Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Communicating Korea's Telecommunications Accomplishments

In the naming and renaming of government ministries recently, the Ministry of Information and Communication was eliminated and its functions dispersed in three directions. Some of its functions were place in a new ministry, initially given the English name of "Ministry of the Knowledge-based Economy," and quickly changed to "Ministry of Knowledge Economy." Other functions go to the new Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, while still others will go to the new Broadcasting and Communications Commission. So, as matters stand, the terms information and communication, along with their variants, no longer find their place in a Ministry name. The problem here is the public, instantly global message this sends. Put otherwise, it is the challenge of properly "branding" and communicating South Korea's considerable achievements in the field of communications, telecommunications and information society development. Internationally, two aspects of this problem are apparent:
  • As Suh Seung-Mo, the chairman of Korea IT SME & Venture Business Association,put it in a January 9, 2008 article in ZDNetKorea, "while competing foreign countries have been establishing IT related government organizations, Korea is likely to go back against this international trend. If so, it will discredit the Korean image of IT superpower that we have built."
  • The major international organizations in this field, notably the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have adopted the terminology of "information" and "communication" as well. A glance at the ITU website will see the priority given to the World Summit on the Information Society and to information and communications technology and terminology generally. The OECD website is also loaded with information that uses this terminology. Both organizations, along with other international bodies, are concerned with the digital divide, the internet economy, the growth of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the shaping of a global information society.

The risk Korea takes in eliminating a ministry that contained both "information" and "communication" in favor of the Knowledge Economy Ministry, is that it it may detract from the nation's efforts to help shape the ongoing international dialogue and detract from the branding of Korea's information society efforts, broadly speaking. Readers internationally will immediately wonder what the new Ministries do and what is the significance of their names. Finally, as readers of this blog will know, I have been making a case that developments in information and communications technology (ICT), represented by Moore's law, underpin the emerging "information age" or "information society." Just as communication is the fundamental human process, ICT is the fundamental source of development in such diverse fields as biology, nanotechnology, medical sciences, energy infrastructure and artificial intelligence, to name a few. The issue of fundamental or basic, versus applied research is important and will be addressed in future posts.

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