Thursday, January 28, 2016

E-commerce and "borderless buying" globally and in Korea

A new report by Nielsen highlights the fact that connected commerce is creating buyers without borders. The findings are based on an online study in 24 countries, including South Korea. The report notes that connected shoppers area also smart shoppers as measured by the number who looked up product information, checked and compared prices, searched for deals and promotions and so forth.  It also documents how online purchasing rates vary greatly around the world.  What may be surprising to some is that only 50 percent of online shoppers in Korea said they have purchased from an overseas retailer in the past six months, compared with much higher percentages in India, Australia, Thailand, the Phillippines, and China.   Only Japan, at 32 percent, showed a lower rate of overseas purchases than Korea, among the Asian countries surveyed.
However, as clearly shown in the accompanying graphic (click for a full-size version) Korea's domestic online commerce leads the world in terms of online purchasing rates across a variety of product categories, notably including all of the consumable categories in this study.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The "death of Internet Explorer" in Korea?

A week ago today I was interviewed by Chance Dorland, a reporter for TBS eFM 101.3 MHz, an English language station in Seoul. The topic was the "death of Internet Explorer" and its implications for South Korea, which continues to be heavily dependent on the browser despite the fact that Microsoft and most of the rest of the world are moving away from IE. (you may listen to the interview here with an mp3 player)  The interview prompted me to do a bit more research on the current status of Internet Explorer in South Korea.  Its hold, or perhaps one should say "iron grip" on the browser market here is one of the fascinating stories of ICT sector policies and growth here.
To place the matter in global context, the overall pattern of browser usage worldwide is shown in the graphic at left (click to see a full size version) which is based on statistics gathered by StatCounter and published by Wikimedia.  Note that StatCounter records data from 3 million or more websites and its statistics are based on page views.  It makes no adjustments and weightings and it is independent with no commercial support.  However, the data it reports can still be influenced by sample size and other factors.  For that reason, the accompanying graphic is mainly useful for showing several broad, long term trends over the seven year period represented.  First is the dramatic decline in usage of IE (blue line).  Second, there is an equally clear increase in use of Chrome (green).  Finally, the pink line shows a rapidly rising percentage of internet browsing is done on mobile devices rather than desktop computers.
The rapidly increasing usage of mobile devices is a major factor to keep in mind when interpreting the above line graph from StatCounter.  In fact, data from the 2015 Mobile Internet Usage Survey published by The Korea Internet and Security Agency (KISA) show, not surprisingly, that mobile internet usage in Korea is far higher than the global averages.  As shown in the second line graph based on data for only desktop internet usage, IE is still being used by more than 60 percent of Koreans to surf the web.  This is a much higher proportion than the global average.
So, as noted at the conclusion of the radio interview, IE is far from dead in Korea.   This raises a key question.  What are the costs to the Korean economy as a whole and individual consumers, both Korean and expat of this continued heavy reliance on an outdated Microsoft product?  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The DMZ as a linguistic divide

I've posted frequently over the years on the role of Korea's demilitarized zone (DMZ) as a growing digital divide (read those posts here) and this post expands upon those musings to underscore the manner in which the DMZ today also functions as a cultural and linguistic divide between the two Koreas.  As reported by Public Radio International (PRI), preferred patterns of language usage in North versus South Korea have drifted apart over more than half a century of national division.
These days, South Korean researchers are trying to help recent arrivals from the North bridge the language gap "&...with a new smartphone app called Univoca, short for "unification vocabulary." It allows users to type in or snap a photo of an unknown word and get a North Korean translation. There’s also a section that gives practical language advice, like how to order a pizza — or an explanation of some dating terminology."
As reported by MailOnline, "Developed by Seoul's top advertising firm, Cheil Worldwide, the app offers translations of 3,600 key words culled from South Korean high school textbooks as well as everyday slang expressions.
Tapping in the Hangeul for "ice cream" brings up the word oh-reum-boseung-yi (literally "coated ice"), as ice cream is known in North Korea.
Created as a part of the company's social outreach programme, the free app has been downloaded more than 1,500 times since its launch in mid-March, said Choi Jae-Young, the Cheil manager in charge of the project.
"We were looking for ways to help socially marginalised people suffering from communication problems... and realised young North Korean defectors have this big language barrier when studying at school," Choi told AFP.
A group of North Korean defectors, including student volunteers and professionals like former school teachers, helped in the task of identifying -- and translating -- common South Korean words that may perplex the young refugees."

