The government believes a deal that gives Hong Kong controlled access to the code behind Microsoft's Windows platform will help buttress the city's information security infrastructure and online government services. This was the message from Information Technology Services director Alan Wong Chi-kong after signing an agreement last Tuesday to participate in Microsoft's Government Security Program (GSP), a no-fee global effort that permits key government agencies to review the source code for Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. 'Under the Digital 21 Strategy for IT development, the government has committed to making Hong Kong a leading e-business community and digital city in the world,' Mr Wong said. 'We consider the facilities offered under the GSP are conducive to the IT plans of the government, in particular in the areas of maintaining a robust information security infrastructure and having the necessary professional resources to support it.' The GSP agreement between the government and Microsoft has come 10 months after China struck a similar deal with the Redmond, Washington-based software giant. The mainland, through the China Information Technology Security Certification Centre, was one of the first governments to participate in the GSP, which Microsoft introduced this January. Some 24 governments have signed up to participate in the GSP. Alexander Huang, Microsoft Greater China regional director, said Microsoft would also provide technical documentation, methods for troubleshooting, access to cryptographic tools subject to export controls, and access to Microsoft expert support technicians who can collaborate with governments on the source code access. Microsoft introduced the GSP to Hong Kong in March. A study was carried out to identify the potential benefits of the GSP and to plan for research projects and training activities. The deal does not commit the government to using additional Microsoft products. Microsoft software is used extensively in government information systems. Through better understanding of the internal code of these products, the government hopes to enhance its technology and product support capability. 'It is vital to ensure that our citizens have confidence in our information and communications technology infrastructure and carry out electronic transactions in their daily life without fear of system failure, loss of data or breach of data privacy,' Mr Wong said. 'Through the GSP, we hope to be able to defend this government infrastructure more effectively and keep all the cyber-terrorists and attackers outside the firewall.'