Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2)788
(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, 28 November 1997 at 8:30 am in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

Hon CHOY So-yuk (Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai
Hon TSANG Yok-sing
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee

Members Absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam

Members Attending :

Hon LEE Kai-ming

Public Officers Attending :

Item II

Mr Geoffrey WOODHEAD
Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services

Mr Tony LI
Assistant Secretary for Economic Services

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

Mr Patrick CHUNG
EDI Co-ordinator

Mr Patrick W M CHIM
Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury

Director-General of Telecommunications

Mr NG Kwok-chuen
Assistant Director of Education

Assistant Director of Information Technology Services (Infrastructure)

Attendance by Invitation :

Item II

Hong Kong Computer Society

Dr Louis MA
Director, Membership Administration


Hong Kong Telecommunications Ltd

Mr Alistair GRIEVE
Deputy Chief Executive

Ms Josephine LEUNG
Group Manager, Regulatory Affairs

Information Technology Division of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers


Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers


Dr Joseph NG

Telecom Association of Hong Kong

Mr Hubert NG

The British Computer Society (Hong Kong Section)

Mr Kenneth LAU

The Hong Kong Society of Medical Informatics
The Hong Kong Telemedicine Association

Mr TSE Si-yin, John

Hong Kong Information Technology Federation Ltd

Mr Tony AU

Wharf Cable Ltd

Mr William J EARL
Project Director

Wharf Interactive Network Ltd

External Affairs Manager

The Hong Kong Development and Strategic Research Centre

Mr Mathias WOO

Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data

Mr Stephen LAU
Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Constance LI
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 2

Staff in Attendance :

Mr Raymond LAM
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6

I. Confirmation of minutes of meetings

(PLC Paper Nos. CB(2)533, CB(2)534 and CB(2)670)

1.The minutes of the meetings held on 26 September, 14 and 20 October 1997 were confirmed.

II. Information technology development (meeting with deputations)

2.The Chairman stated that the purpose of the meeting was to gauge the views of the information technology (IT) industry and concerned parties on future IT development as set out in the Chief Executive's 1997 Policy Address. At the invitation of the Chairman, deputations highlighted the major points in their submissions. Their views were summarised in the following paragraphs.

Hong Kong Computer Society (HKCS)

[Paper No. CB(2)570(05)]

3.Dr C K WONG presented the submission of HKCS. On IT in education, HKCS recommended the Administration to -

  1. use quality rather than quantity to measure success of IT in education;

  2. establish a hardware and software support system with technical staff and resource centres for schools;

  3. encourage the development of electronic educational contents;

  4. provide training for teachers; and

  5. encourage private sector participation in IT education.

4. On the appointment of a Bureau Secretary to deal with IT-related responsibilities, Dr C K WONG considered that a generalist from within the civil service would be suitable to take up this important task. Dr Louis MA added that the incumbent should also possess technology vision and good understanding of IT development.

5. Dr C K WONG said that HKCS supported the establishment of a high level committee to work with the IT Bureau Secretary in leading Hong Kong into the information age. The committee should consist of specialists in relevant fields, and preferably be chaired by an ExCo Member or a reputable person in the private sector who was familiar with technology and industry in Hong Kong. This being a steering committee, its functions should be distinct from those of the existing Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee (IIAC) which was more concerned with technical co-ordination for IT development.

Hong Kong Telecommunications Ltd (HK Telecom)

[Paper No. CB(2)609(01)]

6. Mr Alistair GRIEVE presented the submission of HK Telecom and pointed out that the per capita penetration of telephone lines in Hong Kong was currently the highest in Asia and definitely among the highest in the world. He considered Hong Kong already a leader as regards domestic and international telecommunications infrastructure in the world. In addition, Hong Kong was also foremost in optical fibre cable system. However, he said that Hong Kong was behind other countries such as Japan in the per capita penetration and usage level of Internet. With one of the best information infrastructure in the world, Hong Kong should make the best use of it to enhance productivity and quality of life in the community. To achieve this, Hong Kong would need a public policy framework which would promote open and fair competition and encourage long term investment. While regulation would be necessary, the Government should only intervene when the market failed.

