Thursday, February 28, 2013

Status report: Ministry of Future Planning and Science, 미래창조과학부

President Park Geun-hye has taken up residence in the Blue House, but will be unable to effectively govern until her reorganization plan is approved, perhaps with modifications, by the National Assembly.    At the center of disagreements in the Assembly is the flagship ministry for her new government, the proposed "Ministry of Future Planning and Science" (미래창조과학부).  This post is a status report on the key issues, based on my reading of the Korean and English press reports over the past few days.
First, as noted by many reports, including one in (in Korean) a citizen's journalism outlet, the question of the English name for the new ministry has itself become a matter of some controversy and a great deal of speculation in the press.  As I noted in an earlier post, the official English designation for the new ministry has not officially been announced.  However, many press accounts have quickly adopted "Ministry of Future, Planning and Science" after noting that this was the English translation used in the official printed program for President Park's inauguration on Monday of this week.   The press have used this translation despite denials by representatives of President Park that this is the official English designation.
Second, the proposal to give the new ministry oversight over the broadcasting industry, while supported by the ruling party, is being opposed by the opposition party.  The general claim by the opposition is that such a move would undermine the integrity and fairness of the broadcasters.  As I noted in a post earlier this month, this disagreement shows how politically contentious broadcasting remains even in this era of powerful new digital networks and social media.
A third, related point is that the Park Geun-hye government has clearly identified convergence as a central policy priority.  As reported in the Korea Joongang Daily, President Park made the following comment at her first presidential secretariat meeting yesterday.“I have put convergence as the key task to revive our economy. Because the Ministry of Future Planning and Science is not approved yet, I earnestly hope the National Assembly will pass the plan as soon as possible.”
In conclusion, I would simply observe that the complexity and multi-layered, multifaceted nature of convergence itself appears to be one of the reasons that President Park has proposed such a broad, sweeping name for the new ministry, encompassing the concepts of "Future," "Creation" and "Science."  In other words, the difficulty in arriving at a final, official English designation for the Ministry is not only or simply a matter of translation, but also reflects the real underlying complexities of technological, industry and media convergence.  In today's world, science and technology cannot be separated from ICT, at least when it comes to the formulation and implementation of national policy.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Social media arrives in North Korea: for foreigners only?

The mainstream media are all reporting on North Korea's decision to allow foreign visitors to the country to access the internet via the country's mobile 3G network.  For example, Bloomberg carried an article headlined "North Korea to Offer Foreigners Uncensored Mobile Phone Internet."  Today Mashable is reporting that Instagrams from within North Korea are showing up on the internet.
North Korean citizens themselves are not being granted such access to the internet, but it will be interesting to see how this move affects the overall digital information environment in the North.  While the North Korean government may seek to restrict its own citizens' use of social media to communication within its borders, even the spread of an indigenous sort of North Korean social networking seems likely to add to pressures on the part of citizens for access to the global internet.  The situation bears watching.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Personal note on an historic inauguration: the Park Geun-hye government

I've watched a good bit of television today, starting around 9:00 A.M. Korean time.  The reason was that I wanted to follow the inauguration of South Korea's first woman president and the televised pageantry surrounding it.
The new President's inaugural address was a highlight, partly because my Korean language comprehension has reached the point where I could understand 80-90% of her address without reference to the electronic dictionary software on my tablet computer.  For the record, I think she made quite a persuasive case for her approach to government.  Sadly, most of the world's media will have to wait for English and other language translations and countless interpretations of those.  However, I think that President Park in very straightforward fashion made the case that Korea faces multiple challenges in a globalized world economy and that the future lies in creation of jobs that may not have existed yesterday or today, but will arise from the contemporary revolution in science, technology and ICT.
More on all of this in subsequent posts.  For now, I simply wanted to note the historic character of today's inauguration.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Privacy: Korean reaction to Google's new policy

