Not only is iProA well connected with the government and pro-Beijing forces, its president and her company also enjoy good relationships with the city's administration. Dr Winnie Tang Shuk-ming sits on various government-appointed bodies. She sits on Kwai Tsing District Council, the Town Planning Board, the ICAC Operations Review Committee, the Steering Committee on Strategic Development of Information Technology in Education, the Environmental Campaign Committee, and the Task Force on Industry Facilitation of the Digital 21 Strategy Advisory Committee. ESRI China (Hong Kong), of which she is the chief executive officer, holds a dominant position in the government's contracts for geographic information system (GIS) services, people in the information technology industry say. The firm has been appointed for a wide range of government IT projects, including computer network support for the city's water supplies, fire services, highways systems, heritage conservation projects, a digital mapping system for the population census which starts, and development of the discussion forum on the chief executive's official website. As of the end of last month, the company had on hand six contracts worth more than HK$4 million under the Standing Offer Agreement for Quality Professional Services - part of the government's IT outsourcing arrangements, according to latest information released on the website of the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer. 'The GIS system Tang's company developed is a very niche system and has no competitors at all,' said Martin Wong Sai-chak, a former member of iProA. 'While the government is the biggest user of this technology - it is widely used by Lands Department for instance - the government could adopt the open standard, which would give more choices of service providers,' he said. 'Open-source software' means software which is available in source code form and thus permits others to modify and build systems based on it. Stanley Ng Wing-fai, chief executive officer of MapKing Hong Kong - the major rival to Tang's company - said there were about a dozen companies developing GIS systems in Hong Kong. But the government's decision not to specify '100 per cent open-source software' as a requirement in most GIS contract tenders meant it was difficult for companies to compete with ESRI for government projects, said Ng, who is a member of the Democratic Party. 'Open-source GIS is an internationally recognised standard. Governments of advanced places like Taiwan and Japan use it,' Ng said. Asked to comment on the accusation that the government's tender requirement had put ESRI at an advantage when bidding for contracts, a spokeswoman for Office of the Government Chief Information Officer said: 'The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government adopts a fair and open policy and competitive processes in the procurement of information technology (IT) products and solutions ...We have no preference for brand names or particular technologies.' She said the policy was also in line with the World Trade Organisation's Agreement on Government Procurement, to which Hong Kong is a signatory. This obliged the government to adhere to seven criteria for selecting products and services: value for money, fitness for purpose, functionality, interoperability, compatibility, support, and total cost of ownership. Tang did not respond to repeated requests for comment.