Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mobile Communication in North Korea

There was an interesting article in the English edition of the Chosun Ilbo that noted the rapid spread of mobile phones in North Korea since the government there established a joint venture with Orascom in December of 2008.  In just eleven months of service, the number of subscribers exceeds 70,000 and it appears that number will reach 120,000 by early next year.  Although these numbers exceed the published expectations of Orascom, in learning about them one cannot help but think of the deep and growing digital divide between North and South Korea.  Other thoughts that come to mind are that the North is just now introducing 3G WCDMA service (as shown in the image in the upper left-hand corner of this post---click to see full size), while in South Korea mobile broadband is set to explode via the iPhone, Android phones and competitors.  Of course, if North Korea were to allow mobile broadband on a widespread basis, it would completely undercut several of its basic policies, by allowing the populace access to information from the outside world.  These are some of my thoughts.  While most of the world focuses its attention on the six-party talks and North Korea's nuclear program, it seems that the fundamental problems of information infrastructure and their implications deserve at least as much attention.

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