A little over a year ago, Google announced a change in its privacy policy that received a great deal of attention here in Korea and around the world.   I did a short post about it at that time, but somehow missed a more in-depth treatment of the subject in The Korea Times.  The Korea Times article was accompanied by the graphic at the left (click to see a larger version).Google’s new privacy policy took effect on March 1, 2012. It "...consolidated users’ private information stored across 60 of its services to create one profile. In other words, Google will have a better access to user data collected from Gmail and Google search to YouTube and calendar to come up with more sophisticated targeted advertising."
The Korea Times article also noted that "The Korea Communications Commission (KCC), too, officially stated last week that Google violated the nation’s online privacy rule, which requires users’ consent before giving their personal information and to provide certain information in specific terms including how the company uses data, how long the data is stored, how users can erase it, and the contact information in case they want to file complaints of privacy breach. “We considered the new policy is vague and difficult to understand,” said Kim Kwang-su, a director of KCC’s privacy policy division. And Google doesn’t give an option of opting out, which is against the guidelines, Kim added."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Communication is central in Korean reunification

As readers of this blog will know, I've been concerned over the years with the important and apparently increasing role of communication in Korean reunification.   I basically agree with Galtung's perspective on Korean unification, as noted in this 2008 post.
Two articles in Korea's English papers this morning relate to the central role of communication in Korean reunification.  One was a review of President Lee Myung Bak's farewell speech in the Korea Joongang Daily. In that speech he issued a strong message to North Korea. “Although the North Korean regime refuses to change, the people in the North are changing fast and no one can stop it,” Lee said. “We are observing the change closely. I strongly believe that the era of unification is not far off. We need to hurry to be ready for unification. Of course, a strong security posture must be the basis for our preparation.”  As noted in many earlier posts on this blog, the change taking place among the North Korean people is occurring in no small part because of the influence of mobile communication and digital devices which are multiplying the channels through which citizens in the North can receive or send information.
The growth and spread of digital networks and social networking is also having an impact in China that relates directly to Korean reunification.  In a recent post I mentioned the alarming implications of a recent U.S. Senate report on China's official attitude toward unification of Korea.  However, the concern I expressed in that post may be only part of the picture in China.  As noted by the Chosun Ilbo this morning, Chinese netizens have begun to express their displeasure with the Chinese government's failure to restrain North Korea from conducting its recent nuclear test.  This displeasure has led to public demonstrations in several Chinese cities.
In short, the impact of the public and public perceptions in China and  North Korea should not be underestimated as a factor in Korean reunification.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Broadcasting" still contentious in the digital convergence era

When it comes to the relationship between government and the broadcasting industry, South Korea has a long history, much of it shaped under military governments that sought to tightly control the industry.  Those circumstances changed rather dramatically following the political liberalization that began in June of 1987.  However, broadcasting is still one of the most contentious public policy issues, even in this era of rapid digital convergence in which "broadcasting" is consumed via smartphones, tablets, IPTV and YouTube, to name just a few of the channels.
Consequently, I was not completely surprised to read in this morning's Joongang Daily, a report that the National Assembly remained deadlocked over President-elect Park Geun-hye's government restructuring plan.  It noted that "The two sides mainly disagree about Park’s plan to give her new ministry of future planning and science the role of promoting the broadcasting industry. As of now, the Korea Communications Commission is in charge of the job."  (Note:  The Joongang Daily used "Future planning and science, but the official English designation for the new ministry has not yet been released)
The crux of the problem is, of course, that the "creative economy" that President elect Park seeks to build will be created in a new digital environment or ecosystem in which broadcasting and telecommunications have long since converged.   People, especially those who grew up in the twentieth century mass media environment, will still think of television, or radio, but even today these are being consumed increasingly over internet connected and other digital devices.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bell Labs President nominated to head new ministry, 미래창조과학부

President-elect Park Geun-hye has nominated Dr. Jeong Hoon Kim, an Executive Vice President of Alcatel-Lucent and President of Bell Labs to hear the new super ministry, the Korean name for which is  미래창조과학부 but which has yet to receive its final English name.
As illustrated by a report in the Maeil Kyongjae (Korean language "Economic Daily"),  the selection of Dr. Kim to head the new ministry appeared to be a surprise choice.  Together with President-elect Parks nomination of a Deputy Prime Minister to head an "economic control" tower, her choice of Dr. Jeong Hoon Kim reportedly indicates that he will head up her interest in the development of a "creative economy" in Korea.
As reported by Yonhap News and other media, the nominee to head the proposed new ministry is a Korean-American, a highly successful entrepreneur, a former officer in the U.S. Navy, and holds degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, technical management, and reliability engineering, the last of which is his Ph.D.  He has reportedly already regained his Korean citizenship, a prerequisite for such a ministerial appointment.  However, as indicated by my choice of a title for this post, I believe one of his most important qualifications is that he currently serves as President of Bell Labs.  There is great respect for Bell Labs here in Korea, and it goes back many years and runs deep.  When I first started to interview people and do research for my 1995 book, The Telecommunications Revolution in Korea, I quickly learned about this.  I also learned that many leaders in Korea's ICT sector hoped that from its formation, the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) would become the "Bell Labs of Korea."  In fact, ETRI has become more than that.
Of course, this post represents preliminary news since the nominations put forth by the incoming Park Geun-hye government require approval by the National Assembly.   However, there are clear indications that the new government has a broad and rather clear understanding of how digital convergence and innovation will play a crucial role in Korea's future economic growth and development.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The new digital network era in education

