Friday, September 18, 2020

ICT: the engine of Korea's export-led economy


This blog and my research in recent years have documented the role of the ICT sector (Information and Communications Technology Sector) in Korea's transformation from a developing country to a world leader in digital networks and related technologies. In simple terms, the ICT sector refers to the digital technologies that have dramatically changed the human ability to store, compute and communicate digital (think 1s and 0s as in Boolean algebra) information.   ICT exports played a key role in this transformation, as these posts show.  The graphic at left (click for a full-size version) was published in January 2020 by The Korea Herald.  The ICT exports represented in this graphic include semiconductors, displays, smart phones and an array of other digital products.  Among these sub-sectors of the ICT sector, semiconductors play a special role as the basic building blocks for digital networks and related technologies. 

 The second graphic at left, published in The Korea Herald,  shows where South Korea's exports of semiconductors went.  Especially if China and Hong Kong are combined, the graphic clearly shows the spectacular rise of China as a manufacturing powerhouse for the world and its special importance to Korea.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Samsung- Verizon 5G network equipment mega-deal

 Korea's long term investment in building 5G networks is beginning to pay off, as indicated by the large contract signed by Samsung with Verizon to provide network equipment.  As reported by The Korea Joongang Daily  "Under the contract, Samsung Electronics America will provide, install and maintain network equipment, mostly for 5G, for five years through December 2025."  It is the largest contract for network equipment ever signed by a Korean company, totalling $6.6 billion.   Verizon is the world's largest wireless company and the U.S. market accounts for approximately 20 to 25 percent of global network equipment demand.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Korea still a leader in mobile network speeds

 OpenSignal published an interesting report in August entitled "Benchmarking the global 5G user experience."   These two charts from the report show that South Korea is still a world leader in the speed of its networks.   The first one compares selected countries on the average download speed considering use of both 4G and 5G networks.   The second chart (below) separately depicts the average download speeds for both 4G and 5G.  (Click on each graphic to see a full-size version.)

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Speed and digital technology in Korea's fight against COVID-19

I've commented frequently over the years on the importance of speed in digital networks.  Speed can refer to download speeds on mobile or fiber optic networks, processing speed in computers, mobile phones and data centers, and so forth.  Korea today possesses some of the world's fastest digital networks and has built e-government and big data while using these networks.  The speed of networks and data processing here has proven to be a significant advantage for Korea in fighting COVID-19.   The Korea Times, in collaboration with The Korea Foundation, is publishing a five part series on Korea's response to the Covid pandemic.  The latest installment, entitled "Korea's ICT, AI, Biotech shine in virus crisis" makes it clear that fast, state-of-the-art digital technologies are a key enabler of fast contract tracing, public education and related efforts to contain the virus.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

QR code innovation in Korea's battle against Covid-19

Korea has recently expanded the use of QR codes in its multi-pronged use of digital technologies to combat Covid-19.  The Asia Times has an excellent article by Andrew Salmon explaining and placing in context this nationwide deployment of a QR-code system.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Korea's lead in 5G adoption

This Statista graphic (click for a full size version) based on GSMA Intelligence caught my eye.   If the projection to 2025 proves accurate, it has major implications for this country's future advancement in smart cities, smart factories, Iot, tele-health, autonomous vehicles, AI and education, just to name a few of the areas that will depend on a functioning nationwide 5G network.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Digital technology in Asia's pandemic response

McKinsey and The Financial Times have published an interesting article on the role of technology in Asia's pandemic response.  For a number of reasons, South Korea is the region's outstanding example of how to leverage digital networks and related technologies to attack the outbreak of a novel virus.  Click on the graphic for a full size version.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Digital technology drives Korea's battle against COVID-19