Digital laundry and reputation management services

Korea's extensive, advanced and fast broadband networks come with many advantages and allow consumers here to be among the first in the world to experience somethings.  For example, Cyworld, a web-based social networking service was introduced half a decade before Facebook and was universally popular among young people at the time of Facebook's introduction.
However, Korea's advanced networks also present some problems.  Internet addiction became a concern in this country years before being recognized in other countries.  These days, as reported by The Korea Joongang Daily, the problem of online scams such as porn phishing has led to concerns about privacy the digital reputation of individuals.  These concerns, in turn, gave rise to the business of digital laundry, which refers to the work of removing malicious comments or other online material to clean up an individual's online reputation.
The Korea Joongang Daily article describes the services provided by one digital laundry service, the Santa Cruise Company. Back in 2008, the company "...asked web portals to remove some malicious online comments about one of the company’s child models, and that was his first foray into digital laundry service.
After that, companies, celebrities and individuals began to knock on the door of Santa Cruise in hopes of getting rid of traces of their past lives or deleting negative comments associated with their names. Santa Cruise works with local web portals like Naver and Daum that host message boards as well as with local file-sharing services like Webhard."
(click on the graphic at left to see a full size version)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Korea tops 2016 Bloomberg Innovation Index

As reported by BloombergBusiness in reporting the results of its 2016 innovation index, "Korea dominates the index."  The website article starts by declaring that "In the world of ideas, South Korea is king."  Many in Korea, including both Koreans and expats knowledgeable about the nation's economy might differ with that assessment.  However, as with any index, this one for innovation depends upon what is measured and how.  The Bloomberg article goes on to note that "South Korea notched top scores worldwide for manufacturing value-added as well as for tertiary efficiency — a measure that includes enrollment in higher education and the concentration of science and engineering graduates. While the country's No. 39 ranking for productivity might pass for mediocre, it was second for R&D intensity, high-tech density and patent activity and ranked sixth for researcher concentration."  The accompanying graphic (click for a full size version) shows at a glance how Korea compares with other countries in the top ten on the 2016 Bloomberg index..

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hubo: The crown jewel of Korean robotics

Here's a digital toast or acknowledgement to one of Korea's truly great accomplishments last year.   Some of you may wish to re-read my June 2015 blog post.   To everyone else, I suggest viewing this excellent Arirang TV video about the accomplishment.   Happy (Solar and Lunar) New Year!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Are Koreans data gluttons? I think not.

As reported today in The Korea Joongang Daily, wireless data traffic in Korea has reached an all time high and continues to increase.  As the article notes, "According to the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, an average 179,929 terabytes of data was transmitted per day in November last year, an increase of 115.5 percent compared to 22 months earlier, in January 2014." (click on the accompanying graphic for a full size version)  The article also says that "Data transmitted while using KakaoTalk, playing mobile games and downloading movies or songs all add to the massive traffic, and some overseas media outlets have referred to Koreans as “data gluttons” in response to the surprisingly large figure."
I think not!  Increases are not at all surprising given people's preference for mobile over fixed devices, the burgeoning growth of the internet of things and related trends. Korean consumers are simply giving the rest of the world a preview of what is to come, once their countries update broadband networks to the technological level and speed that is readily available in South Korea.
As the headline of the article correctly indicates, there is a continuing battle for bandwidth because of the simple physical reality that the electromagnetic spectrum is a finite resource.