Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why a Book on Digital Development in Korea: Reason 2--History

A second major reason for co-authoring my forthcoming book with Dr. OH, Myung (Digital Development in Korea:  Building an Information Society) was the need for historical perspective on Korea's accomplishments.  This is the second post in my informal series on the reasons for the book.
If you're like me, you've read many industry or press reports that make it sound as though the information revolution occurred just within the past few months or perhaps years.  For example, many published reports about Korea's broadband infrastructure access and use begin the story in the mid-1990s or later.
The developments during South Korea's so-called "1980s telecommunications revolution" need to be included in the story to comprehend today's evolving information society here.   As of 1980, the nation suffered from a massive backlog in telephone service, its basic telephone network had only a few imported digital switches, and efforts to enter the semiconductor industry could be described as somewhat hit-and-miss.  The development of Korea's networks and its electronics sector during the 1980s was truly revolutionary.  It also laid the foundation and set precedents for developments in the 1990s and beyond, illustrating what economists refer to as the "on the shoulders of giants" characteristic of information.  That is, information is both an input and and output of its own production process.  As explained by Yochai Benkler in The Wealth of Networks, in order to write today's academic or news article, I need access to yesterday's articles and reports.  So it is with building advanced digital networks.  Also, the technology is continually changing, so that a long-term project to build a certain network over fifteen years might be shorted to ten years owing to technological change.

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