From chatbots to interactive product visualisation, e-commerce has taken the retail world by storm and redefined shopping for millions of shoppers worldwide. According to global research firm Statista, online retail sales amounted to US$3.53 trillion (S$4.8 trillion) worldwide last year and is projected to reach US$6.54 trillion by 2022.
The incidence of e-commerce frauds and scams, however, has increased in tandem. With growing pressure to shift operations online, how can companies ensure that their businesses remain viable in the borderless marketplace while putting in place safeguards to protect customers? How do hackers use digital footprints to hack into a system? How does one beat hackers at their own game?
Whether they helm giant retailers or single-product online stores, business owners, IT professionals and entrepreneurs are being confronted with these issues as they grapple with the unprecedented growth in the sector.
The booming industry also presents opportunities for job seekers, especially those who already have a basic degree in IT or business.
If you are keen to bolster your job prospects, two postgraduate courses offered by The University of Hong Kong (HKU) may just be the first step you need to keep up with career trends and rapid changes in technological developments.
Ranked 25th in the QS World University Rankings 2019, HKU offers two master's degrees related to many sectors in the digital age: Master of Science in Electronic Commerce and Internet Computing [MSc(ECom&IComp)] and Master of Science in Computer Science [MSc(CompSc)].
Here's a look at the curriculum of the two courses.
MSc(ECom&IComp) - bridging technology and business for e-commerce
In Hong Kong, which has more than 4 million e-shoppers in a population of 7.4 million, e-commerce is on the rise with more shoppers embracing online shopping and merchants setting up online presence, according to French multinational investment bank and financial services company Société Générale.
Sensing the e-commerce industry's need for skilled workers, HKU has been offering the MSc(ECom&IComp) since 1999 to cater to people who want to get up to speed on knowledge about technological developments and business opportunities in e-commerce.
In the MSc(ECom&IComp), students will gain in-depth knowledge on e-commerce transformation; website engineering; e-marketing; data science for business; and securities transaction banking. These disciplines are vital in the world of e-commerce.
The MSc(ECom&IComp) also enjoys an impressive record of being a long-running, pioneering master's programme that is the first of its kind in Asia Pacific. Through practical and theory lessons, students pick up IT skills to solve business problems.
Every year, this course recruits students who hold bachelor's degrees or beyond and have their sights set on building careers in the e-commerce industry. Before enrolling in the MSc(ECom&IComp), these students would typically have been working for a few years in fields which required IT expertise and business know-how. They can be business executives, policy and decision makers, managers or IT professionals.
Despite its heritage and first-mover advantage, the course is constantly updated by an international league of teachers and industry practitioners who are passionate about sharing their on-the-ground experiences with students.
A popular module is about adopting an information system approach to build smart cities. This course is taught by Professor Winnie Tang who is the founder and chairman of Esri China (Hong Kong) Limited. Her company is a Geographic Information Systems and mapping solutions provider, two technologies vital for the development of smart cities.
As no e-commerce business can function without a secure electronic payment system, the course includes a module on electronic payment systems. Taught by Professor Michael Shamos, who is a Distinguished Career Professor at the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, the module covers banking systems, e-payment security, Internet banking and mobile payments, cryptocurrencies and blockchain.
MSc(CompSc) - choose cyber security, financial computing, multimedia computing or general stream
In this Internet age, digital forensics has become an important part of organisations and businesses. A recent graduate of HKU's MSc(CompSc) programme, Miss Wen Qiaokun explains that digital forensics is a branch of forensic science encompassing recovery and investigation of material found in digital devices.
She has always been fascinated by movies such as The Matrix and WarGames that featured themes such as Internet of Things, cyber security and virtual reality.
"Before I came to HKU, I had little knowledge of the field of digital forensics because it was an emerging industry in where I had studied before. I came across it in a course and found it to be a very core and interesting major. After I graduated, I even found a job in this area," she says.
She now works in a leading company in the digital forensics and incidence response industry.
The company helps clients minimise their losses in the event of a cyber-attack, and investigates the processes of the attack to beef up cyber security capabilities to prevent future attacks.
Like Miss Wen, many of HKU's Department of Computer Science master's graduates have clinched promising jobs in fields of cyber security, financial computing and multimedia computing.
Graduates with specialisations in these three fields are generally in demand in the job market.
Cyber security is a discipline that protects systems, networks and programmes from digital attacks. In HKU, students are taught topics such as legal protection of digital property, information security and malware analysis.
Financial computing is a branch of applied computer science that studies the problems of practical interest in finance. At HKU, the topics include computational finance, software development for quantitative finance, distributed ledger and blockchain technology.
Multimedia computing focuses on computing, communications, analytics, visualisation and applications in multi-media sectors. HKU's students will explore image processing and computer vision; visualisation and visual analytics; and user interface design and development.