(Note:  published simultaneously on Internet-age-education)
The internet and associated new digital media have already transformed education on all levels and in all forms. As one who chose to pursue a Ph.D. and a career that encompassed both research and university-level teaching, I naturally have an interest in these revolutionary changes. Those of you who share such interests will want to take a look at the online journal, FastCapitalism.   The first issue of this journal was published in 2005.  In particular, take a look at Issue 8.2 which has a special section on "Academia in the Internet Age."  The article by Daniels and Feagin on "The (Coming) Social Media Revolution in the Academy" echoes much of my personal experience. The one suggestion I would make is that these authors might well have removed the adjective "Coming" from their title.  For many of us the new social media environment is already present and has already revolutionized the process of research, teaching and interaction in the academy.

Twitter is not a social network: or is it?

I've posted earlier on the inherent problems in trying to define "social media."  (here and here in case you're interested)  Take for example Twitter, which most observers consider to be part of the social media environment.  In 2010 one of Twitter's vice presidents took pains to explain that the micro-blogging network was not a social network service, but instead was all about news, content and information.  That same year a team of researchers at KAIST reported findings of an extensive study that showed empirically that Twitter was more of a news medium than a social network.  Among their findings was that unlike most social networks, "following" on Twitter is not mutual.
Twitter has been likened to a news headline service and my own experience suggests that is an accurate characterization.  The 140 character limit itself suggests a headline, rather than even a short article.  Furthermore, the enforced brevity of Twitter messages is ideally suited to quick messages disseminated over mobile devices while a person is going about the daily affairs of life.  Likewise, Twitter's recent venture into short videos is more likely to make it some sort of video headline service than a direct competitor to the likes of YouTube.
My personal interest in news led me to make it the focus of my doctoral dissertation and first book, Television's Window on the World.   Since that research was conducted back in the heyday of the industrial mass media era, I have always been interested in the dissemination of news, most especially via television and the newer digital media.   Although the following observation is anecdotal, I have a sense that it would be shared by many other observers.  The mainstream media, including major television news organizations like BBC, CNN and others were very quick to embrace Twitter, both as a means to measure audience sentiment and opinion by following their tweets and as a means to promote their own particular brand of news.
I suspect that my first reaction to Twitter, after its launch in 2006, was similar to that of many who read this post.   I first thought of a bunch of chirping, or "twittering" birds and then associated the name with meaningless or idle conversation, much like that at a cocktail party.  One industry website has, in fact likened Twitter to one giant dinner party, with countless conversations going on.
Twitter has also been described as an SMS service for the internet.  In fact, the name Twitter came out of a day long brainstorming session at a podcasting company.  As described by Wikipedia, those who named Twitter were inspired by SMS services.  For a fascinating account of how Twitter was originally conceived and named, see this article in The Los Angeles Times.  The following excerpt is especially revealing: "We wanted to capture that in the name -- we wanted to capture that feeling: the physical sensation that you’re buzzing your friend’s pocket. It’s like buzzing all over the world. So we did a bunch of name-storming, and we came up with the word "twitch," because the phone kind of vibrates when it moves. But "twitch" is not a good product name because it doesn’t bring up the right imagery. So we looked in the dictionary for words around it, and we came across the word "twitter," and it was just perfect. The definition was "a short burst of inconsequential information," and "chirps from birds." And that’s exactly what the product was."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Price reduced on Telecommunications and Transformation in Korea

Yesterday I reduced the selling price of my short book, Telecommunications and Transformation in Korea, (featured in the right-hand column of this blog) by more than half, in the interest of making it more widely available. The book chronicles my personal experiences and perceptions of South Korea's transformation.  Those of you interested in a scholarly treatment of the subject should still read Digital Development in Korea:  Building an Information Society, which I co-authored with Dr. Oh, Myung.

