Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Korea's "Green IT" Initiative

I've been invited to a forum presentation on "Green IT" this Friday morning, so thought I would do a little research by way of preparation. A recent article in the Korea IT Times proved most helpful. Green growth has been very much in the news in Korea for a long time, but especially since the inauguration of the Lee Myung Bak government.  On May 13 the Green Growth Commission completed an action plan for the Green New Deal to implement the low carbon, green growth policy.  The government plans to invest a total of 4.2 trillion won (US $3.31 billion) from this year until 2013.  Within this broad initiative, the government's Green IT Plan has two major emphases.  One is to develop green IT products and the other is to use IT to lower energy use and pollution.
The development of green IT products will initially focus on three leading products:  PCs, displays and servers.  With South Korea's world-leading levels of broadband internet use, its PC Bangs, massive multiplayer online games and the growing popularity of cloud computing,  it should hardly come as any surprise that internet data centers used by Korean consumers have a large carbon footprint.  Of course, this also means that this infrastructure offers significant opportunities for reduction of carbon consumption through greener IT products.
The second major emphasis, the use of IT to transform the nation into a lower carbon-usage society offers similar opportunities to help make Korea greener.   Telecommuting can reduce pollution as can the introduction of more intelligence into both public and private transportation systems.  In the forthcoming ubiquitous network society, the combination of a smart electric power grid with home networks offers great opportunities to reduce carbon consumption.  Smart systems to monitor the environment are also in the works.  Finally, let's not forget that Korea's success with Green IT is certain to create success in new export sectors since the problems of energy, global warming and many of the other problems facing the world are now planetary in scope.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Minerva: The Clash Between Korea's Online and Offline Cultures

Choe, Sang Hun had a very thoughtful column the other day in the New York Times.  It dealt with the case of Minerva, the online alias used by Park Dae-sung who attracted a cult-like following over a period of several months last year with his postings about the economy on one of Korea's popular web portals.  Minerva quickly became famous based on predictions like the fall of Lehman Brothers and the collapse of the Korean won.  When Mr. Park was arrested last January, it turned out that he was 31 and jobless, had attended a two-year college and had never even invested in the stock market.  One of his crimes, according to prosecutors, was to state that the Korean government had barred banks and major companies from buying American dollars in a desperate attempt to check the fall of the won.
As Choe, Sang Hun correctly notes, the case of Minerva highlights the contrast between Korea's offline Confucian culture in which seniority and heirarchy rule, and the anonymity of cyberspace which allows people to flout decorum.  Indeed, some officials see the internet as a hotbed of anti-government activity and slander.  Many who participated in the anti-beef import protests in the summer of 2008 which paralyzed the Lee Myung Bak government, were responding to online rumors rather than real events.
On April 20 Park was acquitted by the courts, but the manner in which he has been vilified helps to show the depth of the gulf between South Korea's offline and online cultures.  According to the column, In some of his 280 postings, Mr. Park lied about his age and background (once indicating he had worked on Wall Street), helping to create the myth about him. He apologized for using obscenities against President Lee, but he argued that the liberties he took in constructing his online identity were “part of the emerging Internet culture and should not be judged by offline norms.”"
The case of Minerva helps to illuminate the political and cultural stresses and strains that accompany rapid changes in a nation's media environment and its transition to an information society.  This column is one starting point for understanding some of these changes.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Green IT --South Koreas Photovoltaic (PV) Industry

SEMICON Korea earlier this year included a half-day session on the PV industry that provided some interesting details on this nation's ambitious plans. An industry web site noted that "With leaders in flat panel display technology such as Samsung and LG Philips, strong government support and research infrastructure, and with an established supply chain that is extensible to PV manufacturing, many observers believe Korea may emerge to challenge for worldwide leadership in solar energy." The specific goals include increases in the efficiency of cells, a decrease in their cost, and capturing 10 percent of world market share by 2012. For details see the full article.