7. Mr Alistair GRIEVE supported the appointment of a Bureau Secretary to lead and co-ordinate IT-related work. He added that the Bureau Secretary should be prepared to make significant changes to the existing systems in order to protect the best interests of Hong Kong. He also pointed out the need to promote awareness and understanding about IT applications, for example, in schools and medical settings.

Information Technology Division of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE - ITD)

[Paper No. CB(2)570(09)]

8. Mr P F TSUI presented the submission of HKIE-ITD and highlighted the following -

  1. The Bureau Secretary on IT matters should be appointed as soon as possible to build up the fundamentals for IT development. This should include a flexible regulatory framework conducive to high security and interoperability standards.

  2. IT training of existing workforce was as important as educating the younger generation.

  3. In addition to IT training for teachers, development of educational software packages was also important.

  4. It would be dangerous if IT supply was undermatched by demand.

Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (HKIEEE)

[Paper No. CB(2)570(10)]

9. Dr Karl LEUNG presented the submission of HKIEEE and suggested that the Administration should -

  1. encourage universities to commercialize their research results;

  2. provide financial support, such as tax incentives, to encourage local companies to invest in local research and development in IT; and

  3. provide education and training for the existing workforce on applying IT in their work.

The Telecom Association of Hong Kong (TAHK)

[Paper No. CB(2)570(14)]

10. Mr Hubert NG presented the submission of TAHK and highlighted the following -

  1. Companies participating in information technology development should be allowed to have a reasonable return on their investment.

  2. The Administration should take steps to ensure fair competition in existing and new markets.

  3. The Administration should encourage the development of local software for education, business and leisure.

  4. Hong Kong required substantial and long term investment in research and development in core technologies. The Administration should take the lead to initiate and finance such research programmes and make collaborated efforts with industry and the academic sector.

  5. The Government should take the lead in adopting new technologies.

The British Computer Society (Hong Kong Section) (BCS(HK))

[Paper No. CB(2)570(01)]

11. Mr Kenneth LAU presented the submission of BCS(HK) and suggested that there should be flexibility in the supply of computers to schools. Schools should be allowed to purchase their own computer equipment to suit their needs, in accordance with a central guideline for the selection of suppliers and computer configurations. This would encourage large and small enterprises to compete for business, and stimulate investment in IT business.

12. As regards the qualifications of the Bureau Secretary to be entrusted with IT-related responsibilities, Mr Kenneth LAU would prefer an IT professional with substantial managerial experience.

The Hong Kong Society of Medical Informatics

The Hong Kong Telemedicine Association

[Paper No. CB(2)683(01)]

13. Mr John TSE presented the joint submission of the two organisations proposing a new advisory structure for IT development. In parallel to the Science and Technology Council (STC) proposed by the Administration, the organisations recommended setting up a Council on Computing, Information and Communications which would comprise three committees to advise on information infrastructure, IT applications, and applied research in IT. He also highlighted other suggestions with regard to the policies and pilot projects for developing IT in specific areas such as education, medical and health care.

14. On setting up a high level committee to steer IT development, Mr TSE considered that the committee should play an advisory role, and be chaired by a LegCo or ExCo Member.

Hong Kong Information Technology Federation (HKITF)

[Paper No. CB(2)687(01)]

15. Mr Tony AU presented the submission of HKITF and stressed that timing was important in maintaining Hong Kong's leading position in IT development. To make an early start on this important task, the Administration should appoint the Bureau Secretary on IT as soon as possible. He urged the Administration to act immediately to draw up short-term and long-term plans for IT development.

16. Mr AU stated that apart from enhancing comfort, competence and creativity in the use of IT, it would be necessary to have a competent IT business community with Government support. With the development of electronic commerce, it would be important to educate the general public on what could be accomplished with computers. This would remove any misconceptions about the security aspects of computer applications in business.

