Friday, November 29, 2013

Korea's global ICT diplomacy: Standards and interoperability

Anticipation is already building for the 2014 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference that Korea will host in Busan from October 20-November 7 of next year.  The conference resonates strongly with the policy priorities of the Park Geun-hye administration, centered on building a creative economy by leveraging science and technology, including the nation's advanced digital networks.  The administration's emphasis on digital convergence involves all major industries and sectors of the economy and society. In the international arena, this nation is redoubling its efforts to assist developing countries in the use of ICT for development and is also seeking to play a stronger leadership role in the global development of digital networks.
As reported in the Korea IT Times, the 2014 Plenipotentiary conference will cover a wide range of issues. These include, among others "1. coordination of international telecommunications rules 2. decisions on space asset registration systems, designed to fast-track the use of space assets and the provision of financial resources needed for acquired space assets 3. ICT’s convergence with other industries (an agenda item to be presented by host South Korea) 4. the Internet of Things (or IoT), the attention-grabbing technology viewed as the key to the future of the mobile ecosystem 5. the need for stepped-up international cooperation in the protection of major information communications infrastructures." In addition, at next year's meeting a Korean candidate, Lee Chae-sub, is in the running for one of the ITU's top leadership positions, a four-year term as director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T). Lee, who is currently working as a researcher at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, the nation’s top tech school, has also been serving as the chairman of ITU-T SG 13, a study group linked to the U.N. agency, since 2009. In this era of increasingly dense digital networking all around the world, much of it mobile, standardization has taken on added significance.
The Korea Herald quoted Lee as saying "Korea is now in a position to lead the world’s ICT industry. It is not a follower anymore." He added that "In order to achieve the goal of narrowing the digital divide between advanced nations and less-developed ones, Lee said that collaboration is necessary between mobile makers and ICT firms such as Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Apple and Google in enhancing interoperability. Even though it is important to feature unique technology with each new device, companies should abstain from distancing themselves from other players by focusing on developing exclusive technology, he said, and a higher priority should be given to interoperability. Interoperability among devices is critical, and even more so in less-developed and developing nations, where incompatible technologies among devices and networks could impair efficiency and effectiveness.
There is perhaps some irony in Korea's position on interoperability and standards in advance of ITU 2014 if one considers the role that its own WIPI (Wireless Interoperability Protocol for the Internet) standard played in preventing the Apple iPhone from entering the Korean market for over two years after its introduction in the U.S. in 2007.  In other words, international standards and interoperability are needed, but major countries and companies may not always agree on which ones should be adopted.

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