Only 1 per cent of Hong Kong companies are making use of mobile data services, according to a Hong Kong Productivity Council survey. Speaking at this week's CA Expo conference, council principal consultant Lawrence Cheung Chi-chong said the high cost of network time and lack of user-friendly design were holding companies back. He said there had also been a lack of consultation regarding what customers were willing to pay for. 'There is a usability issue and that is one issue not many people will pay attention to,' he said. Many chief information officers had found themselves needing to cut back on spending, so they were not willing to suggest mobile data projects if the devices and the software were not reliable. 'They may be reluctant to recommend it to the boss simply because their job is on the line,' Mr Cheung said. Hoping to address some of the gulf that exists between the designers of the services and the target customers, the productivity council and industry representatives will conduct a workshop aimed at the logistics industry next month. Transshipment and logistics is a major source of income for Hong Kong, but many see the potential for competitors to gain if the city does not use technology such as wireless data to improve efficiency. Companies invited include logistics firms, network operators, handset manufacturers and software providers. Mr Cheung said the workshop was not designed as a marketing exercise for the service providers but as a way to start dialogue between providers and logistics companies. Mr Cheung had no figures on consumers' adoption of mobile data services but said it would be a good idea for the government to step in to teach users how to use functions such as short message service and picture messaging, also known as multi-media message service. Lack of consumer enthusiasm for mobile data is borne out in the income statements of Hong Kong's six mobile network operators, most of whom derive only about 2 per cent to 3 per cent of their revenues from data services. Mr Cheung also blamed the increasing complexity of mobile phones and similar devices. 'A lot of the inventions are very technical and they are very engineering-oriented,' he said. 'In the consumer market a lot of people are not very computer literate and we have to be careful not to bombard them.' In the Japanese market, where data services over mobile networks have proven commercially viable, content aggregators package software and services and resell them to network operators. In Hong Kong, individual developers negotiate directly with the networks, putting them in a relatively weaker position. Mr Cheung said there were a few companies interested in aggregating content and applications for the Hong Kong mobile data market, but development was in the very early stages. Thirsty mobile phone users can now buy soft drinks without digging for change, thanks to an application developed by University of Hong Kong spin-off company mCommerce Online. The company has put its software in about 100 Coca-Cola vending machines throughout Hong Kong. Users dial a number shown on the front of the machine, which effectively approves a HK$5 charge to their mobile phone bill, and a beverage is dispensed soon after. For now, the service only works on the CSL mobile phone networks, but Coca-Cola is in talks with the city's other operators. Professor Victor Li On-kwok, managing director of the university's Versitech technology transfer company, told the CA Expo conference the original idea behind the application's design was to allow soft-drink companies to check over the Internet whether their vending machines needed to be refilled.