Monday, February 29, 2016

Korea boasts the smallest digital divide in the world

A new survey of internet usage in 40 nations around the world shows that, whether measured by Age, Education or Income, South Korea has by far the smallest digital divide in the world. As shown on the accompanying map (click for a full-sized version), 94 percent of Koreans reported using the internet at least occasionally or owning a smartphone (the 88 percent who own a smartphone is the highest proportion of the forty nations surveyed).  Using the same measure (adults who use the internet at least occasionally or report owning a smartphone), the digital divide between 18-34 year olds and those over 35 was 8% in Korea.  The gap between those with less education and more education was 9%, and the gap between lower income and higher income respondents was 10%.  These compared with considerably higher double digit gaps in the other countries surveyed.
The Pew survey, which was conducted in 2015, sheds light on an aspect of Korea's internet infrastructure and policies that those of us who pay attention have long known.  Through effective public-private partnership and strong leadership, this country consciously and consistently pursued policies, beginning way back in the 1980s, aimed at building a particular type of information society: one that provided equitable access to information services to all Koreans, whether from the nation's large cities or its small rural farming and fishing villages.  This is referred to as a 정보복지사회.   I haven't yet pinpointed the exact translation of this term, which literally means something like "information welfare society."

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