PLC Paper No. CB(2)73
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration and
cleared with the Chairman)
Ref : CB2/PL/IP
LegCo Panel on Information Policy
Minutes of Meeting
held on Friday, 13 June 1997 at 10:30 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building
Members Present :
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP (Chairman)
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP
Hon Lawrence YUM Sin-ling
Member Absent :
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Member Attending :
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Public Officers Attending :
- Mr Patrick W M CHIM
- Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury
- Mr Geoffrey F WOODHEAD
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services
- Mr John DEAN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
- Mr P M K CHUNG
- EDI Co-ordinator
Trade and Industry Branch
- Miss Joanna CHOI
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport
(Film and Entertainment)
- Mr Anthony S K WONG
- Director-General of Telecommunications
- Mr NG Kwok-chuen
- Assistant Director of Education
(Chief Inspector of Schools)
- Mr Dennis C T PANG
- Chief Systems Engineer
Information Technology Services Department
Attendance by Invitation :
- Hong Kong Information Technology Federation
- Mr John DALY
- Television Broadcasts Limited
- Mr Alex YING
- General Manager - Corporate Affairs
- Asia Television Ltd
- Mr Nicholas YEUNG
- Deputy Controller
- The University of Hong Kong
- Dr J H BACON-SHONE
- Director, Social Sciences Research Centres
- Dr N NG
- Director, Computer Centre
- The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology
- Dr John WONG
- Principal Computer Officer
Department of Computer Science
- The Chinese University of Hong Kong
- Ms Jackie CHEUNG
- Project Co-ordinator
Information Networking Laboratories
- Mr Bobby HO
- Project Manager
Information Networking Laboratories
- City University of Hong Kong
- Mr POON Kee-hoo
- Director of Computing Services
- Hong Kong Baptist University
- Mr Jerome J DAY, Jr
- Director of Computing and Telecommunications Services Centre
- Open University of Hong Kong
- Mr Andrew WONG
- Associate Director (Administration)
- Hong Kong Institute of Education
- Mr Danny TANG
- Head, Information Technology and Services
- Vocational Training Council
- Mr H R KNIGHT
- Mr Stephen AU
- Chief Systems Manager
- Hong Kong Computer Society
- Mr TONG Siu-fai, Clement
- Committee member
Internet & Networking Special Interest Group
- Mr NG Wing-po, Raymond
- Committee member
Internet & Networking Special Interest Group
- Mr LAU Kai-hing
- Committee member
Internet & Networking Special Interest Group
- Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data
- Mr Stephen LAU
- Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data
- Regional Services Department
- Mr TSE Fu-shing
- Chief Librarian
Urban Services Department
- Mr Nelson HA Ka-wing
- Manager, Information Technology Centre
Clerk in Attendance :
- Mrs Anna LO
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2
Staff in Attendance:
- Miss Eva LIU
- Head of Research & Library Services Division
- Ms YUE Sin-yui
- Research Officer 2
- Miss Elyssa WONG
- Research Officer 4
- Ms Christine LIU
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 8
I. Confirmation of minutes of meetings held on 11 April and 9 May 1997 and matters arising
(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2)2226 and 2645/96-97)
The minutes of meetings held on 11 April and 9 May 1997 were confirmed.
II. Development of information superhighway and Internet in Hong Kong
(Paper Nos. RP10 and 11/96-97 - Reports by the Research & Library Services Division of LegCo Secretariat)
(Paper No. CB(2)2551/96-97(01) - Submission from Television Broadcasts Limited)
Submission from the Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB)
Representative of TVB opined that the focus of information superhighway should be more than just the development of physical infrastructure. Other important areas such as the contents of information, the application of networks and the mode of transmission also had to be considered. Regarding the definition of information superhighway, he said that it should not only refer to a digital, broadband infrastructure but had to include the wireless network like cellular networks or terrestrial broadcasting. He hoped that the Administration would make Hong Kong well-prepared for a new information society and maintain its competitiveness in the global economy. He also pointed out the need to review the broadcasting and telecommunication policies in the light of the current technological and competitive environment.
Reports on National Information Infrastructure (NII)
H(RL) briefed members on the contents of the two reports:National Information Infrastructure (NII) : Overseas Executive Organization and National Information Infrastructure (NII) : Overseas Legislative Initiatives. The salient points were summarised as follows -
NII : Overseas Executive Organization
Within the Government structure : top-led
(a) Research indicated that many governments assigned the head of government or the relevant minister to chair their NII steering committees.
No steering committee : one body
(b) In some cases where no steering committee was formed, a minister was designated the responsibility to co-ordinate NII development. For example, the Ministry of Finance in Finland was assigned the overall coordinator of NII development.
Blueprint on HKII
(c) Hong Kong did not have a blueprint or policies on Hong Kong Information Infrastructure (HKII). Various policies of HKII were formulated by different policy branches and government departments. Recently, an Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee (IIAC) was established under the Office of Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) to coordinate the development of HKII. Nonetheless, the IIAC remained as an advisory committee and could not be regarded as a steering committee of HKII.
