PROVISIONAL LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
INFORMATION POLICY PANEL
INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE ADVISORY COMMITTEE
In a paper submitted by the Economic Services Branch to the Legislative Council Information Policy Panel in January 1997, it was mentioned that the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) was setting up an Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee (IIAC) for the coordination of the development of the Hong Kong Information Infrastructure. The IIAC has been set up and has commenced its work in March 1997.
Background for Setting Up the Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee
Hong Kong is already at the forefront of the world in the development of the physical infrastructure to meet the demands of the information age. Hong Kong is the first city to fully digitalize its public telephone network. Its telephone line density is among the highest in developed cities in the world. The most advanced telecommunication services, including high capacity data communications services, are available in Hong Kong. In 1995, Hong Kong introduced competition in the fixed telecommunications networks. The three new operators have already installed their optical fibre trunk networks in the Mass Transit Railway tunnels and are extending their networks to individual buildings. The licensing process for video-on-demand is underway and Hong Kong could become one of the first cities in the world to commercialize such services. The use of the Internet is widespread and over 100 Internet access service providers are in operation.
1. Although Hong Kong is well underway in the establishment of the physical infrastructure for the information highways, it was considered desirable to establish a committee bringing together operators, suppliers and users of the telecommunications and information technology industry to facilitate better coordination of the future development and use of the information infrastructure. OFTA is the regulatory authority for the development of telecommunications networks and in discharging this function. OFTA has already set up a number of advisory committees to advise the Telecommunications Authority (TA) on issues like technical standards, telecommunications numbering and consumers affairs mainly related to the current narrowband networks and services. It was therefore considered appropriate for OFTA to set up a new advisory committee to deal with issues concerning the development of the physical infrastructure for the broadband and multimedia services of the information society.
The Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee
2. The IIAC comprises prominent members from the telecommunications and information technology industries, leading academics in the related field and representatives from the relevant Government departments. The terms of reference of the IIAC are as follows:
- to advise on the development including resources required and regulation of the information infrastructure in Hong Kong,
- to advise on the effective use of the information infrastructure for various possible applications in Hong Kong,
- to advise on the technical standards and related issues in the development of the information infrastructure in Hong Kong; and
- to advise on the formulation of Hong Kong's position at, and contribution to, various international and regional fora on issues related to the global and regional information infrastructure.
3. The IIAC has established three task forces on regulatory framework, technical standards and applications. Their terms of reference are as follows:
- The task force on regulatory framework is to advise the IIAC on the policies and legislation on the regulation of telecommunications networks and services in support of the information infrastructure and to create a regulatory environment which promotes competition and enhance consumer interest, to re-examine the scope and funding of universal service to provide territory-wide access to the information infrastructure and to identify regulatory issues outside the area of telecommunication regulation which need to be addressed in the development of the information infrastructure.
- The task force on technical standards is to advise the IIAC on the various technical standards associated with the information infrastructure.
- The task force on applications is to advise the IIAC on the identification of community demands for applications in the business sector, government, public bodies and members of the public, the identification of factors which foster, and those which hinder, the development and promotion of the information infrastructure, the coordination of local research and development efforts and the identification of proposals for community-wide pilot projects.
These task forces have in turn set up study groups to focus on various key areas.
Progress To Date
4. The task forces have been actively going about their work. The task force on regulatory framework has been discussing elements of the regulatory framework conducive to the development of the information infrastructure. Issues considered include the question of dominant operator regulation, market structure and open access to networks. The task force on technical standards has set up study groups which are considering the standards requirements for broadband networks, Chinese characters, electronic data interchange, library and health care systems, video on demand, digital broadcasting technologies, smartcards and automatic data capture technologies. The task force on applications has set up study groups to identify applications for business, education, government, community, environmental and personal services. The task forces will submit their proposals to the IIAC. Based on these proposals, the IIAC will prepare a final report for the consideration of the Government by March 1998.
5. The IIAC is also working in collaboration with the Trade Development Council in organizing a large-scale exhibition and conference to be held in February 1998 to promote public awareness on the development and use of the information infrastructure in Hong Kong.
6. The IIAC has also initiated a pilot study on the present status of the information infrastructure in Hong Kong. A consultant has been commissioned for the study. The aim is take inventory of the present information technology employed by major user groups in Hong Kong and to identify the infrastructure gaps, opportunities and hindrance in the advancement of Hong Kong as a world-class information society.
Office of the Telecommunications Authority
Last Updated on 24 October 1997