The world's most educated countries: on the dangers of big data and infographics

In recent weeks I have received, unsolicited invitations to review infographics on topics related to my blogs.  The most recent of these, late in January, was from a woman who had created an infographic on "the world's most educated countries."  As with the other solicitations, she asked me to review the graphic and consider posting it on my blog, with a link to or attribution of the original source.   The problem was, as I quickly discovered, the infographic was based on faulty data, incorrect interpretation of data or both.  The infographic claimed to be based on OECD data, but when I saw a world map near the top of the graphic that ranked South Korea #6 among the world's most educated nations, I became suspicious.   I am deliberately not linking to the infographic, which is still accessible on the internet, not wanting to contribute further to misinformation.
Investigating the matter further, the infographic appears to have been published by what amounts to an education-related "content farm."  The site claims to be a global leading news source covering educational, political, business and environmental issues, but it has all the signs of being a content farm, and for that reason I am not identifying or linking to it here.
Those of you who are interested in genuine data and analysis on the world's leading education powers will want to take a look at the latest report from The Learning Curve, a joint project of Pearson and the Economist Intelligence Unit.  As shown in the accompanying screen capture, (click to see a larger version)it places South Korea right where it should be, number two overall behind Finland, in its world education rankings.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The proposed centerpiece of the reorganized "Park Geun-hye government"

There is a great deal of discussion taking place these days about the shape of the new government that will take power later this month. Earlier this week a spokesman for the transition committee announced that the official name of the new government would be the "Park Geun-hye" government. This followed the approach used by Lee Myung-bak, but departed from an earlier practice in which President Kim Young Sam used the name "Civilian Government" to emphasize that he was the first civilian president elected after a series of military leaders, and President Kim Dae Jung used the name "Government of the People." President Roh Moo Hyun called his government the "Participatory Government."
Much of the discussion is centering on the proposed new "미래창조과학부," the official English name of which has not been announced.  It includes the words future, creation, science and ministry, but they do not translate literally into English.  Something like "Ministry for Future Scientific Innovation" might be more appropriate.
The proposed responsibilities and functions of the new ministry have already been announced.  If approved by the National Assembly it will become one of the largest ministries, with over 900 staff members.  The sheer size and importance of the ministry (it is referred to as a "super ministry,") have naturally led to discussion about where it should be located.  Some suggest that it should be headquartered in Sejong City, where a number of other branches of government are already in the process of being moved.   Others say that the government complex in Gwacheon would be a better choice, especially now that many government officials have moved from Gwacheon to Sejong City.
While much of the nation is celebrating the big Lunar New Year holiday, these discussions about the new government and its ministerial centerpiece will continue unabated.
For me, as for most readers of this blog, a most interesting aspect of the government reorganization is the manner in which the new Park Geun-hye government attempts to unify science and technology policy (STP) with information and communication technology(ICT) policy.  ICT, after all, is part of STP.  Arguably, it is the most important policy element insofar as the information revolution is the driving force in today's social, political and economic changes. We are all adjusting to the realities made possible by new digital networks, powered by ever more powerful, smaller and cheaper semiconductors, sensors and related devices.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The problem with "versioning" the web: web 1.0,2.0,3.0, 4.0.....

