Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2)1136
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/IP

Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Information Policy

Minutes of Meeting held on Friday, 23 January 1998 at 8:30 am in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

Hon CHOY So-yuk (Chairman)
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon TSANG Yok-sing
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee

Members Absent :

Hon WONG Siu-yee
Hon MA Fung-kwok

Public Officers Attending :

Item IV

Deputy Secretary for Economic Services

Mr Geoffrey F WOODHEAD
Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services

Mr Tony Y Y LI
Assistant Secretary for Economic Services

Ms Mimi LEE
Principal Assistant Secretary for Broadcasting, Culture and Sport (Broadcasting)

Mr Patrick W M CHIM
Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury

Ms Ellen CHOY
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mr Patrick CHUNG
EDI Co-ordinator
Trade and Industry Bureau

Assistant Director-General of Telecommunications (Operations)

Assistant Director of Information Technology Services

Mr NG Kwok-chuen
Assistant Director of Education

tem V

Mr John WAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs

Miss Sarah WU
Acting Director of Information Services

Attendance by Invitation :

Item IV

Hong Kong Computer Society

Mr Daniel LAI
Vice-President, External Affairs

Hong Kong Telecommunications Ltd

Mr Louis LOONG
Director of Corporate Affairs

Information Technology Division of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers


Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers Inc


Dr Joseph NG
Vice Chairman

The British Computer Society (Hong Kong Section)

Mr Kenneth LAU

The Hong Kong Telemedicine Association

Mr TSE Si-yin, John

Hong Kong Information Technology Federation Ltd

Mr Tony AU

Star TV

Ms Jannie POON
Corporate Affairs Manager

Wharf Cable Ltd

Mr William J EARL
Project Director
Wharf Interactive Network Ltd

Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data

Mr Stephen LAU
Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data

Hong Kong Baptist University

Mr Joseph LEUNG
Director, Computing and Telecommunications Services Centre

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Professor P C CHING
Professor, Department of Electronic Engineering and Dean, Faculty of Engineering

The Hong Kong Institute of Education

Dr Francis CHEUNG
Senior Lecturer, Centre for Research & Development

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Mr CHIU Ying-wai, David
Senior Computing Officer

The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology

Professor Roland T CHIN
Department Head, Department of Computer Science

The Open University of Hong Kong

Professor Danny WONG
Vice President (Academic)

Vocational Training Council

Mr Stephen AU
Chief Systems Manager

The Hong Kong Association for Computer Education Ltd

Mr YIP Chee-tim

Mr Jerome J DAY, Jr
Ex-Director, Centre for Computing Applications and Services
Hong Kong Baptist University

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Constance LI
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2
Staff in Attendance :

Miss Eva LIU
Head, Research & Library Services Division

Mr Colin CHUI
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 2

I. Confirmation of minutes of meetings

(PLC Paper Nos. CB(2)788 and 789)

1.The minutes of meetings held on 28 November and 2 December 1997 were confirmed.

II. Items for discussion at the next meeting

2.The Chairman informed members that a joint meeting would be held with the Economic Services Panel on 9 February 1998 at 2:30 pm to discuss the early termination of the Hong Kong Telecom International Limited licence.

The Chairman invited members’ suggestions on items for discussion at the next regular meeting scheduled for 27 February 1998.

(Post-meeting note : The Panel subsequently agreed to discuss personal data privacy on the Internet and the establishment of the new Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau and related staffing proposals on 27 February 1998.)

III. Measuring press freedom (report by Head, Research and Library Services Division)

(Paper Nos. IN4/PLC and IN5/PLC)

3.At the invitation of the Chairman, H(RL) briefed members on the papers prepared by the Research and Library Services (RLS) Division.

Measuring press freedom in the Southeast Asia (IN4/PLC)

4.As requested by members at the meeting on 26 September 1997, RLS Division had made enquiries with the governments of Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia to ascertain whether their governments or legislatures sponsored any independent research on measuring press freedom in their countries in the past few years. While the government of Malaysia had not responded, the other four governments had replied that their governments or legislatures did not sponsor press freedom studies.

