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From ‘IT Korea’ to ‘Smart Korea’
Source: koreaherald.com
Source Date: Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government
Country: Korea (Republic of)
Created: Nov 15, 2010

The following was contributed by Minister of Knowledge Economy Choi Kyung-hwan celebrating the G20 ICT Innovation Forum. Ed.

In this beautiful season of fall, Korea is receiving some very special guests. Luminaries from all over the world are here to attend the G20 ICT Innovation Forum, an international event timed to coincide with the prestigious G20 Seoul Summit.

The timing of the G20 ICT Innovation Forum, and the remarkable lineup of high-profile participants, show that Korea’s IT industry has attained a significant presence on the world stage. Now is an opportune time to establish and promote “Korea” as a global brand.

Over the course of its history Korea has overcome many hardships, including the rule of imperialist Japan and the Korean War, and has emerged as a global leader. It is now one of the top 20 global economies and the first Asian country to host the G20 Summit. All this calls for a new vision for the future one that is in keeping with our higher status in the global community.

For a full generation, the IT industry has driven the Korean economy and played a significant role in elevating Korea’s status. In terms of the amount it contributes to the nation’s GDP compared with other industries, IT is approximately 140,000 times stronger than it was four decades ago. In 2009, IT exports amounted to $120.9 billion, which is 24,000 times the corresponding figure for 1970. In particular, our three major IT products memory chips, display panels and mobile phones are No. 1 in the world.

We also boast excellent IT infrastructure and a high level of IT utilization. As of 2009 the number of telephones (landline or wireless) stood at 1.4 per capita, and one out of three people had access to high-speed Internet service. This outstanding ability to utilize IT is gaining Korea global recognition, as shown in our high rankings on various indices. We placed first on the United Nations’ Global e-Government Readiness Index and the ICT National Competitiveness Index of the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, and third on the International Telecommunication Union’s ICT Development Index.

Our national catch phrase, “IT Korea,” is truly fitting. Yet it is time to adopt a new one Smart Korea. “Smart Korea” more accurately conveys our intention to improve all aspects of people’s lives by applying IT to new areas.

Over the past decade, Korea has dedicated itself to the wide distribution of high-speed Internet service. As a result, we achieved the highest xDSL penetration rate and established the world’s best infrastructure for high-speed Internet. Our Internet infrastructure policy became a benchmark for the United States, an Internet leader, as well as for Europe and Japan. We also excelled in the mobile communications industry, rolling out revolutionary technologies and products. We were the first in the world to commercialize CDMA and WiBro, and we occupy second place in the global mobile phone market.

Those 10 years of hard work in R&D, and those market-leading technologies, are invaluable assets that will enable Korea to meet new challenges in the IT sector. Now we are all set to tackle our new task of building a Smart Korea.

As the world moves closer to a “smart life,” businesses face a new reality. They must embrace openness and cooperation if they are to market products that offer efficient and pleasant communications functions, in addition to their original functions. The ability to adapt to this new reality will determine their survival in the market. For its part, the government must establish a smart infrastructure and foster the necessary industries to make the smart life a reality.

The mobile industry is playing an integral role in this transition, as we can see from the popularity of smartphones. This is a sector where Korea is expanding its presence to include a wide range of areas such as communications equipment, handsets and application services. It is no exaggeration to say the mobile sector is spearheading the creation of a Smart Korea.

Korea’s IT industry is among the world’s best, and many global companies have great confidence in our technology. The G20 ICT Innovation Forum is a case in point. This event will give participants a glimpse of the new era of smart technology, as well as a chance for global companies to network with domestic companies. Together, they will shape the future of mobile communications.

To establish a Smart Korea by 2020, Korea must re-envision its IT policies for the coming decade. In a word, we intend to reach our goal through the dynamic use of IT and the creative convergence of technologies.

First, we will encourage a more dynamic IT industry. We will establish Korea firmly as a global leader in our key IT sectorssemiconductors, display panels and mobile phones. We will also foster promising new sectors such as LEDs, 3D technology, cloud computing and robots, and nurture our software industry.

Second, we will utilize IT to inject vitality into all Korea’s industries. We will encourage existing sectors to evolve into knowledge-based industries through IT convergence. We will usher in a “green economy” by infusing all industries with information technology to enable greater energy savings and reduce carbon emissions. Furthermore, we will improve people’s quality of life and promote a balance between work and personal life by using IT to create healthier workplaces and to enhance the quality of our social welfare services.

Third, we will create a foundation for the pursuit of growth through creative means. To this end, we will foster a skilled work force and excellent technology, both of which are indispensable to a knowledge-based economy. We will also create a healthier relationship between Korea’s large conglomerates and its small and midsize enterprises, and increase the global presence of our IT industry.

With those plans in place, I have no doubt that a Smart Korea is on the horizon.
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