Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Smartphones, Youth and Addiction

Starting a few years back, South Korea established a pattern of building its broadband networks, both fixed and mobile, years or months ahead of other countries. In the case of the fast new mobile networks, this means that Korean citizens and residents enjoy the fastest, most efficient mobile broadband service in the world.  However, as in the fixed-broadband growth era of the 1990s, it comes at a cost.  One of them is internet addiction, which has rapidly been transformed into smart phone addiction.
As reported in the Korea Joongang Daily, smartphone use among 5-19 year olds increased from just 7.5% at the end of 2010 to 67% in June of this year.  As the bar chart the accompanying graphic shows (click on the graphic to see a full size version), levels of smartphone addiction among children now exceed internet addiction.
The headline of another article in The Joongang Daily is revealing:  "Smartphones cause rifts in families."  Of course they do.  I met earlier this week with a colleague from Korea's ICT sector who mentioned to me that "..all of the kids now have LTE phones."  I have argued elsewhere that the term "smart phone" is a misnomer.   An LTE phone is an internet-connected computer with more capabilities than a typical desktop model.  One needs only imagine the difficulties for parents of guiding their children's use of the internet.  The article is worth reading.    

Saturday, October 13, 2012

South Korea still leads the world in ICT development

It's that time of the year again (see my post from last year here).  The ITU has issued the 2012 version of its annual report, Measuring the Information Society.  This report is probably the single most authoritative and comprehensive study aimed at measuring ICT for development, as it is conducted by the ITU on behalf of and with input from all of its member states.
Again this year Korea ranked number one in the world on the ICT Development Index (IDI) aa composite index that combines 11 indicators into a single benchmark measure used to monitor and compare developments in ICT across countries. These indicators are grouped into three sub-indexes corresponding to ICT access, ICT use and ICT skills.
I've reproduced one of the charts from this year's report at the upper left (click on the graphic to see a full size version).   It compares the global distribution of gross national income for selected countries in the world, on the left, with subscribed capacity (a measure of the capacity of fixed, mobile, voice and data telecommunications subscriptions).  In essence, it shows that Korea has huge capacity, relative to its GNI, as shown by the difference in size of the red slices of the pie chart.  Another way of thinking about this is speed.  South Korea has far and away the fastest digital networks in the world.

Twitter opens office in Korea

I read with interest the announcement that Twitter is opening an office in Korea.  As reported by The Next Web, the goal is to focus on localized features and partnerships.  This is long overdue.   As a general rule, content and service localization is a prerequisite for success in the Korean market.  Readers of this blog will know about my long-term interest in the localization issue, as illustrated by this post.
Twitter has had the capability for Korean-language content since 2011, through a partnership with Daum.  I see that it has a Korean language page that uses the logo displayed here and is actually a travel/tourism page.  The Korean characters to the right of the Twitter logo read "Twitter travel*"

Convergence, media regulation and the KCC

Convergence is a big buzzword in the ICT sector and related high technology fields these days.   Yesterday I had a personal experience with convergence.   I was driving to Kangwon-do when the U.S. vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan aired live on CNN, so was unable to watch the live telecast as planned.  Later in the evening, after returning home, I was surfing the web, catching up on my morning news reading and noticed that The Washington Post had a "View the entire debate" button, so I was able to watch the entire debate, direct and unfiltered, right there and then, courtesy of the newspaper.  Was I watching television or reading a newspaper?  This is convergence.
Upon his inauguration in 2008, President Lee Myung Bak undertook a sweeping reorganization and streamlining of government that included an experiment with converged regulation of telecommunications and broadcasting in the form of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC).   The government reorganization, which also included elimination of the powerful Ministry of Information and Communication, was widely criticized.  That criticism seems to be increasing as President Lee's term draws to an end.  A recent article in The Korea Times noted that the KCC "... seems to have lost near total control of regulating the volatile broadcasting and mobile market." It went on to suggest that a drastic reshuffle can be expected next year with the inauguration of a new government and even speculated that government regulation may again be divided into sectors, such as mobile and broadcasting. I would simply comment that separation of regulation into sectors, in the face of the concrete reality of convergence, hardly seems like a solution to the problem. In fact, it was the separation of broadcasting and telecommunications regulation that led to formation of the KCC in the first place. This will be an interesting story to follow, especially because the convergence of digital media in Korea is arguably further along than in any other national market.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The future of Korea's social network Cyworld

Today The Korea Times carried an interesting article entitled "Can Cyworld Rebound?"  The first sentence of the article is shocking enough.  "SK Communications is attempting to revive its aging social networking service (SNS) Cyworld, evidenced by a recent upgrade but is unlikely to reaffirm its hegemony due to the rise of Kakao Story." The shocking part is that a service which was so dominant in South Korea and is still barely more than a decade old (Cyworld was founded in 1999) should be called "aging." Cyworld preceded the launch of Facebook by half a decade and pioneered certain features such as the use of virtual money, called dotori (acorns) which could be used to purchase virtual goods.
 This is a sign of how rapidly ICT and mobile technology is progressing these days. Among the interesting points made in the article, Cyworld received a big boost "... when singer Psy’s video “Gangnam Style” went viral on YouTube. He was SK Communication’s endorsement model before his song became a global hit and still uses his Cyworld page actively, securing some 1.5 million visitors last week for the SNS by himself." Another key argument is that Cyworld apparently failed to shift its focus away from the desktop computing market and toward the new mobile communications ecosystem. You may well want to read the full article.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Korean startup develops new ray-tracing technology for mobile devices

Siliconarts, a graphics technology startup from South Korea, has developed RayCore, a real-time ray tracing graphics processor. The technology can be integrated into various custom-build system-on-chips instead of current raster graphics processing solutions from ARM, Imagination Technologies, Vivante and others. As reported by Xbit laboratories, the new technology "...has the potential to provide cinema-quality 3D graphics in mobile devices by fully supporting fundamental ray-tracing functions such as reflection, refraction, transmission, shadow and global lighting.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Become a "power searcher" with Google

재미있게 한국말로 검색 하십시오!
As noted in a post I did on my "Internet age education" blog, I highly recommend Google's online course, "Power searching with Google."    I thought I knew most everything about Google's search engine, but with their new Knowledge Graph features, that turned out not to be the case.  The course is very well presented.  If you're already a "power searcher," it will serve as a useful review.
NOTE:  As far as I know the course is only available in English.  However, everything taught applies to searching in Korean, so as noted in the first line of this post, have fun searching using Hangul.