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SPEECH
BY YANG BERHORMAT PEHIN ORANG KAYA AMAR PAHLAWAN DATO SERI SETIA AWANG HAJI ZAKARIA BIN DATU MAHAWANGSA HAJI SULAIMAN, MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS, BRUNEI DARUSSALAM
At the launching of HSBCnet
Tuesday, 15 March 2005
at Indera Kayangan Ballroom, The Empire Hotel and Country Club, Brunei Darussalam

Bismillah Hir Rahman Nir Rahim
Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh and a very Good Morning.

Mr. Guy Priestley, HSBC Brunei’s Chief Executive Officer,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First, let me thank Mr. Guy Priestley for inviting me today to officiate the launching of HSBCnet, HSBC’s latest Internet banking service.

About three years ago in 2002, I was invited to officiate the launching of HSBC’s Business Internet Banking Service for SMEs. Today, I am again given the honour to officiate the launch of yet another internet-based platform and the very first ever provided by a bank in Brunei for its corporate customers - to help companies to manage their organizations more effectively: The HSBCnet.

With the introduction of e-banking a few years ago, I am very pleased to learn that e-banking transactions now account for 50% of all HSBC banking transactions as compared to 20% just a year ago. This shows that e-banking is fast gaining acceptance among customers as a channel for a more direct, efficient and personalised approach to banking.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The introduction of HSBCnet further strengthens and illustrates HSBC’s commitments to lead Brunei’s business community into the new Information and Communication Technology era. It set the stage for Brunei Darussalam to demonstrate its Information Technology capabilities and an active participant of the local e-business development. This is definitely another positive step forward towards supporting the Government’s aspiration towards a more connected and information rich society.

E-commerce has grown rapidly over the last decade and continues to move at a faster rate: businesses have now expanded and have more sophisticated needs, giving rise to more business opportunities and commercial benefits. A secured, speedier and a more efficient mode of payment are now among the benefits reaped by our business community. Our local private sector must be aware of these changes and should take this golden opportunity to capitalise and increase their “portion of the global wealth”. I am excited to learn that HSBC has yet again taken the lead to prepare not only our SMEs but also our medium and large companies to the next level of e-commerce.

With all the new advancements, we must not forget the key feature of e-banking, i.e. INTEGRITY. I am glad that HSBC, in its excitement to introduce new e-business solution has not forgotten key elements in online security features. By employing appropriate encryption and with more levels of security, HSBCnet will no doubt be able to provide a more secure and efficient alternative and bring a new definition to business banking.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to call upon all our local businesses to try this new HSBCnet service and at the same time to be more proactive to identify the latest development in information technology. HSBCnet is a clear sign of innovation and creativity and I congratulate HSBC for their initiatives and vision and I urge HSBC to continue to find ways to improve their delivery channels.

May I also take this opportunity to highlight recent infocommunication development in Brunei specifically in the mobile telephony as well as the e-Government’s initiatives. Early this year a 2nd Public Mobile Telephone Service Licence was awarded to a local Consortium for the rollout of 3G or third generation system. The 3G system promises an exciting array of high-speed wireless services. We hope this service will be made available in a not too distant future, thus putting Brunei amongst the few to introduce this new system. On this aspect may I also urge HSBC to take the lead in taking advantage of future development of mobile electronic commerce or e-commerce. With the availability of such technology and future development on applications and services or contents especially mobile banking, I’m optimistic this will also bring along business opportunities and commercial benefits such as a secured and speedier mode of business transactions which is the megatrend of the future.

Under Brunei’s e-governments initiatives, more than 85% of the total e-Government budget under 8th National Development Plan for various program and projects have been endorsed. This means more e-government projects and programs will be implemented and commissioned in the coming years. During the first quarter of this year alone, we have witnessed several major contracts signed with various local companies and their strategic partners or consortium. Among others were projects under the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which so far has awarded 4 contracts out of 12 of their e-government projects. The first project will deliver Islamic Information System that will provide on-line gateway for Islamic knowledge and services. I am sure this will be much appreciated. Early this month, 3 projects namely Zakat Management system, a Network Infrastructure and Data Centre Phase One and e-Islam Information Kiosk were signed with three private contractors. I say “syabas” to the Ministry of Religious Affairs for their forward looking initiatives.

Just last week, the Ministry of Communications and Integrated Communications Sdn Bhd signed a contract worth over B$10 million for the “e-Mincom Portal Services project”. The project will allow the Ministry and its departments to be connected electronically and this will also provide the public an easier access to information and do transaction’s electronically.

This shows that our e-Government programmes are moving ahead and I must congratulate the e-Government Executive Committee under the leadership of Prime Minister’s Department for their efforts. Without the directives and leadership of e-Government Executive Committee, these projects will not have move forward as they have. Other Ministries also play their parts, particularly the Ministry of Education. Education plays an important role in our efforts to move Brunei towards embracing Information Technology.

As most of you are already aware of, TAFIS is one of the initiatives of His Majesty’s Government to improve the efficiency of government financial transaction processes. TAFIS is one of e-Government flagship applications and has been rolled out to and used ‘live’ by several Government Ministries. TAFIS is now in its last implementation stage. It will Insya’Allah become fully operational by the end of the year allowing ALL government departments to be connected online. This will be followed later by e-Payment Service that will allow payments to be made online by customers for Government services as well as e-Procurement allowing online payment by Government to suppliers.

As countries around the world are moving towards e-government, Brunei has demonstrated that it is not far behind in the world standing. A report on Global e-Government Readiness 2004 by United Nations has placed Brunei Darussalam, seventh among South and Eastern Asia countries with an index of 0.4632. In this report, the Republic of Korea with an index of 0.858 followed by Singapore with 0.834 and Japan with 0.726 are the top 25 global leaders.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I must congratulate HSBC on the launch of HSBC’s new HSBCnet service today and once again would like to express my sincere thanks for inviting me to officiate this new service.

WABILLAHI TAUFIQ WAL HIDAYAH, WASSALAMU’ALAIKUM WARAHMATULLAH HI WABAROKATUH.

(c) Ministry of Communications