The Next Government’s Policy Direction to Boost the ICT Sector in Korea
SEOUL, KOREA – Today, the paradigm of information technology has rapidly shifted from predominantly hardware-based to increasingly software and data oriented. With “Big Data” becoming a buzzword and the importance of data constantly on the rise, there are however growing concerns that the Korean IT environment is not keeping up with the fast changing trend. The Korean economy has grown rapidly with the strong leadership in information technology. However, to maintain pace with the digital age, we need to find new directions in which the next government should move forward to develop ICT sector. On May 29, IT specialists gathered at the National Information Society Agency to discuss the topic of “The Next Government’s Policy Direction to Boost the ICT sector”
Before the panel discussion, Kim, Hyeong-kon from the National Information Society Agency (NIA) made a short speech on “Prospect on IT future vision”. He said that in regards to social and economic issues such as labor productivity, education, suicide, inequality and corruption, we haven’t thought the degree to which they relate to IT of yet. “However, now is the time to ponder the future role of IT in the digital age, where information is becoming the driving force of economic growth. There are increasing voices that IT should be utilized more creatively to create new values and opportunities. To do so, the fundamental approach to this technology must be shifted. Formerly, information technology was focused on efficiency, productivity, networking and service innovation. In the future, however, it will extend its focus to problem solving, value creation, forecasting, cooperation, creation and open innovation.”
“The history of Google shows us how Korea can utilize information technology in the future. Google started its business as search engine in 1998 and gradually expanded into Google Books, Google Earth, Google Translate, Flu Trends and Google Health. Recently, Google also acquired Motorola to advance into the driverless car market. This shows that Google’s business model has shifted from simple search engines to information service, value creation, and problem solving. Data was something we had to manage, but now it has become a core resource driving competitiveness and value creation.”
Following the speech, the panel session started with a moderator, Ahn Moon-suk, an emeritus professor at Korea University.
“Korean government has played a strong leadership role in developing information technology. This has focused primarily on the manufacturing sector rather than software development for the past decades. Now, we need to rethink whether the government-led approach can still work for the contemporary knowledge service industry,” said Lee Young-sang, CEO of DataStreams. He added that the information technology department in the current government seems to possess neither the strength nor willingness to develop ICT sector to the degree which is required. “This is not a matter of ministries but a matter of personnel. The Korean government has a long bureaucratic tradition where officials do not remain within one department for a long time. This does not allow them to attain full knowledge of one field in order to become a specialist.”
The moderator Ahn commented that the government needs to have personnel taking full charge of ICT to support the policies. “The job-rotating system should also be implemented within the same department to foster ICT specialists.”
Park, Seung Kwan from etnews pointed out relevant ministries’ self-interest. “Each ministry partially in charge of ICT is only interested in absorbing other’s relevant projects rather than concerning themselves with converging ICT. This should be discussed further before any government reshuffle occurs.”
Kang Eun Hee, a member of the National Assembly, wondered, “What if the former MIC was revived? Can they solve the current issues such as big data and e-governance? “We need to think hard about what role the future ministry should play and how to break down the walls of each ministry in order to foster cooperation between them.”
The moderator Ahn added on her remarks. “The issue here is that ICT should move towards the center rather than the edge of policies because if functions disperse, the power will also subsequently disperse. On top of that, the new ICT ministry should focus on software, not hardware. This will create employment opportunities and lead to economic growth.”
After the panel discussion, several members of the audience gave their own comments. One professor said that the reason why MB administration was not successful in growing ICT is due to a lack of presidential projects. The e-government project which the former administration pursued did not transition into the current government. In the next government, the president should have more interest in informatization policies. Secondly, in the past, the government took the lead in the IT sector, but these days that role should be handled by private sectors allowing them to establish a collaboration system with the government.
Another participant working in the IT field emphasized the importance of all ministries discussing ICT together when implementing policies for technology to be designed to penetrate our lives. For instance, currently policy makers for each sector only think about their own sector and consider ICT incidental. However, we should put more thought into how the various sectors such as construction, academics, agriculture and governance can increasingly improve by combining with ICT.
The moderator Ahn wrapped up the conference by saying that it seems everyone here agreed with the idea that ICT should be the center of policies. Hardware-oriented technology should move towards software and data-oriented to keep pace with the fast changing digital era.