Paper for LegCo Panel on Information Policy Panel
Meeting on Friday, July 5, 1996

The Government's use of Internet


The policy and culture of open, transparent and accountable government are well established in Hong Kong. The Government makes use of all forms of mass media to disseminate information on its policies and plans and to communicate with the public. In line with this policy, we intend to make further and better use of the Internet.

Proposals to make better use of the Internet

2. As part of its responsibility for information policy, the Home Affairs Branch is examining how Government can best make use of the Internet. Some 29 government branches, departments and related organisations are now on the Internet. The intention is to provide guidance and assistance to these users and to extend the use of the Internet throughout the Government. This will involve providing guidelines on common applications to be met through the Internet and assistance in establishing home pages on the Government Information Centre. Working within the guidelines, individual branches and departments will remain responsible for deciding what information relating to their work areas will be placed on the Internet.

3. We have considered suggestions made by Members and the Hong Kong Development and Strategic Research Centre (HKDSRC) at the panel meeting on 11 April 1996. We agree and also foresee that branches and departments will be able to make use of the Internet to disseminate information required under the Code on Access to Information, to make known government policies, to consult the public and receive feedback on new policy initiatives, to detail legislative proposals (Bills being introduced to LegCo) and to make available a wealth of information on every aspect of Government of interest to the public.

4. Regarding HKDSRC's suggested information to be put on the Internet, ISD has sounded out branches and departments concerned. Responses from branches and departments are generally favourable. There are, however, several constraints which need to be addressed, such as the size of the information, manpower required to upload it and the impact on revenue in uploading marketable information. The following are responses to some of the suggestions:

  1. Laws of Hong Kong: The Legal Department has decided to place the Laws of Hong Kong database on the Internet. Public access via the Internet will coincide with the replacement of the Bilingual Law Information System (BLIS) which will be completed in the spring of 1997.
  2. As regards business registration, the Company Registry's database of company names and details is held on microfiche and although a computer database of key company information is being produced, it will be at least another year before it is complete and can be made available to the public.
  3. The same applies to land registration. The Lands Department is still in the process of computerising its land registers, which will require a memory of some 47 gigabytes. It will take another three years to complete imaging its register instruments.
  4. Dangerous slopes: the list of public slopes is available to the public at the moment, and the section responsible has no objection to putting the information on the Internet.
  5. Policy branches have no objection to putting LegCo briefs on the Internet but they are concerned about the manpower required and the timing in uploading this material.
  6. Commonly used public service information and details: The Government Information Centre now provides access to a great deal of information of this kind. There is no objection to making further material available.
  7. Departments/branches are also concerned about the uploading of marketable information and publications, such as gazettes, business registrations, land registration and so on. The issue has to be addressed centrally.

5. Apart from disseminating information, we also agree that the Government can make use of the Internet to collect public views and in particular their views on consultation documents. In fact, Government departments/branches with home pages are normally equipped with e-mail addresses. Members of the public can send their views through e-mail to branches/departments direct or to GIC for referral. E-mail submissions will be processed in the same way as those submitted by letter. Although we appreciate the convenience of receiving feedback through Internet, we do not think it appropriate to use the Internet as a sole means for collecting views on general issues as users of the Internet do not represent a typical sample.

6. Furthermore, we also foresee the possibility of receiving applications through the Internet but we are conscious, with the technology available, that we have not yet reached the stage where we can assure the public that data given to us on the Internet, or held in the Internet servers, is as secure as the same information held in Government offices and computer systems. Privacy and security concerns will set limits on the present use of the Internet.

Latest developments of the GIC and government home pages

Hit rate

7. The total number of visitors to the index page of the government home page between 5 December 1995 and 15 June 1996 was 137,098. There is a gradual increase in the number of visitors each month since the launch of the GIC in December 1995. (see Appendix 1).

Consultation paper

8. Nine consultation papers have been put on the Internet. (Appendix 2)

New home pages launched by departments

9. New home pages added to GIC since the Panel meeting on April 11 are: Broadcasting Authority, Government Laboratory, Drainage Services Department, Housing Authority and Housing Department, Inland Revenue Department and the Industry Department. The Hong Kong Laboratory Accreditation Scheme of the Industry Department and the library section of the Urban Council have also launched home pages during this period.

