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Speech by Ms Joyce Tam, Principal Assistant Secretary for Information

"Digital Economy" at XML Hong Kong
source from ITSD

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very honoured today to speak at this important seminar, XML Hong Kong 2000. Since the invention of the microprocessor in 1971, we have seen a worldwide revolution that has changed the way people communicate, work, shop and play in the past thirty years. Today, we are living in a "Digital Economy", in which customers and businesses, citizens and Government are connected together by an information superhighway where people can exchange information at the speed of thought at negligible costs. The "Digital Economy" has presented tremendous challenges and opportunities to businesses and governments all over the world.

There is no doubt that the "Digital Economy" is transforming the way businesses are operated. With the advent of the Internet and information technology, vendors and service providers can now explore new and overseas markets economically and effectively by locating potential customers electronically through the cyberspace and by transacting business online around the clock with clients in any corner in the world. Business partners are also able to share critical and timely information electronically. This provides plenty of scope for businesses to streamline supply chains, shorten production cycles, improve efficiency and productivity and reduce costs.

To Government, the "Digital Economy" presents challenges as well as opportunities to change the way the Government interacts with its constituents. Traditionally, Government departments used to operate like individual lifts, with information flowing only vertically and rarely horizontally between departments. Information technology and the Internet have provided the enabling tool for the Government to change the way public services are delivered. Public services can be made available in a one-stop-shop manner, and the public can make enquiries and obtain services at any time and any place convenient to them.

With the vision to develop Hong Kong into a leading digital city in the global network economy in the
21st Century, the Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau has published the Digital 21 Information Technology Strategy in 1998. The Strategy has identified four enabling factors for developing information technology, including -

1.developing a high capacity telecommunications infrastructure;
2.establishing an information infrastructure with an open, common interface for secure electronic transactions;
3.empowering our people with know-how to use information technology; and
4.cultivating an environment that stimulates creativity and welcomes advances in the use of information technology.

Key to the implementation of the Strategy is providing a favourable environment and necessary infrastructure that are conductive to the development of electronic commerce. To this end, we have put in place a secure and clear legal framework for electronic commerce. The Electronic Transactions Ordinance enacted early this year gives electronic records and digital signatures the same legal status as that of their paper-based counterparts. The Government has also taken the lead in accepting submissions in electronic form under law following the enactment of the Ordinance. To instill public confidence in the security of electronic transactions, we have also established a local Public Key Infrastructure The Hongkong Post has already set up a certification authority to provide certification services and issue digital certificates. With the services provided, we can now address the issues of authentication, integrity, confidentiality and non-repudiation in electronic transactions.

On the technical side, the development of common technical standards will greatly facilitate the adoption of electronic commerce. The emergence of common industry standard is a global trend. While Java is becoming the de facto common standard for portable code in web programming, eXtensible Markup Language (XML) is emerging as the standard for portable data transportation for electronic commerce activities. XML allows communicating parties to define mutually agreed communication data structure. It enables efficient data exchange among different system platforms, thus facilitating sharing of data among business information systems and electronic market exchanges among multiple parties. With its features and benefits, XML will contribute significantly to the development and adoption of electronic commerce.

One strategic part of the Digital 21 Information Technology Strategy is for the Government to take the lead in the adoption of electronic commerce. To this end, the Government has taken the lead by implementing the Electronic Service Delivery (ESD) scheme to provide public services online to the community. The scheme will provide an open and common information infrastructure for the public to obtain a wide range of public services online, including submission of tax returns, renewal of driving and vehicle licence, registration as a voter and payment of Government bills. These services are accessible 24 hours a day and seven days a week through the Internet and other access channels like public information kiosks installed at convenient public locations. The common information infrastructure can also be used to provide commercial services, thereby pump-priming the development of electronic commerce in Hong Kong. The first phase of the scheme will be launched later this year.

As a flagship electronic commerce project of the Government, the ESD scheme has made use of the XML technology. Application data submitted by the public through the delivery channels will be packaged in XML format before they are transmitted to the Government backend systems.

Currently, the Government is also working on another project to convert common Government forms into XML format. The project will cover some 200 public forms initially. Upon its completion in early 2001, the public can complete the forms electronically, sign digitally and submit the forms online to the Government. This project serves three goals -

1.firstly, to promote the submission of electronic forms by the public to the Government under
the requirements of the Electronic Transactions Ordinance;
2.secondly, to pave way for the automated processing of electronic records within Government departments; and
3.thirdly, to set a model for the business sector, particularly the small and medium-sized enterprises, to follow in the adoption of a common standard for information exchange on the Internet. Again, the XML technology has made it possible.

To sum up, it is Government's policy to turn Hong Kong into an electronic commerce hub in the Asia-Pacific region and a leading digital city of the world. This requires the concerted efforts of the Government, the business sector and the community. While the Government's role is to provide the favourable environment and necessary infrastructure for electronic commerce to flourish, the industry also plays a significant role in participating in electronic commerce and in developing the necessary industry and technical standards. The XML Hong Kong 2000 is an excellent opportunity for members of the industry to exchange ideas and explore business opportunities in the development of XML.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is important that the industries of Hong Kong can join the Government as we embrace the new era and digital economy in the 21st century. I am sure that other speakers to come will give you more insights in this field.

Thank you.

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