Measuring press freedom in Hong Kong (IN 5/PLC)

5.Upon members’ request at the meeting on 20 October 1997, the RLS Division made further enquiries with commercial researchers, academics and the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) about the feasibility of conducting independent research on measuring press freedom in Hong Kong. Information on the approach, timing, frequency and cost of such studies was collected. H(RL) said that the respondents generally indicated a need for establishing a trend by regular surveys. HKJA also expressed reservations about conducting press freedom studies by the government or the legislature.

6.While acknowledging the importance of press freedom in monitoring the work of the government, a member shared the reservations expressed by HKJA that it would be inappropriate for the government or legislature to conduct press freedom studies which would better be left to the academia or independent researchers. In this respect, he suggested providing copies of the RLS reports to the tertiary educational institutions encouraging them to undertake such studies. He also agreed with paragraph 8.1 of paper IN5/PLC that such studies should be conducted at least one year after the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Having regard to the RLS report findings and members’ comments, the Panel decided not to conduct a study on press freedom.

IV. Information Technology development (meeting with the Administration and deputations)

[Paper No. CB(2)876(01)]

7.The Chairman welcomed representatives of the Administration and deputations to the meeting. She said that the purpose of the meeting was for the Administration to respond to views expressed by members and deputations on information technology (IT) development at the meetings on 28 November and 2 December 1997.

8.With the aid of presentation materials, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services highlighted salient points in the Administration's paper.

Bureau Secretary to coordinate IT development

9.The Deputy Secretary for Economic Services (DSES) said that the Government had yet to decide on the appointment of a bureau secretary to lead and coordinate IT development. He clarified that the Government did not intend to set up an additional bureau for IT-related responsibilities. Instead, the Chief Secretary for Administration's Office was currently reviewing the portfolios of existing bureaux with a view to adjusting their responsibilities. In this connection, some members reiterated their concern that the IT bureau secretary should only deal with IT-related responsibilities so that he could respond quickly and effectively to the rapid changes in IT technology.

10.Mr Stephen LAU and Dr Francis CHEUNG were concerned that the delay in appointing the IT bureau secretary would hamper implementation of the initiatives set out in the Policy Address. In response, DSES stated that bureaux and departments concerned were still working on those IT programmes currently under their auspices, and that the draft estimates for 1998-99 had included necessary resources under the respective policy areas. A member suggested that the appointment should preferably be made before the Budget speech and that the new bureau secretary should brief the Panel on his work plan.

High-level committee to steer IT development

11.DSES said that the existing Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee currently focused on the provision of physical infrastructure for IT development. As regards setting up a high-level committee to steer IT development in Hong Kong, the new IT bureau secretary would consider the form of participation by the industry, academia, businesses and the community in the formulation of IT policies and strategies. In response to Mr John TSE, DSES said that, similar to other advisory committees, any advisory committee to be set up would provide expert advice to the Government, and there was no question of its being subordinate to a bureau or department.

IT education

12.Dr Raymond HO Chung-tai declared interest as a member of the Vocational Training Council. Referring to the Administration's target to train 30,000 additional teachers on IT skills, he enquired whether there would be different levels of training for teachers with different needs. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (PAS/EM) responded that details of such training were under consideration, and there would likely be three levels of IT training for teachers. Basic training would be provided by computer vendors while more advanced courses would be available at tertiary and other educational institutions to teachers in need of in-depth IT training. Selection of teachers to attend such courses would rest with the schools.

13.Noting that it was Government's objective to use IT as a tool in the teaching of at least 25 % of the school curriculum within five years, Mr Jerome DAY asked whether the Government current programmes of teacher training and curriculum development could achieve the objective. PAS(EM) responded that, to achieve the 25% target, more IT training would be provided to teachers and the Curriculum Development Council was reviewing the school curriculum with a view to upgrading its contents and recommending pedagogy to take full advantage of IT in teaching and learning.

