Techno chief maximises opportunity

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 May, 1998, 12:00am

We've heard a lot recently about mobile phones going off at inopportune moments during public events - but some speakers have the knack of turning such annoyances to their advantage.

Take Hong Kong's new multimedia megastar, Kwong Ki-chi.

Yesterday was his second day in the new job of Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting, which effectively makes him Hong Kong's No 1 regulator of computers, telecommunications and the media - and he was determined to make a good impression.

Mr Kwong was in the middle of the opening address for a Telecom Association of Hong Kong four-day conference, and had the undivided attention of a hushed audience.

He had just started a spiel about the mobile phone being important to Hong Kong, when - BLEEP! - you guessed it, a dinh wa made its presence known.

Our multimedia megastar didn't bat an eyelid. Seamlessly, he deadpanned that it was also important for Hong Kongers to learn how to turn off their mobile phones during public events.

Amen to that.

Still on telecommunications matters, Joanne Bunker of Stringers Media Services tells us she received a blurb from cellular operator SmarTone accompanying her phone bill.

It went as follows: 'To settle your bill by mail, you only need to send a crossed cheque together with the payment stub back to us. In support of preserving the environment, we are not enclosing any reply envelope.' As our trusty spy points out, isn't the client going to have to use some sort of an envelope anyway? It would appear so.

Environmentally friendly, or just a way of saving on envelope bills? Lai See normally doesn't like to blow his own trumpet, but forgive us for saying you heard it here first.

Three weeks ago, we tipped that pigs would provide Hong Kong's next big food scare.

A pig alert has now duly arrived, with all the fuss now going on about porkers' offal.

We have to confess to a fluke, having just picked out virtually the only type of food that didn't seem to have been affected at the time.

What's next? Or rather, what is there left to have a health scare over? We're tipping tofu.

Was it another assault on cake vouchers? Was it a run on a financial institution? Could it even have been another of Hong Kong's professional bands of queuers trying to get their money back on pig offal? Not as such, but there was certainly a long line of people waiting for something at the Landmark building in Central yesterday morning.

The most significant clue was that the crowd was milling around the Standard Chartered Bank's Landmark branch - naturally prompting plenty of speculation around the traps about its reason for existence.

The reason for the queue's presence turned out to be pretty darned banal.

It was all down to, ahem, airport tours. Standard Chartered is selling tickets on behalf of authorities running tours to showcase the new airport to the public.

Those line-up legends weren't going to miss the chance to wait hours and hours for the privilege of paying $60 to see the new airport on upcoming weekends.

Despite the tickets selling like hot cakes, a bank representative told us there were still some left by yesterday afternoon. No doubt about it: if queueing for obscure reasons were an Olympic sport, Hong Kongers would be a shoo-in for gold.

It's nice to know that human touch is alive and well at Wharf Cable.

Your correspondent received an ever-so-pleasant call from the pay-television operator the other day.

Before we could get a word in edgeways, the voice on the other end of the phone was off and running - starting with a long spiel in Cantonese.

We tried to ask the speaker on the other end of the line to talk to us in English - but, alas, there was no interrupting this caller.

Finally, the voice on the other end of the line switched to English. The message was unambiguous: pay your unpaid cable television bill now.

It wasn't until your correspondent tried to ask questions that he realised that any sort of two-way conversation with this particular caller would be futile.

That's right, Wharf Cable - in their wisdom - are using not people, but mechanical devices to tell subscribers to start paying their bills.

It is the first time your correspondent has actually had to answer a phone call made by a robot: although, like most people, Lai See has been forced to endure Hongkong Telecom's tiresome bill-reminder messages at various times when about to dial out.

Ah, technology is a wonderful thing.