Hong Kong Projects E-Commerce Boom

A top technology official for the Hong Kong government last week projected US$2.4 billion in e-commerce transactions in Hong Kong by 2003.

The head of the Special Administrative Region's technology agency reiterated the government's commitment to promote e-commerce so that Hong Kong can remain competitive in the Internet economy.

Infrastructure projects such as a Public Key Infrastructure for secure transactions and the Electronic Service Delivery (ESD) initiative to bring government services online will help to promote Internet commerce in Hong Kong, according to Director of Information Technology Services Lau Kam-hung.

Lau said dial-up use of the Internet in Hong Kong roughly doubled in 1999 from 1998 and estimated there are now 1.5 million Internet users in the territory.

Lau said he based his projection for 2003 on industry estimates for the total amount of trade in goods and services carried out over the Internet in Hong Kong. The total for 1998, by contrast, was $60 million, he said.

Speaking at a forum on Hong Kong's competitiveness on Friday, Lau said the ESD plan would create an environment in the SAR that is conducive to e-commerce and added that the infrastructure built for it will be available to the private sector for transactions in the future.

The ESD system, announced last year, will begin its first phase of operation in October, Lau said.

Passage last week of the Electronic Transactions Bill by the Legislative Council at last will allow the government to set up its Certification Authority Recognition Office (CARO), which will support the planned Public Key Infrastructure. It is now set to begin operating at the end of January. The CARO had been scheduled to begin operation last month. [See "Hong Kong Certification Authority Postponed," Jan. 10].

Among other things, the Electronic Transactions Bill will make electronic signatures and electronic records legally equivalent to paper documents.

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