Chester Soong: I guess I was lucky enough to start off as one of the first ISPs in Hong Kong back in 1995. I was head­ing up the Internet ser­vice providers asso­ci­a­tion local­ly. And that kind of led us to have a cen­tral or orga­nized body to dis­cuss with the gov­ern­ment on Internet reg­u­la­tions or telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions issues among us. And that kind of opened the door to many of the issues that we are fac­ing today like copy­right, pri­va­cy, secu­ri­ty, and even just Internet accessibility. 

Intertitle: Describe one of the break­through moments of the Internet in which you have been a key participant?

Soong: To me per­son­al­ly it was the secu­ri­ty issues that were brought about by the Internet. Because before we… Regardless of whether it was indi­vid­ual or cor­po­rate, all com­put­ers were [stand­alone?] com­put­ers, so even when they were net­worked, they were I guess lim­it­ed or con­strained to with­in its own phys­i­cal reach. But with the Internet, it moved beyond the bor­ders of all coun­tries. We start­ed to have I guess cyber life? And so the secu­ri­ty of our assets, of our pri­va­cy, of our per­son­al infor­ma­tion, of every­thing that we have in the phys­i­cal world, has become vir­tu­al. Or we have a sep­a­rate or we have a dupli­cate iden­ti­ty, or even mul­ti­ple iden­ti­ties, if you will, to pro­tect or to present. And that affect­ed us beyond our imag­i­na­tion at that time. So some­thing that I guess we were try­ing to work on for near­ly two decades, actu­al­ly, to keep improv­ing that. And it’s like a cat and mouse chase, you know. We have this issue and then we try to close the loop. And then we have anoth­er issue, we try to close it or to lim­it the dam­age or to enhance the sit­u­a­tion by reg­u­la­tions, by tech­nolo­gies, by sim­ply best prac­tices, you know. But try­ing to strike that bal­ance between the free­dom of the Internet or the flex­i­bil­i­ty, the cre­ative­ness of the Internet, and secu­ri­ty or pro­tec­tion that we may bring about. 

Intertitle: Describe the state of the Internet today with a weath­er anal­o­gy and explain why.

Soong: I’m not a weath­er expert, but I would say it is sun­ny with scat­tered clouds. [laughs] Because I think over­all the… I can­not even use the word future” any­more. I mean, in dis­cussing the Internet because it’s here. It’s been here with us for quite some time now. But then, I guess…how and what we are using the Internet with is still beyond our imag­i­na­tion today. But then, we prob­a­bly can learn from expe­ri­ence that what we are doing or what we have with the Internet now or in the future would bring us more than just…I guess ben­e­fits. It would bring us hard­er bur­dens as well. Like secu­ri­ty, pri­va­cy, and all this. 

And that’s where I meant the scat­tered clouds would be. Because the future is def­i­nite­ly sun­ny, you know. The Internet, def­i­nite­ly sun­ny. It rep­re­sents life, bread and but­ter for a lot of peo­ple, and it rep­re­sents for­tune for a lot of peo­ple. But obvi­ous­ly since we live, or a lot of peo­ple live their lives on the Internet, if it is not balanced-ly or right­ly gov­erned or used, then it could cre­ate dis­as­ters for us, or for the gen­er­al Internet netizens. 

Intertitle: What are your great­est hopes and fears for the future of the Internet?

Soong: I would hope for Internet acces­si­bil­i­ty to I guess very improved. And this I guess does not apply only to the devel­op­ing coun­tries or the dis­ad­van­taged coun­tries. But also— I mean even like I was men­tion­ing ear­li­er to the board of trustees. Even for major, estab­lished cities like Hong Kong. We still have a lot of peo­ple who because of var­i­ous dis­ad­van­tages, they do not get to access the Internet as freely as most of us can. And I think this is sim­ply fair to these peo­ple, and I think if there’s any way we can improve that, it would be much better. 

And I guess also the— Like I said, it’s also the free­dom of using the Internet for doing what­ev­er peo­ple want. I think it’s part of the beau­ty of the Internet to begin with. So this is some­thing [indis­tinct] can be preserved. 

Intertitle: What action should be tak­en to ensure the best pos­si­ble future?