I posted late last month on the problem with Western-centric and other efforts to define social media. My observations here relate to that concern, but focus specifically on the Web 2.0 buzzword and related terminology that has caught the fancy of so many people these days.  If the purpose of a definition is to provide policymakers, managers or ordinary citizens with some clarity about what social media, the world wide web or the internet are all about, there are several reasons to avoid being seduced by the "versioning" approach to defining things or describing their history.  I list some of them here, not necessarily in order of importance, but in hopes of eliciting cogent response from readers of this blog.
1.  Consider the origin of the term Web 2.0.  It was introduced by Tim O'Reilly, the wealthy founder of a large technology publishing house and was originally used as the catchy title for a conference.  Later, the event title was expanded into a concept that proposed separating various versions of the web.  This explains why the concept of "Web 1.0" never existed before Web 2.0 started to catch on.  For a thoughtful treatment of all this, I recommend Scholz's article on "Market Ideology and the Myths of Web 2.0).  The term's origins on the commercial/business side of the internet also explain why leading scholars have not adopted it to any great extent.
2. Most scholars and policymakers would agree that the information revolution is an ongoing process, driven by the core reality that semiconductors keep getting smaller, cheaper and more powerful, resulting in exponential increases in computing, communications and network power.  Most would probably also agree that it is a single, digital revolution that involves fixed, mobile and satellite communications, and is global in scope.   Therefore, any naming or categorization scheme that proposes to clearly demarcate versions, such as Web 2.0, 3.0,4.0 and so forth is more likely to confuse than to clarify understanding.
3. On the face of it, it seems that the "versioning" approach had its origins in the practice long used by software engineers and programmers of naming the subsequent versions of their software.   This is epitomized by Microsoft, which is now attempting to market its Windows 8.0 software in a changed world which has moved away from desktop computing toward mobile and cloud-based solutions.  I would argue that even the versioning of software these days conjures up memories of the near-constant need to patch and update Microsoft Windows or office products in a desktop environment.  Furthermore, the versioning approach to describing the web and its history makes one immediately wonder where it will all end.  On this topic, John Mell, in his blog on Social Collaboration, has nicely summarized some views that I share. (see his post "Web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0--where will it end?")
4. Conceptually, in the search for a clear, workable definition, the versioning approach is a disaster.  Each new version leaves even the most thoughtful reader with an increased number of questions about how Web 2.0 is different from Web 3.0 and exactly what Web 4.0 adds to Web 3.0 and so forth.  According to one thoughtful tech writer, even Tim O'Reilly himself, originator of the Web 2.0 term, has suggested that the different "versions" don't really exist and that they are just part of one, continually changing web. (that post was aptly titled "There is no Web 3.0 There is no Web 2.0 --There is just the web.)
5. I could go on, but in case you think I'm pushing the argument too far, do a little search exercise.  Use Google to search for Web 2.0.  Then search for Web 3.0, then 4.0, 5.0 and so forth and see how high you can go and what the results return.
Enough said.  As always, I encourage thoughtful comments and will be please to amend my thinking and do further posts on this topic.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Synergies expected from new "Super Ministry" 미래창조과학부

As reported in the Seoul Shinmun,(Korean language article) as part of a series on the proposed government reorganization under President-elect Park Geun-hye, the convergence of the fields of science and technology with information and communications technology (ICT) is expected to create synergies leading to future growth engines.  As the article puts it, "The field of science and technology together with the field of ICT in the Ministry for Future Science Innovation are like the two wheels of a bicycle.  (Note:  The foregoing is my translation for the English name of the new ministry.  The Korean does not translate well literally and the official English designation for the new super ministry has not yet been announced by the government.)
The article goes on to note that the proposed new super ministry indicates that the transition committee for restructuring of government is placing more emphasis on the expectation of a synergy effect between science and technology (S&T) and ICT than on worries about so-called "dinosaur ministries."
This news seems to clearly indicate that the incoming government of President-elect Park Geun-hye has a broad understanding of the concept of digital convergence.  In other words, the incoming government appears to be signalling its recognition that convergence is a broad, multi-faceted and pervasive phenomenon, not limited to the ICT sector and the well known convergence between broadcasting and telecommunications.   Instead, digital convergence is a reality that affects all industries, organizations and groups in society, both now and in the future.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Smart, paperless elections coming soon to Korea

As reported in The Korea IT Times, smart, paperless elections are just around the corner in South Korea. According to the article, the "National Election Commission of Korea (NEC) is pressing ahead with the introduction of electronic signature pads as part of its efforts to put in place a consolidated electoral roll system within this year. It was confirmed that the NEC already had embarked on this project, contracting out the production of prototypes to solution companies." Moreover, "The electronic signature solution industry expected that once the consolidated electoral roll system is set up in approximately 13,000 polling stations nationwide, there will be a surge in demand for electronic signature pads." The next logical step in election technology will be to allow people to vote from their home, business, or wherever they may be on election day, leading eventually to almost "instant" election results. This, of course, would require an absolutely secure and transparent method to remotely verify the identity of voters.