Office and Internet Applications: Internet Applications (11 Hours)

Office and Internet Applications: Internet Applications (11 Hours)


Office and Internet Applications: Internet Applications (11 hours)

5.Ethical and Social Issues on the Use of the Internet

5.1Social Issues

5.1.1Globalization and Knowledge-based Society

People around the globe are more connected to each other than ever before. Information and capital flow more quickly than ever. Merchandise and services produced in one part of the world are increasingly available in all parts of the world. International voyage is more frequent. International communication is getting more common and inexpensive. This phenomenon has been titled "globalization." For more details please refer to the website:

The term “globalization”describes the increasing mobility of commodities, services, labor, technology and capital throughout the world. Although globalization is not a new thing, its pace has greatly increased with the help of new technologies, especially inthe area of telecommunications.

Globalization is an ongoingprocess thatpresents opportunities, as well as risks andchallenges. It has expanded the prospectfor technological advances and foreffective integration into the internationaleconomy. It has increased prosperity andthe potential for countries to benefit.However, globalization also raises the risksof marginalization of countries, in particular the poorest one.” Kofi Annan (The Bangkok Declaration, February 2000)

The world is witnessing a major transition towards a knowledge-based economy. In the traditional economy, possession of physical and financial assets gives their owners a competitive advantage. However, in the knowledge-based economy, the ability to apply and create new knowledge will be the key factor for success. Companies have to keep pace and stay at the forefront of changes and developments in technology so as to survive in the international / globalized arena. Individuals have to equip themselves with the updated knowledge, relevant skills, positive attitudes and sound values so as to keep their jobs. As a result, intellectual capital becomes the key for ones to gain and retain a competitive edge. Intellectual capital is “grown” through education and this necessitates changes to the education system.

The knowledge-based economy has been emerging in the second half of the 19th century and hasbeen rapidly evolving ever since, bringingnoticeable economic benefits in terms ofproductivity growth, economic efficiency andwealth-generation opportunities. An amazing flow of prosperity that has been recentlyobserved within the developed marketeconomiescould beattributed to a cumulative effect of the risingknowledge-based economy.

As reported by the Business Week Magazine, Knowledge-based companies are becoming more influential and bigger in the world.

Since it requires the change in education system in order to realize the ideal of knowledge-based economy, shifting paradigms can be found in recent education reform in many countries.

The pace of development of the knowledge-basedeconomy has been, however, veryuneven throughout the world. The digital divide hasincreased in manycountries, reported by UNECE.

5.1.2Digital Divide

In response to the rapid change and international competition, in 1998 the Government announced the five-year strategy “Information Technology forLearning in a New Era: Five-year Strategy – 1998/99 to 2002/03”, signifying the Government’s commitment to driving HongKong to become a leader, not follower, in the information world of tomorrow (EMB, 2004, Empowering Learning and Teaching with Information Technology, p.1).

In order to narrow the gap of digital divide among students, EMB has set up special grant to encourage schools to extend the open hours of computer rooms. Moreover, EMB also launched a project “DigitalBridge”, encouraging students to borrow notebook computers from schools for learning purposes.

“Digital divide” is a social and economic issue that has to beaddressed in a wider context. Under the Government’s Digital 21 Strategylaunched in 1998, a wide range of measures have been introduced in thecommunity, such as the provision of computers with Internet access atconvenient locations for free use by the public, computer recycling for theneedy, financial assistance to people with disabilities for purchase of computerfacilities for home working, free IT awareness courses for the disadvantagedgroups and the general public, etc.

Under the Five-year Strategy, a number of measures have beenimplemented to enhance students’ access to IT facilities, including theprovision of laptop computers to secondary school students who do not havecomputers at home (the “Digital Bridge” project supported by the QualityEducation Fund), the provision of an incentive grant to over 1,000 publicsector schools to extend the opening hours of computer rooms for use bystudents after school, and the installation of computers at over 120 communityor youth centres. These measures have significantly improved students’access to IT facilities.

In collaboration with relevant Parent-Teacher Associations or otherparties, we will encourage “computer recycling” and donation to help needystudents to bridge the digital divide. We will continue with the incentivegrant for extending the opening hours of school computer facilities in thecontext of the merged IT grant to help students in need to access computersafter school.(EMB, 2004, Empowering Learning and Teaching with Information Technology, p. 27, paragraphs 68 – 70)

Digital divide is not only an educational issue. It is also a social problem which relates to poverty and other social issues. HKSAR has set up a committee Digital 21 to deal with these issues. For details please refer to and

As the problems stated here are not only related to the discipline of IT, it is a good suggestion to teachers to organize cross-discipline project / discussion in these topics.

For more news for discussion about the issue of digital divide and other IT related issues, please refer to the web site:

For animations related to computer security, please refer to:

Other reference websites:


5.2Ethical Issues

Generally, Internet technology is applied for the good of humanity; however, it also can be abused and used as a tool for crime. As a result, the computer revolution has generated intense controversy and raised serious issues about IT ethics.

This section will discuss some ethical issues in our society.

5.2.1Intellectual Property

Violating the Copyright

Violating the copyright means the unauthorized use of copyrighted material in a manner that violates one of the copyright owner's exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce or perform the copyrighted work, or to make derivative works that build upon it.

In general, copyright is the right given to the owner of an original work. This right has effect on literary works such as books and computer software, musical works, dramatic works, artistic works, sound recordings, films, broadcasts, cable programmes, etc... Copyright works made available on the Internet environment are also protected. In fact, it exists even in an item as simple as a photograph taken by an ordinary person in daily life. Copyright is an automatic right. It arises when a work is created.

