Saturday, December 13, 2014

ICT-led development and how "Lessons for Korea are lessons for the world"

This blog began in 2007 as a sort of electronic scrapbook for saving materials and thoughts relating to South Korea's remarkable ICT-led development.  Over the past seven years, I've made few changes in the format of the blog, but this year it was time for a change, starting with the new banner featuring a background photograph of the Central Park neighborhood in Songdo.  Several things inspired this change.
First, in June of 2014 I moved from my position at KAIST in Daejon to join the faculty of the Department of Technology and Society at SUNY Korea and Stony Brook University.   Among other things, the move allows me to focus on my longstanding research and teaching interest in the role of communication in socioeconomic development.
Second, I was struck by the remarkable address delivered at a symposium in Seoul on November 4 by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.   Addressing the topic of "Human Capital in the 21st Century," President Kim said that "Taking on new challenges, solving problems creatively, and working across different backgrounds and cultures, will be important tasks for the vast majority of human beings in the 21st century. The increasingly global, technological and services-based nature of the economic interactions of high- and middle-income countries makes these attributes essential to the success of creative and innovative economies. Based on what I have seen and experienced over my career, people can do this best when equipped with both cognitive and non-cognitive skills." He went on to suggest that "Cognitive ability, as measured by IQ, is one of the principal determinants of a student’s academic success. How a student scores on a test that measures verbal and mathematical abilities tends to correlate strongly to the student’s ultimate level of academic achievement and a country’s economic growth. Because of these expectations, educational systems place great emphasis on developing IQ-related skills in students. For the same reasons, when we compare the quality of national educational systems, we do so based on their ability to produce students who generate the best outcomes on standardized tests of these skills. And countries invest billions of dollars into educational systems with the aim of improving these scores. But research also shows that personality traits have a positive impact on academic performance and work place outcomes, because they affect the efficiency of people’s development and use of their intelligence. For example, the personality trait of “conscientiousness,” which academic literature associates with being organized and dependable, and exercising self-control, has been shown consistently to predict achievement in school and professional life." A bit later President Kim noted that " Conscientiousness is closely related to a non-cognitive skill some scholars have called “grit,” which is defined as “the tendency to pursue long-term goals with sustained zeal and hard work.” " All in all, it was a remarkable speech in which the World Bank President wove in his personal experiences and acculturation in both Korea and the United States. I recommend reading the entire transcript here.  A core message of his speech, as indicated in the headline of one of the World Bank's subsequent news releases, was that "Lessons for Korea are lessons for the world." I would only emphasize that these lessons include this nation's successes as well as failures.
Finally, whenever I see photographs of Songdo, such as the one used in the new banner above, I am reminded that Professor B.J. Fogg of Stanford University some years ago referred to Songdo as a "giant petri dish" and noted that Koreans would know what works and what doesn't in advance of people in other parts of the world.  In 2015 and beyond this blog will continue to explore such matters from a most interesting and engaging vantage point, in a growing global campus within a smart new city in the Incheon Free Economic Zone.  Stay tuned.

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