For those who want a deeper dive into South Korea's battle against COVID-19, I highly recommend looking at the translations being done by the COVID Translate Project.  All to often, the details of what is happening here in The Republic of Korea don't get to a broad international audience for one simple reason.  They are not translated into English or other languages. 
Hats off to all the volunteers who are working with the COVID Translate Project.
  Medium recently published an informative article on "How Korea Does Contact Tracing" based on a report available through the COVID Translate Project.  The approach makes it clear that a multi-pronged effort utilizing mobile networks, big data and related digital technologies is an important part of the picture.  Perhaps more importantly, Korea is a democracy and its citizens, corporations and government are all invested in the ongoing battle against this new, deadly corona virus.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Korea's digital battle against COVID-19

South Korea today is leveraging its world-leading digital network infrastructure to battle the corona virus pandemic and that battle, rightly so, is attracting a great deal of international attention. For example, Brookings recently published an interesting account by an expatriate professor in Busan, entitled "How surveillance technology powered South Korea's COVID-19 response."  In April The New Yorker published an interesting interview with a government official in Mapo-Gu containing details on how Gu-level government offices are involved in the battle against COVID-19.  The Harvard Business Review examined "How digital contact tracing slowed COVID-19 in East Asia" appropriately noting that Korea's aggressive approach to combating the virus was influenced by its earlier experience with the MERS outbreak in 2015.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

ICT in Korea's fight against COVID-19

Digital networks and technologies have played a central role in South Korea's battle against the novel coronavirus COVID-19.  The government recently released an excellent report with a lot of detail on the multi-pronged, early coordinated effort. (download it here)  I also recommend Victor Cha's recent article in Foreign Affairs.  I believe the rest of the world can benefit from Korea's example and experience.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

COVID-19, networks and decentralized diagnostics

The Korea Times carried an interesting article today entitled  "COVID-19 outbreak to shed new light on decentralized diagnostics."  It so happens that I'm teaching both graduate and undergraduate courses (online of course!) this semester on networked communication technologies, with a focus on the Internet and related digital networks.  Learning more about the Internet as the largest engineered construction project in human history encourages us to think about the future role that networked digital technologies will play in the world, including their role in combating pandemics like the current coronavirus outbreak.
The Korea Times article uses the example of the blood cell diagnostics firm Noul to highlight the "importance of decentralization in diagnostics, which can help the world to detect diseases faster and prevent epidemics more effectively."  It goes on to explain that "Conventional blood cell diagnostics requires processing of collecting venous blood, smearing and staining and microscopy analysis. These processes are mostly done manually by experienced technicians, thus taking anywhere from one to 66 days for results and requiring large labs, a significant workforce and facilities for water waste."
Noul has combined the whole process of blood cell diagnostics into the device ― which is the size of a small conveyor toaster ― and can produce test results in 15 minutes. (click on graphic for a full size image) "Instead of the conventional labor-intensive sample preparation, miLab tests blood with cartridges, which uses solid chemicals instead of liquid reagents for staining. With a few drops of finger-pricked blood in the cartridge, miLab automatically does the smearing, staining, digital microscopic imaging, and AI analytics. By using different cartridges, the device can diagnose various other oncology diseases including breast and thyroid cancers."
Digital networks may indeed play an important role in public health by enabling smart, decentralized manufacturing of needed equipment, such as the ventilators that are currently in such short supply around the world.  The New York Times and other media have already reported on the use of 3D printers to make copies of ventilator parts to help health care providers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases in Korea and selected countries

Johns Hopkins is doing the world a great service by publishing data on the spread of COVID-19.  I found this graphic particularly informative since I live in South Korea.

