Saturday, May 14, 2016

Update on the "control tower" debate: ICT sector policy in Korea

The national debate here in Korea over the need for a "control tower" to oversee industrial policy for the nation's ICT sector is in the news again.  This was the subject of earlier posts on this blog (see some of them here) and also an article that I co-authored, published in early 2014 by Telecommunications Policy (PDF version available here).
The renewed attention to this topic is due to the creation earlier this week of a new Presidential Advisory Council on Science and Technology Policy (PACST), as described in the above report on Arirang Television. As shown in the graphic at the left (click for a full size version) from the PACST's own website, this is not the first such council formed, under President Park Geun-hye and her predecessors.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The sudden rise of fintech!

The Korea Joongang Daily (English edition) carried an interesting article today on the rise of fintech in Korea.   The rapid development is deeply ironic, given the recent history here, including prolonged reliance on Internet Explorer and Microsoft's Active-X plug-in long after most companies, countries and Microsoft itself had stopped using it.  Click on the attached graphic to see a full size version.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Have computers met their match in Starcraft?

Jonathan Cheng, the Seoul based reporter for The Wall Street Journal, recently published a very interesting article that ties into interest in machine learning and artificial intelligence surrounding the highly publicized Go match between AlphaGo and Korea's top human player (see this earlier post).   As Cheng notes at the start of the article, "Humanity has fallen to artificial intelligence in checkers, chess, and, last month, Go, the complex ancient Chinese board game. But some of the world’s biggest nerds are confident that machines will meet their Waterloo on the pixelated battlefields of the computer strategy game StarCraft.
A key reason: Unlike machines, humans are good at lying." Later the article notes that "Demis Hassabis, creator of the artificial-intelligence program that defeated Go grandmaster Lee Se-dol in the recent closely watched match in Seoul, has long eyed StarCraft as a possible challenge for his AI company DeepMind, which Alphabet Inc.’s Google acquired two years ago."
The article mentions that Starcraft was developed in 1998.  It might have added that the game initially gained widespread popularity in South Korea, because its PC Rooms, in the late 1990s, afforded much faster broadband internet connections than most of the rest of the world had at that time.  Furthermore, Starcraft's popularity was an important factor in the rapid spread of household broadband connections (DSL and cable modem) around that time as Hanaro launched an advertising campaign aimed at parents, urging them to install broadband at home, so their children could play Starcraft there, and not come home late at night after playing at a PC Bang.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Virtual reality, next generation networks and disaster risk reduction

I'm preparing to make a presentation next month for a technical workshop of SafeNet Forum, South Korea's rough equivalent of FirstNet in the United States.  Both organizations, and their equivalents in a number of other countries, are made up of the major government, industry and other players involved in building nationwide, dedicated public safety LTE (PS-LTE) networks.  Consequently, the article in the Korea Joongang Daily announcing that Seoul National University has opened virtual reality (VR) classes for engineering students, caught my attention.
The forthcoming PS LTE networks, as they converge with the Internet of things (IoT) and other capabilities of future networks, are going to open up many capabilities.  Obviously, one of them will be to train first-responders so that they are familiar with the structures in which they will have to respond to emergencies, whether those are nuclear power plants, high rise buildings, apartment complexes or other types of structures.  We're moving into interesting territory these days, given steady advances in digital network technology and convergence.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The vicissitudes of hardware exports

For some months now, the local press in Seoul have commented on the decline in some of Korea's flagship ICT products, notably smartphones and flat screen television sets.  Earlier this month, The Joongang Daily published an article with the accompanying graphic (click for a larger version).  The reasons for the decline in market share are not that difficult to discern and some are noted in the article.  They include competition from companies in China, and Apple, which recently introduced moderately priced phones.  More broadly,  smartphones are modular in nature and quickly become commoditized, making Korea's manufacturers vulnerable to competition from lower cost producers.    As noted in the article, the decline in flat screen television exports is partly driven by the popularity of online and mobile on demand TV services.  Simply put, more people are choosing to watch TV on mobile devices.