Composition of steering committee
(d) Since the NII policies covered diverse interests, sufficient effort had to be made in order to ensure that the interests of all concerned parties could be adequately articulated and channelled into the consultation and decision making processes of the steering committee and its subcommittees. One feasible way was to widen the representativeness of the committees. In the case of Germany, Korea, the UK and the US, the membership of the steering committee comprised representatives of all relevant government departments. In Singapore, the membership of the National Computer Board comprised government officials, representatives from academic, telecommunications, broadcasting and business sectors. It was also observed that each sector had similar number of representatives in the committee. As for Hong Kong, most members of the IIAC, however, came from the telecommunications sector.
(e) Since NII policies had an extensive coverage, many steering committees had established subcommittees to assist them to formulate policies, monitor progress and coordinate efforts. For example, in the US, three subcommittees covering different policy areas were formed under the Information Infrastructure Task Force and seven working groups were set up to support the subcommittees. Like the overseas NII steering committees, the IIAC also formed three subcommittees and eight working groups to assist its operation.
Support to the steering committee
(f) The development of NII demanded a high level of coordination and liaison among different parties and concerned groups. Therefore, every steering committee and its subcommittees needed a secretariat to assist its operation. It was noted from overseas experience that it was usually the corresponding ministry which acted as the secretariat for the steering committee and its subcommittees. In Hong Kong, the Office of the Telecommunications Authority was the secretariat for IIAC.
NII : Overseas Legislative Initiatives
Physical information infrastructure
(a) There were legislative initiatives in various countries to create an environment which would facilitate competition and private sector investment. Different countries used different legislative measures to create a competitive market depending on their respective level of technological development. The UK aimed at privatizing the monopoly operators; Korea, Germany and Japan worked at deregulating the telecommunications industry. Hong Kong, like the US, had already enacted legislation to deregulate the telecommunications industry and to promote competition. On the other hand, various communications networks involving voice, data and video would converge as NII developed. There was a need to eliminate the regulatory barriers to accomodate the convergence of media on NII. Canada and Germany had introduced legislative amendments to cater for such convergence.
Education and research
(b) In the US, there were legislative initiatives to provide IT training to teachers and to encourage teachers to use the latest technology for teaching and education. Unlike the US, Hong Kong did not have such legislative inititatives.
Electronic dissemination of information
(c) The US government was considering introduction of legislation to use the electronic networks for dissemination of government information as well as communications with the public.
(d) In encouraging more popular use of the electronic networks, ground rules had to be laid down to ensure universal access and to prevent abuse of the system. In the US, a bill was enacted to require the Federal Communications Commission to establish an universal service support mechanism for the provision of advanced telecommunications and information services to schools and libraries. Moreover, the Federal Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Compliance Act 1997 also required the information technology purchased by the Federal agencies to be accessible to their employees with sight disabilities.
Data security and privacy
(e) To prevent abuse of the electronic networks which included those relating to data security and privacy, intellectual property and content control, the US and Germany had legislative initiatives to encourage the use of encryption technology to protect the confidentiality of the communication between parties and to promote the electronic commerce. There were also efforts to bring in legislation to protect the confidentiality of personal information available to the network providers. Recently, the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance was enacted in Hong Kong to require the data users including the businesses holding personal data to allow access and correction of the personal data held by them.
(f) Various countries had legislative initiatives to protect children from the obscene and offensive materials on the Internet. While Canada and Germany tried to put part of the responsibility on the service providers in restricting children access to pornography, there were legislative initiatives in the US to give parents control over the availability of networked information within the family. Hong Kong, on the other hand, encouraged the development of a self regulatory framework and did not intend to enact specific legislation to control obscene and indecent materials on the Internet at this stage.
Views on the "NII : Overseas Executive Organization"
A member pointed out that, as compared with other countries like Japan and Taiwan, Hong Kong was lagging behind in the development of information technology. He noticed that information on the time of establishment and the progress or future plans of the executive organizations were lacking in the reports. H(RL) undertook to provide the information in writing after the meeting.
(Post-meeting note : The information was forwarded to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2)2772/96-97.)
Director-General of Telecommunications commented that the development of information technology in Hong Kong was very much technology driven. At present, the imminent decision was whether Hong Kong should go for the information superhighway. If the answer was in the affirmative, it would be necessary to look at the integration of the communication media and at its applications. On the aspect of applications, he informed the meeting that a Task Force on Applications was set up under the IIAC comprising five working groups, namely, the Working Group on Method of Analysis, Working Group on Business, Working Group on Education, Working Group on Government Infrastructure and Working Group on Community, Environment and Personal Services. The Task Forces and Working Groups comprised mainly of people from the various sectors of the industry and the recommendations of IIAC would be passed to the relevant government departments/policy branches for consideration.
Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services (PAS(ES)) said that in some areas, Hong Kong was ahead of many other places. For example, Hong Kong would be the first city in Asia to have video-on-demand programme services.
