IT is estimated the on-line information services industry in the United States will be worth about $15.6 billion by 1995. However, in the Asia-Pacific region, the on-line market has, until recently, remained relatively localised and underdeveloped. The recognition of China as a potential market and/or provider of on-line information services has been even slower. Analysts estimate that China's information service industry could be worth about $2 billion - one per cent of Gross National Product - within the decade. Among the visiting speakers at a seminar on Business Opportunities for Electronic Information in Asia was Mr Ke Wang. He is chief executive of China Online International Co and executive vice-president of the China Information Industry Association in Beijing - the country's first on-line information service provider. The seminar, held last week at a leading Hongkong hotel, was hosted by British Telecom (BT), one of the leading carriers of on-line information. Information Service Providers (ISPs) from Hongkong and China met their North American counterparts to discuss the potential for developing the local information market. However, the overwhelming interest was on China's ability to absorb information service technology, both from the standpoint of a reliable telecommunications infrastructure, as well as user acceptance. The record of companies already operating, such as the China Online International Co, also sparked interest. Mr Ke said that within certain sectors, business opportunities were developing rapidly. In addition to the five direct users of his on-line services in Beijing, which included the Sweden Commercial Bank and the American Embassy, there were 10 installed nodes around the country. Direct users paid a flat subscription of $10,237 a year, while those who bought nodes (which licensed them to resell data) paid $26,940. As part of the package, node buyers were provided with set-up and initial end-user training. There were nodes located in Shanghai, Nanjing, and Jianjing. Mr Ke said negotiations were underway for nodes to be established in Canada and Los Angeles. The price of an overseas node would range between $23,100 and $38,500. The service was available in Chinese and English, he said. Among the services provided was a low-end, single-user facility Bulletin Board Service that allowed users to search and download data. Among the items available were economic and trade news, market quotes, financial and product information, as well as a forum that detailed forthcoming exhibitions and profiles of ministers. The data was updated daily. ''As the system is limited to a single user per session, subscribers are allocated set times during which they can log on,'' said Mr Ke. He anticipated the implementation of packet switching services by late next year. Mr Ke said of the estimated 805 databases in China, 10 were available on-line at varying degrees of user access sophistication. The databases covered technical/scientific abstracts, company profiles and industry specific data, such as for the chemical industry. These were predominantly in Chinese, although quite a few offered dual language options. He said of the 6,000 electronic mail boxes set up in China, there were only between 200 and 300 users. One sector which did appear booming was software development. ''Software developers are entering into joint ventures with the likes of NEC, Hewlett-Packard and AT & T,'' said Mr Ke. ''The majority of business has been generated via joint ventures with the Japanese to create accounting packages.'' Mr Craig Elliot, business manager Asia Pacific Apple Online Services, discussed the future direction of Apple as an information service provider. Apple's carrier AppleLink began as a partnership between General Electric Information Systems in early 1987. AppleLink has a presence in 53 countries, with 52,000 users offered content in 30 different languages. Although AppleLink is still a closed system - predominantly in-house with clearance for third party vendors - the system is poised to attract a broader subscriber base. Mr Elliot said Apple's new role via AppleLink was the natural culmination of the industry-wide convergence of computer, consumer electronic, communication and information industries. ''The growing prominence of Apple's PIE/PDA (Personal Interactive Electronics Division/Personal Digital Assistants) has complemented the growth of AppleLink from a purely internal administrative system to that of a broader-based consumer oriented service.'' Mr Bryant Pierce, managing director Dialog Information Services, confirmed that the South China Morning Post would be available on-line shortly. Ms Karen Faleskie, manager Cross Market Programs, BT North America, said the Pacific rim countries represented the fastest growing market for electronic information services. ''Trade amounted to $12.46 billion in 1991, with an estimated $21.84 billion for 1995,'' she said.