Saturday, April 27, 2013

Will Korea's "network powerhouse" phase continue in the future?

Today I ran across a Korean language paper written by researchers at, Digieco, KT's economic and management research institute.  They addressed some of the same topics as the conference paper I wrote with a Korean colleague and delivered  annual conference of the Pacific Telecommunications Council in January.  The title of the Digieco research paper translates roughly into English as "Will Korea's network powerhouse phase continue....the basis for future competitiveness."
The paper begins by noting that the value of networks is changing.  Over the past decade, countries around the world have come to recognize networks not simply as a means for transmission of communications, but as infrastructure that is a necessary pre-requisite for economic growth, innovation and job creation. (paper can be downloaded at this link)
Up to this point, the paper notes, South Korea has become a digital network powerhouse through fierce competition among operators.   The nation's status as the first country in the world to build out nationwide LTE mobile networks is but the latest evidence of this phase in South Korean development.
A couple of other arguments made in the paper were interesting.   For one thing, although it did not invoke the "information superhighway" metaphor, it explicitly drew the comparison between the impact of transportation infrastructure and digital communication networks, presenting the bar chart published here (click to see a full size version of the graphic).  The top bar in the graph represents the duration (15 hours) to drive from Seoul to Busan on.  The second bar represents the time required if driving on the Gyeongbu expressway, and the final two bars show the time required to travel from Seoul to Busan on the original KTX, introduced in 2004 and the newer version of KTX, introduced in 2010.
A second argument in the paper that I found interesting was its conclusion.   It notes that Korea, which began as a network powerhouse, has in recent years neglected this while countries around the globe paid more attention to it.  Therefore, the paper argues, there is a need to pay attention to reducing the gap between Korea and other countries through a range of government investment support.  It suggests the need for government leadership as the nation nears the end of its "network powerhouse" phase.

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