Thursday, April 10, 2008
The World Economic Forum has just released its Global Information Technology Report 2007-8, which centers on the "Networked Readiness Index" it developed a number of years ago. Although Korea shot up in the world rankings this year, from 19th to 9th, I cannot help wondering exactly why this index ranks it lower than the ITU's Digital Opportunity Index, by which South Korea is number one in the world. Most of you are probably thinking the same thing that I am, but I'm not ready to let the cat out of the bag without some further analysis. Quite obviously, these are two different indexes that measure different things. Equally obviously, I need to look at exactly what each index measures, why those measures were chosen, and how they are used. That will be the subject of future posts here. Your thoughts on this subject are most welcome.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Two days ago the English edition of the Joongang Ilbo, one of Korea's major daily newspapers, published my op-ed piece entitled "China's Choice." It addresses the dilemma faced by the government in Beijing as the Summer Olympics approach. Namely, efforts to suppress the free flow of news and information about Tibet and the 1989 uprising in Tienanmen Square will also undermine China's efforts to project a positive image to the world through the 2008 Olympics. In the Spring of 1987 the South Korean government faced a similar dilemma before the 1988 Seoul Olympics. It chose a path of political liberalization that also energized the nation's economy. Today there are media reports that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has warned China against any attempt to restrict internet access by the international media during the 2008 Olympics. Indeed, if China attempts to carry its "Great Firewall of China" policy into the Olympics it will strike at the heart of the modern Olympic Games, which are essentially a global television and media celebration of sport. More importantly, efforts to control or channel modern networked media will inevitably stifle China's ambitious economic goals. The government in Beijing is indeed, caught on the horns of a dilemma.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
The Korea Times last week published an article entitled "Search Engines Dig Deeper, Wider." The article noted, in part that "The so-called ``specialized searching'' is the hot trend in the Internet search industry here. Due to meticulous demands from Internet users and fierce competition among Web sites to win advertisers, portals are continuously upgrading their searching techniques into a level that excels Google and other foreign engines, at least for Korean-language sources." The last three words, "Korean-language sources" are crucial for an understanding of the whole article. On the one hand, the amount of Korean language content on the web is increasing, and being made available in a format that users can appreciate. On the other hand, this article underscores clearly how language places limits on use of the internet and search activity. While Koreans may enjoy having more content available in their native language, they need to appreciate that these "deeper and wider" searches by Naver and Daum do not constitute searches of the "World-Wide Web." Instead, they search only one province of the web, that which consists of Korean-language pages. For many purposes, Koreans might want to go beyond this and explore what people from other nations and cultures have posted on the web. Those seeking such a more comprehensive search would be well advised to use Google, with the understanding that its translation services are only a rough guide to the real meaning of web pages in English and other languages.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
The title of this post is taken from the article just published by Shelley Palmer, and it pretty much says it all. He notes that children born in America this year will be the first true Digital Natives of the Information Age. They will grow up in a time when all of their telecommunications tools: video, voice and data are based completely upon digital technology. He then appropriately questions whether U.S. public policy contemplates a future constrained by the agendas of big business as opposed to positioning America to truly prosper in the global information economy. His article notes that " An average broadband connection in the United States is 1.5 Mbps down and 768 Kbps up -- about enough speed to watch a fairly low resolution streaming video or do some casual web surfing. Cable modems are faster and you can certainly purchase more connectivity, if you can afford it. But, on average, consumers are offered asymmetrical (faster download/slower upload) broadband connections and no one seems that unhappy about it. They should be. A child born in Korea or Singapore this year will be a digital native of their respective countries. They will grow up in a time when all of their telecommunications tools: video, voice and data are based completely upon digital technology. And they are very likely to start their journey through the Internet with 100 Mpbs symmetrical broadband connection." On my recent trip to the U.S., I experienced just how slow an 11 Mbps wireless connection to the internet from a motel room seems after being accustomed to fast connections here in Korea. Speed is vital to fully use and experience the modern internet. A lack of speed slows down convergence. The Broadcasting and Communications Commission (BCC) reported yesterday that Korean telecom firms (KT, LG-Dacom and Hannaro) are to invest around 1.57 trillion won ($15.8 billion) on Internet-protocol TV (IPTV) services this year. A large portion of that investment will reportedly be used in expanding and improving Internet networks in order to provide the speed necessary to guarantee high quality for real-time TV broadcasting on existing networks. Clearly, in this era of convergence and ubiquitous networks, South Korea seeks to maintain its status as an IT power. What is the U.S. stance?
Friday, March 21, 2008
A recent Reuters report puts it well. "Dry weather and seasonal winds in China hurl millions of tonnes of sand at the Korean peninsula and Japan from late February through April or May, turning the skies to a jaundiced hue." The state-run Korea Environment Institute says the economic damage resulting from the haze, which occurred 11 days last year, amounts to 5.5 trillion won ($5.82 billion). ``The seasonal winds decrease productivity and increase product defect rates in some of the country's leading sectors,'' said Park Young-woo, the president of the Business Institute of Sustainable Development (BISD), a local group that promotes corporate sustainability. Hynix Semiconductor, the world's second-biggest memory chipmaker, says it operates an around-the-clock yellow dust alert system to inform employees of when dust levels go up. It has had to step up its filtration systems and make employees take longer air showers to make sure the dust does not contaminate its production lines and damage chips, made using technology that operates on a microscopic level. The sand over Korea can be seen quite clearly in the above photo from NASA. Click on the photo to enlarge it.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Professor Johan Galtung, one of the world's towering intellects, with whose work I became acquainted in graduate school, was in Korea recently for a guest lecture at Dong-A University in Pusan. Early in his scholarly career he thought about and published on the topic of the international flow of news. Therefore, what follows in this post should not be surprising, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he had come to Korea and addressed specifically the central political issue here. His guest lecture was entitled "Peace in the Global Era and Perspectives of the Unification on the Korean Peninsula" According to the author of the Left Flank blog, "Galtung quickly laid out his five-point lecture. He began with his distinction between negative and positive peace, and applied it the Korean peninsula. The goal of resolving the Korean armistice precedes political unification. After characterizing the North Korean state as "fundamentalist Confucian", Galtung then argued that unification only necessitated the free flow of people, goods and services, and information and ideas between the two Korean states, not the dissolution of ROK and DPRK into a single Korean state. Galtung buttressed this point by that of three other scenarios, conquest, collapse, or peaceful dissolution, the first two were violent, and the last has never occurred in human history. Galtung termed this "national reconciliation without the unification of two states". Galtung subsequently considered confederation as a starting political point, but unnecessary. " (My emphasis added.)
It is significant that Galtung mentions the free flow of five things: people, goods, services, information and ideas. One could hardly make a better argument that the communication and digital divide between North and South Korea are at the heart of national division today. Accordingly, the opening up of free communication is tantamount to national reunification. In fact, I would argue that if services include modern communications services, which in turn require modern fiber-optic and mobile networks, the five necessities Galtung mentions will result in Korean reunification. I would go further to speculate that fulfilling these necessities will be the beginning of the end of two states on the Korean peninsula. Anyone who has lived in Korea for more than a decade, as I have, will know that free flow of information on this peninsula, culturally speaking, leads directly and probably quickly (빨리빨리) to reunification.