Official oversight in the Government's information technology drive has ended up in screaming newspaper headlines again, as a frustrated headmaster raised his case in the media over the weekend. A recent consignment of laptop computers for a public primary school in North Point do not fit in with other existing audio-visual equipment. Ming Pao, the most popular Chinese-language daily on campuses, played up the oversight in its front page on Saturday. Minor as they are, this kind of hiccup often eclipses other government advances in realm of IT. Official set-ups have indeed made significant inroads into cyberspace over the past couple of years. The Justice Department, for instance, has already set up a Bilingual Laws Information System. Meanwhile, taxpayers can now have a clear idea of how much salaries tax they are expected to pay by simply keying in their personal particulars in a digital form available at the Inland Revenue Department's home page. It only takes the Salaries Tax Computation programme a split second to finish the calculation. Government press releases, transcripts of key officials' replies to media questions, and consultative documents are often posted in the Government Information Centre on the Special Administrative Region's official Web site as soon as they are issued. The authorities, however, need to go beyond swift dissemination of information over the Internet to maximise the benefits IT has to offer. Even professionals in some government technical departments, including engineers and city planners, have been complaining they do not enjoy easy access to more powerful computers to do their jobs more efficiently. Seniority rather than individual needs seems to play a bigger role in determining who are to get what hardware and software in a bureaucracy. The IT sector's representative in the legislature, Sin Chung-kai, said he had received similar complaints. A culture change, he surmises, is needed to bring about a wider application of communications technologies in the administration. According to a consultation paper released by the Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau, some 800,000 residents are hooked up to the Internet. The figure means that about one in every eight people has an Internet account. But even many of the white-collar employees within the 185,000-strong civil service do not have easy access to the Net in the workplace. The management's mentality, as a senior government technical officer observed, centred around the concept of control rather than convenience at work. 'Those at the top are worried about, say, whether their subordinates would log on to read the [independent prosecutor Kenneth] Starr report for fun,' he contended. 'What they do not realise is the fact that the Internet is the biggest data bank on Earth. One can practically access technical reports on virtually any professional subjects online.' Mr Sin is convinced wider application of electronic mail within the Government alone can serve as a significant boost to efficiency. Yet, he is having a difficult time even converting some of his colleagues in the Legislative Council. Twenty-nine of the 60 councillors, including president Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, have failed to register an e-mail address with the council's secretariat. Eager to transform Hong Kong into an intelligent city by 2005, Mr Sin is keen to keep his party in order first. He pledged to offer tutorial lessons for his comrades to get acquainted with the use of e-mail as their first collective step into the digital world.