the support of the whole community, and in particular our universities, in our quest for IT excellence. In this regard, I am very pleased to see the launching of the Digital Library Initiative by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. It is a very good example of the efforts by our universities to exploit the opportunities available only in cyber space to provide new services to enrich the whole community. One aspect of the project which is worth particular mention is the creation of a common platform upon which multimedia applications can be developed, tested, and demonstrated locally or remotely through the Internet. This platform will be able to support multimedia content creation from commercially sourced audio/visual media, films and images from the web, conversion of pre-existing databases including publisher catalogues, and other digitally scanned images. It will also support the comprehensive storage, management, search, and retrieval of multimedia data, and foster the further development of component software to create new services for users in different industries. This approach is of course entirely in tune with our objective of making Hong Kong an Internet content hub.

Another aspect of the Digital Library Initiative which is also worth mentioning is that it is done in collaboration with a number of overseas universities and institutions, namely the Carnegie Mellon University of the United States, the South China University of Technology of China, and the Academia Sinica of Taiwan, as part of a greater Digital Library Initiative. Apart from placing valuable digital contents on their respective Digital Libraries over a high speed Internet backbone for information sharing between the four places, the institutions will jointly conduct research and development on Internet applications, such as trans-lingual and multi-lingual information retrieval and searching, quality of service technology on the Internet, distance learning, telemedicine and so on. With the concerted collaborative efforts of all concerned, I am sure that the Digital Library Initiative will make substantial contributions not only to the development of the next generation Internet but also to teaching and learning in the academic world.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish the Digital Library Initiative every success and I sincerely hope that it will contribute to enhancing Hong Kong's position as a leading Internet hub of the Asia Pacific Region.

Thank you.