10. The home pages of government related organisations including the Hong Kong Examinations Authority, the Securities and Futures Commission, and the Occupational Safety and Health Council launched in the last few months are also listed in GIC. (a list of home pages of departments/branches and related agencies is in Appendix 3)

Search engine

11. An experimental search system is being installed by the Information Technology Services Department and it will start to operate at the beginning of July. The full text search engine is able to search both English and Chinese text. ITSD will further improve on the system after its launch.

Publicity and Promotion

12. The inauguration of the Government Information Centre was announced through the usual Internet channels by notifying the keepers of popular web site lists. Holders of local lists of Hong Kong home pages were also notified. In more traditional mode, ISD produced a leaflet announcing the home page and giving its URL (electronic address). The leaflet was distributed through government and district offices. A new leaflet will be produced when the index page in Chinese is ready. Press releases on GIC have been issued from time to time

PNETS charge

13. As from 1 June 1996, the level of PNETS charge for Internet access service has been reduced by more than half from 9 cents to 4.2 cents per minute, due to economies of scale and productivity gains by the Hong Kong Telephone Company in the operation of its network.

14. With the entry of three new Fixed Telecommunications Network Service operators into the market, whose tariffs are not subject to the approval of the Telecommunications Authority, Internet Service Providers may also consider providing their services through the network of these new operators on more favourable commercial terms. There is no legal requirement for the levying of any interconnection charge on these three new operators.

15. Meanwhile, the Telecommunications Authority is consulting the public on the pricing structure of the Hong Kong Telephone Company. A public consultation paper was issued in May for comment until 22 July 1996. The paper sets out, inter alia, arguments for and against the imposition of interconnection charges on PNETS, and identifies feasible pricing structure options with or without such charges.

Computer education

16. The Education Department supports the view that the younger generation should be kept abreast of the latest developments in information technology.

17. At present, secondary school students are provided with computer training through the subject "Computer Literacy" from Secondary 1 to 3, "Computer Studies" at Secondary 4 and 5, and A-Level Computer Studies and AS-Level Computer Applications at Secondary 6 and 7. Although Computer Studies is not offered as a separate subject at primary level, more and more primary schools have acquired computers through their own resources and are also able to provide the training for pupils as part of their extra-curricular activities.

18. As regards equipment, all secondary schools in Hong Kong are equipped with computers capable of supporting Internet access. Some may need to purchase a modem, the current price of which should be affordable to schools.

19. Schools are encouraged to use the recurrent subject grants to install a telephone line and to subscribe to Internet Service Providers for Internet access. Recent revisions of the subject grants have taken into account such additional expenditure.

20. In addition, the Education Department is teaming up with service providers to offer free Internet accounts to all secondary schools. A task force has been formed to pursue the initiative.

Home Affairs Branch
Information Services Department
June 1996

Appendix I

Number of Visitors to the Hong Kong Government Home Page






















June (1 - 15)



Appendix 2

Consultation papers

1. Equal opportunities: A study on discrimination on the ground of family status

2. Equal opportunities: A study on discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation

3. Government's proposals for the regulation of video-on-demand programme services

4. The use of extrinsic materials as an aid to statutory interpretation

5. Review of pay TV

6. Invitation of public comments on Consumer Council study on achieving competition in the liberalised telecommunications market

7. Privacy: Regulating surveillance and the interception of communications

8. Review of the pricing structure of local fixed telephone services

9. Equal opportunities: A study on discrimination in employment on the ground of age

Appendix 3

Branches/Departments/Related Organisations with home pages

Policy Branches

Civil Service Branch

Finance Branch

Home Affairs Branch

Government Departments & Agencies

Census and Statistics Department

Drainage Services Department

Environmental Protection Department

Government Laboratory

Government Supplies Department

Housing Authority and Housing Department

Immigration Department

Industry Department

Information Services Department

Information Technology Services Department

Inland Revenue Department

Intellectual Property Department

Labour Department

Marine Department

Radio Television Hong Kong

Royal Observatory

Telecommunications Authority, Office of the


Water Supplies Department

Related Organisations

Broadcasting Authority

Hong Kong Examinations Authority

Hong Kong Tourist Association

Hong Kong Trade Development Council

Hospital Authority

Occupational Safety and Health Council

Securities and Futures Commission

Last Updated on 20 Aug, 1998