South Korea Testing with Hospital "Phone Booths"

Phone booths with public payphones used to be a common sight in Korea back in the 20th century, but have largely disappeared.   Today, as the following video from VOA illustrates, one hospital has introduced phone booth-like testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus.  Innovation indeed.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

How South Korea is beating the Coronavirus

As a follow up to my last post, I highly recommend this article in  I am one of many expats who feel safer being here in South Korea right now than I would feel almost anywhere in the U.S.  As TheDailyBeast article notes, mass testing is the key to Korea's success thusfar.   Hopefully Korea's biotech companies can quickly gear up to export testing kits to the U.S. and all around the world.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Korea's use of computers, big data and robots in controlling COVID-19

As shown in the accompanying chart (click for a full size version) from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the daily number of new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has decreased markedly over the past 12 days.  The bars in the chart represent the daily number of new cases, while the blue line depicts the cumulative total cases, which is beginning to level off.
Recent reporting by international media including CNN and the BBC indicate that rapid and large scale testing is part of the reason for Korea's success. The  Financial Times published a bar chart comparing Korea's volume of testing with that of other countries. (click for a full size version)

The CNN report, in particular, caught my eye.   It described the role of Seegene, a Seoul-based biotechnology company, in the development and production of test kits.  The report began by noting that "Before there were any cases of novel coronavirus confirmed in South Korea, one of the country's biotech firms had begun preparing to make testing kits to identify the disease."  South Korea has a strong commitment to biotechnology, much of it centered here in the new city of Songdo.  I have a birds-eye view of Samsung Biologics from my apartment on the Incheon Global Campus, just a 10 minute walk away.
The CNN report on Seegene went on as follows. "In the basement of Seegene's headquarters in Seoul lies the key to the company's coronavirus success. There the company houses an artificial intelligence-based big data system, which has enabled the firm to quickly develop a test for coronavirus. Tests known as assay kits are made up of several vials of chemical solutions. Samples are taken from patients and mixed with the solutions, which react if certain genes are present. Without the computer, it would have taken the team two to three months to develop such a test, said Chun. This time, it was done in a matter of weeks."
In addition to the use of its own powerful computer and big data, Seegene made use of robots to automate the testing process, dramatically reducing the time it took.
Korea's approach to combating the novel coronavirus reminded me of reading Craig Venter's autobiography, A Life Decoded:  My Genome My Life.  Venter's approach to mapping the human genome depended upon investment in computing power and was dismissed by many leading scientists at the time.  It seems to me that Korea's approach to COVID-19 demonstrates what may be accomplished by leveraging digital technologies to attack the problem.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Networks, epidemics and infodemics

Part of what makes the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea so interesting is the fact that this nation has some of the world's leading digital networks.   These digital networks, in turn, underpin and enhance the role of social networking in Korean society.  I've posted earlier (see these posts) on the subject of "infodemics" in Korea.  The term infodemic was coined in a 2003 Washington Post article by David Rothkopf.  The opening paragraph of that article notes that "SARS is the story of not one epidemic but two, and the second epidemic, the one that has largely escaped the headlines, has implications that are far greater than the disease itself. That is because it is not the viral epidemic but rather an "information epidemic" that has transformed SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, from a bungled Chinese regional health crisis into a global economic and social debacle."
The current coronavirus outbreak offers yet another challenge to understand not only epidemics, but also the infodemics that accompany them.  An article by Reuters Graphics entitled "The Korean Clusters" is helpful in understanding the explosion of coronavirus cases in Korean churches and hospitals.  The map graphic in this post (click for a full size version) shows the number of  coronavirus cases as of February 26).  I recommend this article for some excellent explanatory graphics.  Oh yes, and I'm teaching networks courses at both graduate and undergraduate levels this semester.  At least for the first several weeks and possibly much longer, they will be delivered online, as South Korea seeks to minimize social gatherings to combat the spread of this coronavirus.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

China and Korea dominate 5G smartphone market

As reported in the Korea Joongang Daily, the global market for 5G smartphones is dominated by Chinese and Korean firms.  As shown in the figure (click to see a full size version), Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics ranked second, together accounting for 41.7% of the global market.   The Chinese firm Huawei ranked number one in market share.  Together with Vivo and Xiaomi, Chinese firms accounted for 54.1 percent of the global market.