Wharf Cable Ltd (Wharf Cable)

[Paper No. CB(2)570(18)]

17. Mr William EARL presented the submission of Wharf Cable and highlighted the following -

  1. economic and industrial viability was an essential feature of any IT policy;

  2. opportunities should be created for both small and large firms to ensure fair competition;

  3. there was a need for enhancement of local cultural and social values in the development of programmes and system contents;

  4. in reviewing the regulatory framework, the Administration should set the right priorities with regard to the objectives given in the Chief Executive's Policy Address; and

  5. digital television broadcasting should not be excluded from the study of convergence of television broadcasting and telecommunications in the 1998 Review on Television Environment.

18. On the appointment of a Bureau Secretary for IT-related responsibilities, Mr William EARL said that the incumbent should have experience in economic policies, since maintaining economic competitiveness was the ultimate goal, and the issue of convergence of television and telecommunications would also need to be addressed. He hoped that the Bureau Secretary would have sufficient resources in making necessary changes in policies and regulatory systems.

19. Mr Earl considered that the high level committee to steer IT development should only play an advisory role.

Hong Kong Development and Strategic Research Centre (HKDSRC)

[Paper No. CB(2)682(01)]

20. Mr Mathias WOO presented the submission of HKDSRC and highlighted the following -

  1. IT should not be regarded only as an economic issue. The Government should play a leading role in developing Hong Kong into an information city.

  2. In addition to promoting the development of skills and technological products, the Administration should also ensure fair competition by putting in place effective systems and measures to prevent anti-competition practices.

  3. IT education could not be successfully implemented without education reform which should include adjusting the existing examination system and school curricula, improving the teacher-student ratio, and delegating the authority to schools on school management. In this connection, the Administration should not only count on numbers of teachers or workstations in measuring achievements in IT education.

  4. In promoting IT application, the Administration should pay due regard to enhancing free flow of information, transparency of government operations and the welfare of under-privileged groups.

  5. The Administration should decide on the vision, the scope of responsibilities and the work plan of the new policy bureau on IT matters. In addition, it should also provide information on the advisory structure and participation of professionals and members of the public in the decision-making process.

  6. The Administration should conduct studies on the use of computers in various sectors of the community before formulating the IT policy.

21. Mr Mathias WOO supported the establishment of a high level committee to steer IT development, which should include representatives from different sectors of the community.

Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data

[Paper No. CB(2)570(12)]

22. At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr Stephen LAU presented his submission and highlighted the following -

  1. the objective of IT development should be to develop Hong Kong as the innovation centre for technology in South East Asia;

  2. a successful IT development industry was vital to the success of IT development in Hong Kong;

  3. manpower planning and development in IT was important, particularly at the vocational training level;

  4. electronic commerce should be encouraged, especially among the smaller enterprises;

  5. there should be an effective regulatory framework to ensure fair competition, protection of personal data and intellectual property rights;

  6. the Administration should take the lead in using the Internet;

  7. a continual IT promotion programme should be launched to enhance the computer literacy of the general public; and

  8. IT should be used for the betterment of the society, for preservation of the natural environment, and for helping the socially disadvantaged.

23. As regards the Bureau Secretary to be assigned the IT portfolio, Mr Stephen LAU suggested that suitable candidates from within and outside the civil service could be considered for appointment. It was important that the incumbent must have the IT vision.

24. On the high level committee to steer IT development, Mr Stephen LAU suggested that it could evolve from the IIAC.

Initial response from the Administration

25. Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services said that the Chief Secretary for Administration was still working on the re-distribution of responsibilities among Bureaux Secretaries, and a decision on the appointment of the IT Bureau Secretary was awaited. He assured members the Administration would take into account views expressed by the deputations.

III. Any other business

26. Members noted that the Panel would meet again on 2 December 1997 to hear the views of tertiary educational institutions and other organisations on information technology in education.

27. The meeting ended at 11:10 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
8 January 1998