Hong Kong-based Computer and Technologies Holdings (C&T) has been awarded an eight-year contract to build and service a new information technology (IT) system for the Land Registry worth almost HK$150 million. The system is meant to consolidate the registry's IT infrastructure, reduce the use of paper records and allow for online database searches. Ng Cheung-shing, C&T chairman and chief executive, said the registry used a combination of computer and paper systems for registration and record-keeping. Internet access to records was previously not possible because there was no centralised database. The new IT system will support a revision of the Land Registry's registration procedures to secure interests in land and property. Nine district registration offices operate on a system designed almost two decades ago, and keep separate records, not all of them digital. 'It also involves a lot of new procedures. It's not just related to IT, but related to legal and other practices,' Mr Ng said. Registration in person - a legal requirement - will still be needed although the system will allow 'e-options' such as online searching and record updates. The registry expects the new system to reduce registration time from 15 days to one. The contract includes about US$3 million worth of hardware from Hewlett-Packard and software customisation work by C&T. The system will use the HP-UX platform and includes a plan to scan documents and move past records to the new database. Mr Ng said business in Hong Kong had started to pick up recently, compared with slowing growth on the mainland. C&T's leading mainland customers include the Shanghai Stock Exchange and China Mobile. New work under way in Hong Kong includes an integrated billing system for Hongkong and China Gas. 'Business in Hong Kong is much better than last year. But unfortunately in China we are suffering from the reorganisation of China Telecom,' he said. The company, which is listed in Hong Kong, reported about HK$500 million in revenues last year. The government, Hong Kong's largest IT buyer, recently shortlisted about one dozen vendors as qualified suppliers. The Information Technology Services Department (ITSD), which until recently made IT purchase decisions for all government departments, now allows each unit to decide on its own IT development plans. The ITSD shortlist, which allows departments to sign contracts with approved vendors without public tender, includes C&T as well as Pacific Century CyberWorks, Unisys, EDS, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard. Mr Ng said the government's use of IT was sophisticated, although most of the systems were not linked, limiting efficiency. He pointed to the need to fill out user information separately for each function at the government's ESDLife site, including driver's licence applications and online tax return submissions. 'The Land Registry system is isolated from the Inland Revenue Department's system, for instance. So I think the Hong Kong government may want to put some effort in the future into considering how to integrate various IT applications among those departments,' Mr Ng said.