IT appears there is no end to the creativity in Hong Kong as on-line services continue to proliferate. As they do, new commercial applications are discovered. The latest is Hong Kong On-Line Information System, which promises to become a tool of particular interest to corporate clients, especially when you look at their first offering: a personnel database service. Hong Kong On-Line is offering an on-line personnel system primarily aimed at mid-range positions. The system offers its own database of full, unscreened resumes. Users, who pay by the minute to use the database, are able to search by any combination of keywords and review resumes their searches produce. No commission is charged if a position is filled using the Hong Kong On-Line database. At the same time, the system offers access to Gemini, a traditional personnel agency. Users can review their brief resumes, also searchable by keyword, and if they are interested call Gemini to follow-up with the prospective candidates. Of course, at that point companies will have to pay Gemini for their services, although there are discounts for anyone who comes to Gemini through Hong Kong On-Line. Hong Kong On-Line, itself is a 'free service', up to a point. Users can get on and browse around for free. It is only when they access a premium service such as the personnel database that a charge is made and registration is required. Of course, with just personnel offerings, the system would seem rather limited. However, plans are in the works to begin offering a similar property listing service with listings from some local property agents. In that case, the plan is to make access free and to charge agencies for transactions. As the company's business development director put it, the plan is 'to keep the system as free as possible for the user; that encourages people'. Another service that seems likely to be soon available on-line is shipping company information, including deadline and schedule information, from one of Hong Kong's shippers. Again the service will be free to users, funded by charges to the shipping company. So, in essence, that makes Hong On-Line a media outlet rather than a service. CompuServe is a service business: users pay for the privilege. As a media outlet, Hong Kong On-Line is trying to make itself a more free forum in that anyone can access the data and information providers pay for the privilege of making their information available. In the long run, that may be the way much of the commercialisation of cyberspace will need to go to keep it free. After all, if an on-line service is making money from some companies, then it will have the freedom to offer a range of public service information so that the widest range of information reaches the most users. A pay-for-service system, on the other hand, has no incentive to offer public service information which users may not want to pay to access but which many people would still like access to. They end up featuring a limited type of information which has a high user-end demand. In the long-run also, services such as Hong Kong On-Line potentially can make the so-called information superhighway just that: a means by which information is exchanged, instead of just a big cyberspace shopping mall and pizza-ordering service. RUMOUR has it that there are going to be some changes in the Hong Kong Internet service provider industry. The word on the street, or on the Net in this case, is that one of the directors of Hong Kong Internet and Gateway Services will be leaving the company as a director (although he will keep his share in the organisation) to form his own company to provide leased line connections to the Net as well as the possibility of dial-up connections at a flat monthly rate. Apparently, the new service may even offer connections as fast as the much coveted (at least here in Hong Kong) T-1. Eventually.