Friday, October 24, 2014

Themes of the ITU meeting in Busan: ICT4D and the multistakeholder model of internet governance

As noted in the prior post, Korea's President Park Geun-hye's welcoming address at the ITU Plenipotentiary strongly underscored the theme of ICT for development and South Korea's willingness to contribute toward efforts to remove the digital divide wherever it exists. In an interview with Yonhap News on October 22, Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, the United States' chief delegate to the ITU meeting stressed the same goal, saying that "The United States hopes to narrow the digital divide around the world to give people the opportunity to create a future for themselves, even those living under authoritarian rule." With reference to the ITU Plenipotentiary, Sepulveda said that "The main goal of the United States government... is to ensure the ITU and its member states focus on bridging the digital divide."  This is in line with a policy statement made by Ambassador Sepulveda at the WTDC-14 ITU conference in Dubai earlier this year and shown in the accompanying ITU video.
Another major theme inevitably forms part of the backdrop for the ongoing ITU discussions in Busan.  It is the question of the current, evolving multistakeholder model of internet governance versus the position taken by some governments that the ITU itself should play a greater role in such governance.  This issue arose sharply at the December 2012 ITU meeting in Dubai, as noted in an earlier post, and in a recent report by Adam Segal for the Council on Foreign Relations.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

ITU Plenipotentiary in Busan (1): President Park Geun-hye's address

Earlier this week, on the opening day of the ITU Plenipotentiary in Busan, I sat in my office at SUNY Korea, here in the Songdo Global University Campus and watched the live internet feed of President Park Geun-hye's address at the opening ceremony.  The video included with this post summarizes a few of the points President Park emphasized, but the full text of her speech, and a video with simultaneous translation are available at this link.   The following excerpts from the ITU's English translation of her speech are also important. She noted that "Telecommunications and ICT has been catalytic in the rapid development of the Internet and mobile communications. This brought about great changes and made it possible to share knowledge in all areas of human lives including politics, economy, society and culture. More recently, with the Internet of Things, interconnectedness, and Big Data analytics are precipitating the convergence of technology and industries. We, thus, have reached an inflection point in the hyper-connected digital revolution – a revolution defined by 'increased connection, smarter connection, and faster connection.'" Later, the President referred to technical and policy challenges, stating that "The rapid growth and diffusion of telecommunications and ICT and the creation of diverse ecosystems will make it necessary to mediate the different interests of multiple parties in order to develop technological standards and international rules that govern order in cyberspace. In order to address this challenge, governments must forge stronger partnerships with the private sector and build a more open and flexible framework for decision-making." Then, with reference to the digital divide, which she referred to as the ICT gap, she said "I propose that the international community commit itself to narrow this global ICT gap so that telecommunications and ICT can serve to improve human rights and welfare for all mankind, irrespective of region, country, gender or class." After noting Korea's low level of telephone penetration in 1980, she suggested that "To lead the hyper-connected digital revolution, Korea plans to build a nation-wide Giga Internet Network by 2017. We also are focusing on technological development and infrastructure upgrade with the aim of being the first country to launch commercial 5th generation mobile communication services in 2020. The high-speed network is the basis for pursuing our Creative Economy strategy, which aims to transform our economic paradigm from being a fast follower to a first mover. The hyper-connected digital revolution is in essence the convergence of and innovation in industry, technology and culture through ICT. The driver of such convergence and innovation is the imagination and creativity of individual people. The Creative Economy is an economy where the imagination and creativity of individuals are fully leveraged to drive convergence and innovation and to create new added value as well as jobs." President Park also stressed that "Korea is ready to share its experience of growth through ICT. I believe Korea's experience in building its broadband network, e-government, and Creative Economy will provide useful references in formulating national ICT policies."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

President Park Geun-hye elaborates on Korean unification at the U.N.

Last month President Park Geun-hye addressed the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.  While addressing a number of regional and international issues, the speech elaborated on her vision for Korean reunification, a frequent topic of this blog over recent years (for example, see these posts).  Her address, as published by UN Web TV, can be viewed below.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Half of chaebol board members from SKY schools or overseas

An infographic published by The Korea Herald caught my eye this morning, headlined "Half of major firm's board members come from SKY, overseas schools."  The text accompanying the graphic noted that "Almost half of the executives at affiliates of the nation’s top 10 companies were found to be graduates of South Korea’s leading three universities or from schools abroad, according to Chaebul.com, a website devoted to conglomerate data. Up to 594 ― or 23.9 percent ― of the 2,483 surveyed executives were graduates of Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University, while another 22.6 percent were from overseas universities as of last year." Although anecdotal, this is further evidence that Korea, unlike Japan, embraced study abroad to train many of its leaders and technocrats in recent decades. Indeed, it would be interesting to make a quantitative comparison with Japan on this dimension of corporate leadership.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Echoes of Eisenhower: Feffer and Pastreich on a "farewell to arms" in Northeast Asia

The article published by John Feffer and Emanuel Pastreich in Foreign Policy in Focus, entitled "East Asia:  A Farewell to Arms," makes a strong argument.  It is one that former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower and his top advisors would have appreciated.  President Eisenhower's two terms in office were deeply conditioned by Korea.  In the 1952 presidential campaign, he won the presidency in no small part because, as a popular World War II general, he pledged to go to Korea and bring that stalemated and unpopular (in the U.S.) conflict to an end.   In 1961, Eisenhower's farewell speech from the oval office focused on the growing power of what he called the "military industrial complex."  I recommend reading of the article just published in Foreign Policy in Focus, and viewing of President Dwight Eisenhower's remarkably prescient farewell address to the nation. (The video below is from the National Archives)
How does this relate to ICT sector issues?  As Feffer and Pastreich argue, one of the more urgent problems facing Northeast Asia and indeed threatening its future, is climate change.  There is growing awareness all around the world that information and communication technologies will be an important part of the solution to climate change.