Representative of HKITF thanked the Panel for providing a public forum for the discussion of this very important issue on information superhighway. Having heard the views of representatives from various sectors in previous meetings, he asked if any of the ideas had been brought to the attention of the senior executives in Government. PAS(ES) replied that all the submissions and papers of this Panel would be included in the telecommunications review conducted by the Economic Services Branch. He assured members that the views expressed would be carefully considered. In the meantime, he informed members that the first draft of the telecommunications review had been circulated to relevant departments for comments and would be published soon.
Privacy Commissioner said that the economic success of Hong Kong attributed to the government policies of a free-market and positive non-intervention. He considered that the traditional approach of positive non-intervention, however, would no longer be applicable in the development of information technology in Hong Kong. Like many overseas countries such as the US, UK and Germany, Hong Kong should also involve senior officials in the development of information technology. This was essential as it would indicate to the community that Government duly recognised its importance.
Representative of Hong Kong Baptist University opined that Hong Kong should put more effort on the human aspect by preparing people to participate in the use of the information technology. He considered that it would be meaningless to develop a magnificient physical infrastructure if there was no application for it.
In response to a question from the Chairperson, the Assistant Director of Education said that the Finance Committee had recently approved funding for the provision of multimedia computers to primary schools. The purpose of the provision was not to introduce a computer subject in primary schools but to incorporate information technology education in the school curriculum and encourage students to apply it in their learning. He informed members that the Curriculum Development Council was looking at how information technology could be incorporated into teaching and learning to upgrade the quality of education.
Representative of the University of Hong Kong commented that the Hong Kong Government should take a role of facilitating rather than directing the development of information superhighway.
While educating students in the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions on information technology was important, the representative of HKITF considered that similar education for the adult community was equally important. He therefore considered that the Government should take steps to educate the adults as well. On the other hand, he commented that the establishment of a high level task force with a balanced membership between the public and private sectors was essential.
Representative of TVB believed that information technology would have a major impact in the next twenty years because the manufacturing industry in Hong Kong was no longer competitive and would be replaced by the service industry. He wished that in reviewing its broadcasting and telecommunications policies in Hong Kong the Government would integrate the two in its formulation of the information policy.
Views on the "NII : Overseas Legislative Initiatives"
Representative of Hong Kong Computer Society raised that Hong Kong had been lagging behind on formulating legislation regarding the development of information technology.
In response, the Director-General of Telecommunications replied that the Government had actually been doing a lot of work on legislation. The Privacy (Personal Data) Ordinance was enacted to protect personal data and other reviews were being carried out on Internet applications.
Privacy Commissioner also informed members that the Privacy Commissioner Office (PCO) had recently completed a report on the operation of information networks and the sort of problems that would infringe the privacy of personal data. They were prepared to issue pamphlets and guidelines for the public spelling out the duties of the Internet service providers. He further commented that since the Internet had become very popular and did not have a national boundary, PCO would keep in touch with its counterparts in other countries on the sharing of information regarding the protection of personal data.
In this connection, representative of HKITF said that a working group of IIAC of which he was the chairman had prepared a report recommending the Government, as a matter of urgency, to review the United Nations model law on electronic commerce.
Director-General of Telecommunications said that IIAC had agreed in May this year to spend six months in collecting the views of all relevant organisations and compile them into a report.
Formation of a high level committee
Members were generally of the view that the Government should take a leading and co-ordinating role in the development of information superhighway and Internet in Hong Kong. They considered that a high level committee in the form of a think tank, a task force, a steering committee or a policy committee headed by senior officials in the Government would be necessary. After considerable deliberation, members recommended that the Administration should take immediate steps to establish a high level committee, chaired by the Chief Secretary or Financial Secretary, with a balanced membership between the public and private sectors. Representatives of the public sector should be senior officials from the relevant policy branches and government departments, while representatives of the private sector should include those from the business and industry, academia, the technical sector and the community at large. They considered a high level committee was essential to map out the policy and, most importantly, to ensure that the policy was implemented with the provision of adequate funding.
The terms of reference of the proposed committee, as suggested by a member, should include -
- Raising the entire community awareness to the reality of the information society and to the economic and social opportunities created thereby. This would require fundamental changes to the very fabric of the education systems so that children in Hong Kong would be brought up not just to be computer literate, but more importantly to be familiar and comfortable with the global information society and with the knowledge to make proper use of information technology for learning, for work and for leisure.
- Creating an information society environment as standard throughout the public and private sectors ensuring that Hong Kong would remain as one of the most efficient places in the world to do business, coupled with the building of a labour force skilled in information technology at all levels, both of which were vital ingredients in attracting overseas corporations to invest in Hong Kong.
- Encouraging Hong Kong companies to invest in the development of information society products and services and providing them with the opportunities to do so.
- Ensuring that Hong Kongs physical information technology infrastructure remained one of the best in the world.
In conclusion, the Clerk to Panel was requested to consolidate the views expressed in the six meetings and prepare a paper to the House Committee seeking its support to write to the Chief Secretary, Financial Secretary and Chief Executive (Designate) recommending the establishment of the high level committee.
The meeting ended at 12:40 pm.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
23 July 1997
Last Updated on 20 August 1998