The Hong Kong Society of Accountants has launched a new audit service - WebTrust - for companies to prove their online systems' integrity and security. The new service was launched due to the rapid development of global e-commerce where more and more companies are conducting business transactions online, according to HKSA president Andy Lee Shiu-chuen. 'As e-business is revolutionising people's way of doing business at the dawn of the 21st century, the ability to conduct reputable and secure business over the Internet is the key to improving Hong Kong's competitiveness in all aspects of commercial and industrial activities,' Mr Lee said. Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting Carrie Yau Tsang Ka-lai said it would help Hong Kong develop as a regional e-commerce hub. 'The total value of e-commerce transactions in Hong Kong is expected to grow from US$2 billion in 2000 to US$70 billion by 2004,' she said. Traditional auditing did not cover the Internet, so there was a need for companies to audit and prove the quality of their online services, he said. WebTrust would allow firms to hire one of the 250 certified public accountants to hold a review. Accountants would use international auditing standards designed for Internet services and adopted by 17 countries in North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. The review will focus on the areas including system security, measures to protect clients' privacy, business practice integrity and availability. Internet services that meet the standards will get the WebTrust seal shown as an icon on a firm's Web site.