Monday, January 9, 2017

Smart apps, not Smart phones are the key to future growth!

An article in The Korea Times today caught my eye, because of its headline, "Smartphones remain key to Samsung, LG earnings."  The opening sentence of the article (which I encourage you to read here) reads as follows. "Despite the ongoing slowdown in the global smartphone industry, conflicting earnings forecasts from Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics indicate how crucial handsets remain as their key profit driver."  Indeed, this is the current narrative and thinking of many here in Korea.  Unfortunately, it does not square with global trends and the reality that this nation faces.  For well over decade now leaders of the ICT sector, from industry, government and academia, have recognized the need for Korea to shift from its heavy dependence on hardware manufacturing and export, to software and services.  Globally, services constitute the major part of the ICT market.  More importantly, they are growing at a much faster rate than the hardware segment of the market.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Cards, not cash are king in Korea

When I first arrived in Korea as a young American Peace Corps Volunteer in 1971, cash was king.  Virtually all commercial transactions were conducted in cash.  That meant that one of our priority tasks upon arrival was to have a personal dojang (seal) made so that we could open a bank account and deposit or withdraw cash.   I lived in Chuncheon, the capital of Gangwon province, but Peace Corps living allowances were dispensed in cash at the Peace Corps Office in downtown Seoul, near Gwanghwamun, so we traveled to Seoul on average twice a month. How times have changed!
Late last month the Korea Joongang Daily published an article entitled "In Korea, cash is no longer King."   Among other things, it reported data from a Bank of Korea study showing how much cash Korean's carry in their wallets these days, broken down by age cohort.   (click on the infographic to see a full size version)
These days, Korea leads the world in use of various forms of electronic payment, including credit and debit cards, smart phones and most recently the introduction of Internet banking.   According to the Bank of Korea, only about 20 percent of financial transactions these days involve cash.  Welcome to 2017 in the world's digital network leader!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Robots and disaster risk reduction

I didn't anticipate another post this year on the topic of robotics, but was prompted to write this one by an item in the news that featured the work of Professor Sangbae Kim at MIT, a young researcher whom I had the privilege to meet a few years ago.  In 2009, while he was still a graduate student at Stanford University, I ran across a video of the robot called "Stickybot" that he and his steam had developed.  I met Sangbae Kim and did two posts on the topic, in 2009 and 20011.  Little did I realize at that time how our paths might cross again.  Over the past two years, my department at SUNY Korea has collaborated closely with the UN office for disaster risk reduction in Songdo, SafeNet Forum, and the Red Cross (both the Korean Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies) and our colleagues from my department at Stony Brook University in New York.  With Stony Brook, we're developing a new master's degree emphasis on digital technologies for disaster risk reduction.  Stay tuned!

Monday, November 28, 2016

World's highest density of industrial robots

As shown in the graphic to the left (click for a full size version) South Korea as of 2014 had the highest density of industrial robots in the world, and by quite a margin over second place Japan.  Other data from the IFR World Robotics surveys makes it clear that, on a global basis, the automotive and electronics industries drive most of the use of industrial robots.  I expect that more recent data will show Korea continuing in the lead.  What is even more interesting to me, for the subject of a later post, is where Korea stands in world rankings on the density of service robots.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

ITU Telecom World 2016

If you happen to be a regular or semi-regular reader of this blog, you're probably wondering where I've been over the past weeks.  Although there is neither time nor space to go into all the details, most recently I flew to Bangkok to attend the first several days of the ITU Telecom World 2016 conference.
To be more specific, I attended the conference for two main reasons.  One was to attend the ITU Secretary General's Academia Consultation meeting last Sunday, prior to the opening of ITU Telecom World 2016 on Monday.  The second was to meet with colleagues in an expert group who are writing a book focused on the impact that information and communications technologies might have on achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The ITU has a long history, being founded in Paris in 1865 as the International Telegraph Union. In 1947, the year I was born, it became a specialized agency of the United Nations.   The digital network revolution that occurred in ensuing decades had profound implications for the future of the ITU.   Until recent years it dealt primarily with UN member states and telecommunications corporations.  The current effort to network with educational and academic organizations is a natural response to the global impact of digital telecommunications technologies.  I'll have more to say on this topic in future posts.  What I can tell you now is that the ITU is on the right track in reaching out to engage and network with the world of academia and education.