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Speech by SITB at the Forum Opening Session
on ITU TELECOM ASIA 2000 on 4 December 2000

December, 4 2000

Dr Jafari, Secretary General Utsumi, Minister Wu, Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am most honoured to be invited to address you at the Opening of the Forum Sessions of ITU TELECOM Asia 2000.

The theme of the week's event is "Gateway to Opportunity". The theme is well chosen. The telecommunications industry underpins all other economic sectors. A first class telecommunications infrastructure is a gateway to increased efficiency and enhanced productivity. Hong Kong is strategically positioned in Asia, and a Special Administrative Region of China. We consider ourselves the Gateway to vast business opportunities in Asia, especially the China market. I hope to learn from our distinguished speakers how we can take full advantage of the opportunities ahead.

I congratulate the ITU for bringing together more than 200 distinguished speakers - regulators, market leaders, academics - for the forums. Topics will include "mega trends" like mobile internet, m-commerce, e-commerce and e-government initiatives. For the more technologically minded, there will be inspiring discussions such as 3G mobile communications technologies, interactive digital TV and wireless IP networks.

As policy makers, we stand to benefit from ideas and keen observations from the leaders of the telecommunications industry. Having launched Hong Kong's Digital 21 IT Strategy two years ago and achieved all our major milestones to make Hong Kong a leading digital city, we are about to embark on the next phase of work. Over the last two years, we have made significant progress:

  • We have progressively liberalised our telecommunications sector. Last year alone, new investment of over US$1.7 billion (or HK$13 billion) has been secured to drive the development of our telecommunications infrastructure;

  • We have developed a legislative framework for e-business and established a local public key infrastructure to encourage secure e-business transactions;

  • We are about to launch a full range of on line Government services ranging from submission of tax return to renewal of driving licence;

  • We have launched a 5-year strategy to promote the use of IT in education which will turn our primary and secondary schools into dynamic and innovative learning institutions. We will spend a capital expenditure of over US$400 million (or HK$3.2 billion) and an annual recurrent expenditure of over US$70 million (or HK$550 million) for this purpose. This is on top of our usual expenditure of about 4% GDP spent on education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels; and

  • Private sector innovation and a culture to develop e-business applications have begun to take root.

We have indeed developed into an information-based digital city with :

  • Fully digitised telecommunications network;

  • 100% broadband coverage for commercial buildings and over 90% for households;

  • 50% home computer penetration;

  • 71% mobile phone penetration;

  • 1/3 of the population Internet users;

  • Over 200 Internet Service Providers; and

  • 6.8 million smart e-payment cards in use.

We, however, fully understand that we cannot standstill to keep Hong Kong as a leader in the information world. Our next phase of initiatives will concentrate on how we can :

  • Create a world class environment for e-business;

  • Develop a workforce for the information economy;

  • Ensure that Government sets a good example in introducing IT-enabled changes to Government's services; and

  • Fully exploit new technologies.

Our aim is to respond flexibly to the demands of the market. I look forward to receiving ideas and comments from you on how we can improve on our policies and programmes.

The telecommunications industry requires the same facilitating environment as other economic sectors. That is why Hong Kong offers a unique combination of advantages. We have a free economy - we believe the freest economy in the world and an open market. We have a level playing field that allows business to compete freely. Probably key to the telecommunications industry, we enjoy free flow of information and we have a robust and vibrant media. Most importantly, these freedoms are enshrined in the Basic Law. They are all firmly protected by the rule of law and upheld by an independent judiciary. We are also the largest venture capital centre in Asia, managing US$17 billion (or HK$130 billion) in 1999. I believe that being an all-rounder that has weathered many storms has earned us the acclaim of the world's best place to do business. To use a web-corollary, Hong Kong is your one-stop portal for a total business solution in Asia.

Let me once again thank the ITU for holding this prestigious event in Hong Kong that has drawn together leaders who will shape the future of the information world. I also invite you to take part in the hospitality programmes organised by the Hong Kong Government. And do not miss out on the attractions offered by Hong Kong, recently voted the most exciting city to visit in Asia. I wish you all a fruitful and enjoyable stay.

Thank you.