Reference Website: Intellectual Property Department

Software Theft

Making illegal copy of copyrighted software is violation of copyright, i.e. piracy. In order to protect copyrighted software from software piracy, software manufactures issue users license agreements, which is the right to use the software. Basically, the license agreement provides specific conditions for use of the software, which a user must accept before using the software. The most common type of license is a single-user license agreement, which is for individual users.

5.2.2Information Theft

Information can be a valuable asset to a company. Information theft occurs when someone steals personal or confidential information. Most companies try to prevent information theft by identification and authentication controls, for instances, user names and passwords, possessed objects such as the card you use in an ATM and biometric devices such as fingerprint scanner.


In order to protect our sensitive data and information, encryption can be used during data transmission. Encryption is the process of converting readable data into unreadable characters. Users can encrypt a file and send to the recipient. If the recipient wants to read the file, he or she must decrypt the file into a readable form. Once the file is intercepted by unscrupulous persons during the transmission over networks, they still cannot understand the encrypted codes.

Example: Digital Certificates

Most personal transmissions over the Internet are e-mail. A digital certificate is an attachment to an electronic message which verifies that the sender is who he or she claims to be. A digital certificate can be purchased from a certifying authority, such as Hong Kong Post. The digital certificate ensures that the messages and attachments are protected from tampering.

5.2.3Unauthorized Access and Use

  • Unauthorized access (Hacking): the use of a computer or network without permission. Hacker is an unauthorized person who breaks into a computer or network. Some hackers may try to access a computer illegally for the challenge; other hackers may use or steal computer resources or damage a computer’s data.
  • Unauthorized use: the use of a computer or its data for unapproved/illegal activities. Someone may gain access to a bank computer and perform an unauthorized transfer. .


Companies take many measures to help prevent unauthorized access and use. A firewall is a security system consisting of hardware and/or software that prevents unauthorized access. It allows or blocks traffic into and out of a private network or the user's computer.

5.2.4Protecting Your Personal Information: Privacy

Every individual and company has the right to deny or restrict the collection and use of information about them. On the Internet, Web sites often collect data about you, so they can customize advertisements and send you personalized e-mail messages.


Spyware is a program placed on a computer without the users’ knowledge that secretly collects information about the user. Spyware can enter a computer as a virus or as a result of a user installing a new program. It can communicate information it collects to some outside source while you are online. Users can install anti-spyware that detects and removes spyware from the computer. It also prevents such software from being installed.


When you visit a Web site, the server may collect and store information about you. Web sites you frequently visit will leave a cookie on your hard disk. The cookie is a text file that aWebserver can place on your hard disk to track your Web movements, i.e. keeping track of visits to the Web site and the actions you take. The cookie may contain your name, e-mail address, interests and personal preference. A good cookie can make your interaction with an often-visited Web site more efficient and effective. You can set your browser to accept cookies automatically, prompt you if you want to accept a cookie, or disable cookie use altogether. However, if you disable cookie use, you may not be able to use many of the Web sites.

5.2.5Avoiding the infection of Computer Virus

Computer virus describes a potentially damaging computer program that affects, or infects, your computer negatively by altering the way the computer works without your knowledge or permission. Computer viruses, worm and Trojans horse are classified as malicious-logic programs, which are programs that act without a user’s knowledge and deliberately alter the computer’s operations.

If a computer is infected by computer virus, worm or Trojan horse, one or more of the following symptoms may happen:

  • Screen displays unusual message of image
  • Music or unusual sound plays randomly
  • Available memory is less then expected
  • Existing programs and files disappear
  • Files become corrupted
  • Programs or files do not work properly
  • Unknown programs or files mysteriously appear
  • System properties change

Types of malicious program: Virus, Worm & Trojan horse

A Virus is a type of program that can replicate itself by making (possibly modified) copies of itself. The main criterion for classifying a piece of executable code as a virus is that it spreads itself by means of 'hosts'. A virus can only spread from one computer to another when its host is taken to the uninfected computer, for instance by a user sending it over a network or carrying it on a removable disk. The most common way to infect virus is through e-mail attachment. Therefore, never open an e-mail attachment unless you are expecting the attachment and it is from a trusted source. Example: Macro virus.

A Worm is a computer program or portion of a program that makes copies of itself. Typically, the worm will interfere with the normal operation of a program or a computer, but, unlike viruses, it cannot infect other files. A worm is usually hidden within another file and then sent as e-mail attachment. Example: “Love letter” worm.

A Trojan horse is a destructive program pretended as a real application, such a screen saver, free game or other utility. It is similar to a virus, except that it does not replicate itself. It stays in the computer doing its damage or allowing somebody from a remote site to take control of the computer. When users run a seemingly innocent program, a Trojan horse hiding inside can capture information, such as user names and passwords, from your system or open up a backdoor that allows a hacker remotely to control your computer.

Anti-Virus Program

In order to protect from virus attacks, install an anti-virus program and update it frequently. It can identify and remove any computer viruses found in memory, on storage media or on incoming files. Most anti-virus programs also protect against worms and Trojan horses.

Tips for virus protection

  1. Delete e-mails from unknown, suspicious or untrustworthy source, especially those with files attached to an e-mail.
  2. Never open a file attachment to an e-mail unless you know what it is, even if it appears to come from a friend.
  3. Download files from the Internet only from legitimate and reputable sources.
  4. Update your antivirus software frequently as over 200 new viruses are discovered each week. If you do not have the current virus detection files in your antivirus software, the antivirus software would be a useless tool because it will not protect you from new viruses.
  5. Back up your files periodically. Once your computer and files are damaged by viruses, you still maintain current backups of important data and programs.

Reference Websites:

  1. Education and Manpower Bureau, Cyber Ethics for Students and Youth.