Saturday, February 28, 2015

Korea's lead in speed

As frequently noted in earlier posts on this blog, the value of speed in broadband communications networks and digital communication devices, has never been questioned in public policy debates here in Korea, as it has in the U.S.  Two items in the news this week suggest that South Korea will maintain its "lead in speed" for some time to come.
First, Samsung Electronics announced that it is mass producing the world's first 128 gigabyte ultra fast embedded memory for next generation smart phones.  (click on the graphic to see a full-sized version) As noted in the Samsung press release,"For random writing of data to storage, the blazingly fast UFS embedded memory operates at 14,000 IOPS and is 28 times as fast as a conventional external memory card, making it capable of supporting seamless Ultra HD video playback and smooth multitasking functions at the same time, enabling a much improved mobile experience."
Second, as reported in The Korea Joongang Daily, Korea's LTE networks are getting faster.  As noted in the article,"Korean mobile carriers on Thursday introduced their upgraded LTE technologies, which ramp up the current 300Mbps networks to 600Mbps at the maximum ahead of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) that kicks off in Barcelona, Spain in March."  Each mobile service provider is using different technology, but with the same result:  increased speed.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Digital divide and disruption in Korea

I just returned yesterday from visits to Stony Brook University in New York and Florida State University in Tallahassee.  Both involved very interesting opportunities to discuss mutual interests with administrators, faculty and students.   During the latter visit I delivered a lecture in the Broad International Lecture series on the topic of "Digital divide and disruption in Korea," and exchanged views with a most interesting audience of faculty, administrators and students.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Korea's ICT-led development at a crossroads?

Lee Jong-Wha, professor of economics and Director of the Asiatic Research Institute at Korea University contributed a thoughtful piece to the Gulf Times that outlines the challenge Korea faces to find new sources of economic growth.  It notes that Korea's GDP growth averaged 3.6% over the past ten years, a significant drop from the 8.1% annual growth rate from 1965-2005.
One problem is that South Korea's economic policies have made it excessively dependent upon exports for growth. Professor Lee notes that "Exports accounted for about 56% of South Korea’s gross national income in 2013, compared to 34% in 2002 and just 15% in 1970. As a result, South Korea’s economy has become highly vulnerable to changes in external demand – a fact that became starkly apparent during the 2008 global economic crisis."  Another is "...the wide imbalance between South Korea’s manufacturing and services sectors. Though services account for 76% of employment, its contribution to overall economic growth is small, owing to low productivity."
Professor Lee goes on to argue that South Korea" ...must also confront the huge, family-controlled chaebols – such as Hyundai, LG, and Samsung – that contributed significantly to rapid industrialisation and technological advancement but also block competition from start-ups and SMEs, stifling dynamism and innovation."

Friday, January 30, 2015

It's not Apple or Samsung, It's Google's modular phone....!!

I just ran across an excellent piece in Forbes, entitled "How Google's Modular Phone Threatens Apple and Samsung."   It is appropriate these days because of all the publicity focused on Apple's record-breaking quarterly profits, and Samsung's reduced share of the global smartphone market.  In fact, Google's modular phone, rather than the offerings of either Apple or Samsung, probably represents the big future direction of mobile communication.   See my earlier posts on this topic here.
I highly recommend the Forbes article and the short video it contains.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Unification: Korea's highways and information superhighways

The news reported today in The Korea Joongang Daily under the headline "South pushes plan to reconnect rails and roads," made me think of the relative role of high speed rail and expressway links on the Korean peninsula versus linkages of fiber optic cable and other networks for digital communication. (click on graphic to see a full size version)  As noted in the article, "The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said Tuesday it will push forward a project this year to restore severed sections of inter-Korean railroads and highways. The project was announced as part of the ministry’s 2015 agenda. It is also part of the Park Geun-hye administration’s ambitious proposal to operate trains from Seoul to cities in the North this summer in celebration of the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s colonial rule - but only if Pyongyang goes along. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Unification unveiled a plan to restore the two Koreas’ western and eastern railways to operate trains this summer from Seoul to the North Korean cities of Rajin and Sinuiju. Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae has said the goal is to link the railways and have trains operating in time for the Aug. 15 Liberation Day."
The digital networks are arguably just as important in any plan for unification as the transportation networks, since the whole world seems to acknowledge their central role as infrastructure for the 21st century.  Furthermore, North Korea lacks both modern transportation and communication infrastructure which means that the process of national unification will inevitably involve a costly, long term effort to build these.  Consequently, one can envision a simultaneous effort to build both types of infrastructure, in which fiber optic cables are laid alongside railroad and expressway routes.  Whether that becomes politically possible is an open question, but I would argue that in today's hyperconnected era the digital network connections are of equal or greater importance for Korean unification than the ground transportation links.