CargoNet is planning a series of events with the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) to encourage greater use of electronic data interchange (EDI) among small and medium-sized companies. CargoNet marketing manager Winnie Ngai said the events were 'meant to be a starting point' to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed recently between CargoNet and the HKPC setting up a partnership deal. Details of the programme were still being agreed, she said. 'The MoU signed with the Hong Kong Productivity Council is intended to encourage electronic communications, promotions and training,' Ms Ngai said. CargoNet had targeted the freight and shipping industry because it believed companies could save significant amounts using EDI rather than transferring documents by fax or mail. 'There are lots of benefits for this group of companies. One single consignment needs nine copies of the bill of lading. Spread throughout the industry, this means there are millions of documents a year [which could be sent using EDI],' Ms Ngai said. CargoNet is setting up community networks to help freight forwarders and the smaller shipping and freight company join EDI. 'The big multinationals already use EDI extensively, but anyone who wants to use the system has to use their standards,' Ms Ngai said. She said these international companies often had copyright or propriety rights over EDI systems which made it difficult for outside companies to use the network. The community networks will allow groups of companies to use EDI at a nominal cost. Hong Kong has lagged the rest of the world, especially North America and Europe, in the use of EDI to enhance trade and business links. CargoNet hopes the deal with the HKPC will allow businesses, particularly in the freight and shipping industry, to catch up with competitors. The link with the HKPC is one of a range of initiatives planned by CargoNet to make EDI more attractive. Last month the firm agreed to a share purchase contract with Electronic Data Systems, the giant US systems integration company which has annual revenues of more than US$10 billion. EDS, which is installing commercial, operational and other systems at Chek Lap Kok airport, will take a 20 per cent share in CargoNet operator Transportation Community Network. Similar stakes already are held by Hongkong International Terminals, CSSL Group and Kenwa Communications. CargoNet also is forging links with US communications giant AT&T, and the Tradelink electronic document service provider.