Sunday, January 6, 2013

Government restructuring and ICT policy in Korea

In about two weeks I'm headed to the PTC13 Conference to deliver a paper, co-authored with Professor Jaemin Park, on "Government Restructuring and Its Impact on Innovation Capacity in Korea's ICT Sector." (see abstract here)  This has been a hotly debated topic ever since the Lee Myung Bak administration eliminated the powerful Ministry of Information and Communication in its sweeping 2008 governmental reorganization.  However, in the longer term and broader perspective, the question of ICT policy, which almost equates to broadband internet policy, is one that faces all countries as broadband internet has been widely accepted as an important ingredient in economic development and growth.
Professor Shin Dong Hee, who has published widely on ICT policy issues was recently interviewed by The Korea Times and reportedly urged that Korea adopt a "co-evolving IT model," through which government, business and academia realize a practical, user-centered direction.  In his interview, Professor Shin also stressed the need for Korea to meet global standards in "soft power," in order to achieve future success.
It will be interesting, indeed, to see how the incoming government of President Park Geun-hye structures its approach to ICT-policy.  The matter is challenging for several reasons, some of which I'll enumerate here.
1. ICT policy for Korea must be formulated and implemented with global realities in mind. These include technology standards as well as trade, economic and political factors.
2. Such policy must also take into account the interests of all stakeholders, including governmental, private sector and civil society representatives.  Indeed, in this era of burgeoning use of social media, efforts toward open government all around the world are incorporating citizens into the policy-making process.
3. Without totally ignoring the development of digital devices and hardware, on which South Korea's export-led development thrived, future policy will need to focus squarely on the challenge of developing the software and content side of the information industries.  Whether one considers big data, cloud computing, the internet of things, internet governance, or social media, all these phenomena underscore the centrality of content.
4.Future ICT policy should be based on a broad understanding and interpretation of convergence that acknowledges the pervasive impact of ICT throughout the economy as a general purpose technology.  Part of the problem in government policy making is that convergence means different things to different people, resulting in policies that may reflect narrow interpretations of what digital convergence is all about.

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