14.On the adequacy of IT expertise in education, Mr David CHIU suggested ‘ importing ’ IT professionals to assist in teaching. PAS(EM) pointed out that ‘ imported ’ IT professionals might not be able to teach effectively in local schools as they were unfamiliar with the local teaching environment and school curriculum. It was in the long term interest of schools to train up their teachers although this would take time. She noted Mr CHIU’ suggestion of providing Government subsidy to the development of local educational software. She said that some IT-competent teachers would also be trained to develop software to cater for the needs of their students.

15.Mr YIP Chee-tim relayed to the meeting problems encountered by some schools in accommodating computer facilities and finding expertise in managing the hardware and software. PAS(EM) responded that Government was aware of these concerns and the Education Department had been liaising with schools on these issues. The Government would also consider whether to provide school-based technical assistance in the context of the five-year strategy of IT in education, which would also cover setting up IT attainment targets for students.

Fair competition

16.The Administration noted the concern of some members and representatives of deputations about fair competition in the provision of IT services, IT training and Government subsidies to applied researches.

Consultancy study by Industry Department

17.Referring to paragraph 17 of the Administration’ paper, a member requested the Administration to provide an interim report on the consultancy study commissioned by the Industry Department on the present status of IT applications in Hong Kong. The EDI Coordinator responded that the consultant could be asked to provide the report. He undertook to relay the request to the Industry Department. Adm

18.A member commented that the Government was not fully aware of the rapid changing nature of IT and had focused on the provision of hardware rather than software applications. He remarked that the Government should work towards promoting the use of IT not only in schools, but also at home and in the community. He urged the Government to keep pace with international IT development and promote the use of IT knowledge and skills in the community.

In concluding the discussion, the Chairman said that the Panel was disappointed with the slow progress in appointing the IT bureau secretary and establishing the consultative machinery. She hoped the new bureau secretary, when appointed, could brief the Panel on the concrete work plans on IT development. Adm

V. Reorganisation of Information Services Department (ISD)

[Paper No. CB(2)876(02)]

19.The Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs (PAS/HA) briefed members on the paper about the re-organisation of ISD and the staffing proposals set out in the draft Establishment Sub-committee paper at Annex D.

20.Referring to paragraph 4 of Annex A to the Administration's paper, a member asked whether the proposed withdrawal of government information officers currently posted to financially autonomous bodies such as the provisional municipal councils and the Housing Authority (HA) would affect the coordination of publicity work. The Acting Director of Information Services (DIS(Ag)) responded that HA had already replaced the government information officers with their own staff, and the move had not affected coordination between ISD and HA on the publicity of HA's work. There were no plans at the present stage to implement the proposal in the two municipal councils and ISD would keep the situation under review.

21.With regard to the Chairman's question as to why the Departmental Information and Public Relations Units were placed under the Secretariat Press Office under the proposed organisation of ISD, DIS(Ag) advised that this was to facilitate coordination of the publicity work on government's policies and actions. The structure did not suggest that the publicity units in government departments were subordinate to the Secretariat Press Office.

22.On the question of whether there had been changes in the workload and responsibilities of ISD after the changeover of sovereignty to justify upgrading the post of DIS, DIS (Ag) advised that the 1994 Review of Government Information Structure had already recommended the upgrading, and ISD had since implemented initiatives to enforce consistency in Government’ public relations strategy. She added that ISD had taken on more responsibilities such as the Hand-over Ceremony and the World Bank/International Monetary Fund Conferences. As ISD had been fully occupied with other urgent tasks, it had taken the Administration until now to forward the upgrading proposal.

23.In reply to a member, DIS (Ag) advised that a team of seven information officers provided support to the public relations units of works departments.

24.The Chairman thanked representatives of the Administration for the briefing. The meeting ended at 10:50 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
4 March 1998