Hong Kong is a leading communications centre. It has:

over 3.8 million fixed telephone lines

6.2 million mobile phone subscribers (91 per cent of the population)

Hong Kong is an early adopter and mature user of information technology:

62 per cent of households have installed personal computers

53 per cent of households are connected to the Internet

broadband coverage reaches virtually all commercial buildings and households

over nine million e-payment 'smart' cards are in circulation

EXCELLENT communications have been an essential element in Hong Kong's development as an international business and financial centre. The HKSAR has one of the most sophisticated telecommunications markets in the world, and its people are kept well informed by a vigorous media.

    The introduction of rapidly developing new technologies and the opening up of markets in these fields have given a powerful boost to the dissemination of information. In 2002, the Government announced the implementation details of the full liberalisation of the fixed telecommunications market from January 2003 and invited applications for new licences. A liberalised market will lead to proliferation of innovative services at competitive prices that benefit consumers and businesses at large.

    In broadcasting, the Government took a major step in liberalising the television market by issuing new pay television licences. The new services are expected to bring in many more television programme channels. A vibrant television market will not only widen viewers' choice, but also enhance Hong Kong's position as a regional broadcasting hub.

    The public's access to information has been widened: an administrative code of practice on access to government information, committing the Government to even greater transparency in its work, has been in effect since 1995.

    The rights of the individual are also safeguarded. Legislation is in place on the collection, holding, processing and use of personal data. This legislation, based on international principles, is enforced by an independent data protection authority.