Soong: That I guess is not an easy ques­tion. Because I would think the impor­tant thing is to—one impor­tant action—is for var­i­ous governments…if I’m speak­ing I guess of the [indis­tinct] of Hong Kong, then of course the whole gov­ern­ment but also because the Internet is global…various gov­ern­men­tal or stake­hold­ers to real­ly sit down, get togeth­er, and I guess to work out those issues in pre­serv­ing the Internet as it was sup­posed to be. And dis­card the use­less polit­i­cal issues between coun­tries and all those things. Because I think a lot of issues about Internet pri­va­cy, acces­si­bil­i­ty, and all those, they’re being talked about but the effec­tive­ness of those ini­tia­tives were real­ly hin­dered by the pol­i­tics of var­i­ous coun­tries. And the effect is not real­ly as forth­com­ing as it was seen or was expect­ed. So I think this is some­thing that lead­ers, Internet lead­ers from all over the world should real­ly think about and help to take away those bar­ri­ers and bar­ri­cades, to real­ly move it forward. 

Intertitle: How does it feel to be award­ed as the most active ISOC chapter?

Soong: Well I guess I was flat­tered, and I was not expect­ing that. We sim­ply just did what we believed we should be doing. And so we end up doing a lot of activ­i­ties. And just I guess it’s part­ly the way…people in Hong Kong expect things to hap­pen. They expect things to hap­pen. They expect a high qual­i­ty of stan­dards from the work peo­ple do. So you can almost imme­di­ate­ly see your results, you know, if you do a poor job or you do a good job. You know, you would not have a good turnout the next time your orga­nize any­thing. And then peo­ple real­ly give you feed­back almost right away. And this is I guess also the dri­ving force for us in the local chap­ter, that we try to ensure the qual­i­ty of all the events or activ­i­ties are up to the stan­dards of the tar­get audience. 

So we did­n’t just orga­nize any event, we orga­nized events that real­ly the atten­dees can get some­thing out of and to real­ly have some­thing to take home. Not just Okay, come here and look at and see ven­dors sell­ing things or pro­mot­ing their ser­vices,” you know. We try to avoid that. And we are lucky to have a good group of peo­ple who help to build the chap­ter to what we have today, you know. It can­not hap­pen overnight. It can­not hap­pen in a short peri­od of time. So it’s an effort from a lot of peo­ple to build up over time. 

Intertitle: What issues are most impor­tant to the Hong Kong chapter?

Soong: The Hong Kong pub­lic, they are more…they’re very picky on qual­i­ty. They don’t like any­thing that is too intan­gi­ble. They like to really…they want you to know what they are real­ly get­ting as a result of well, join­ing any activ­i­ties, join­ing an asso­ci­a­tion, doing any­thing with that time. They don’t want to waste their time and just come and okay we’ll lis­ten to some­thing and then what’s going on, right. They don’t like that. 

So every time when we orga­nize any­thing, we need to get that straight and get that mes­sage out. And that’s why we try when­ev­er we orga­nize any activ­i­ties or we pre­pare even respons­es to the gov­ern­ment, we need to have direct respons­es, direct answers to their con­cerns. We can­not just briefly touch on any­thing and then move on and claim that we did some­thing. They just would not for­give us for doing that. 

And of course we that’s why we are also affect­ed in a way by the gen­er­al liveli­hood of the IT indus­try in gen­er­al. I say the indus­try in gen­er­al because we can­not talk about some­thing that is too high-level such as Internet gov­er­nance per se, because that would not be…that would be too far away for the gen­er­al user. It would be would… What they want to talk—okay, would this real­ly affect my job? Why does it real­ly relate to the work we do, to my com­pa­ny, to my prod­ucts? So that’s why we instead of gen­er­al gov­er­nance, for exam­ple, we have to focus on IP rights issues, you know. Specific leg­is­la­tions. Things that are real­ly con­crete. And that I guess would be one of the biggest dif­fer­ences when com­pared with the Internet Society in gen­er­al, you know, which is more glob­al so they have to I guess lift him­self and talk about some­thing at a high lev­el. But then for us, we have to dive in and real­ly work on the the real tech­ni­cal stuff. 

Intertitle: What is on the hori­zon for the Hong Kong chapter?

Soong: We have been per­form­ing well in terms of mem­ber­ship num­bers. We’re per­form­ing well in terms of the num­ber of activ­i­ties that we orga­nized. It’s impor­tant and obvi­ous­ly not easy to keep that up. So, this is some­thing that is always in the focus of the board of direc­tors of the Hong Kong chap­ter. How to main­tain that. How to espe­cial­ly main­tain the atten­tion, the focus, of our mem­bers to our activ­i­ties. To come to our activ­i­ties, and then we con­tin­ue to main­tain that list of qual­i­ty activ­i­ties to be orga­nized in the future. Getting qual­i­ty speak­ers and oper­at­ing qual­i­ty events is always dif­fi­cult, and takes a lot of effort to make it successful.