Future of the Korean IT Industry
Brian Arthur, one of early researchers of complexity economics and a professor at the Santa Fe Institute, gave a speech titled “Where is the global economy heading?” In this speech, he defined information revolution as one of world’s five revolutionary changes.
The first revolutionary change was famous industrial revolution (1780-1830) and the second one was the US rail revolution (1830-1880) which led to the age of hydraulic power. The third one was the growth of heavy industries based on Germany’s electric motor and iron and steel manufacturing. The fourth one was the emergence of the manufacturing industry in the US (1913-1970s) opening a new era of the mass production and the growth of the automotive and the oil industries.
Information revolution, the fifth revolutionary change, started in the US in the 1960s and was closely related to the development of the ARPANET (the considered predecessor of the Internet and network) by the US Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1969 and creation of the Intel chip in 1971.
According to him, all of these revolutionary changes had large-scale turbulence and confusions at the early stage. After that, they received enormous media attention and excess investments made in this period led to the bubble rupture later.
In case of the rail revolution, news about the rail industry covered media headlines in 1836 and the investment bubble burst in 1847. Generally, when the technology bubble burst, the lifecycle of the technology was considered to reach the end and was out of the media attention and people’s interest. Interestingly, however, according to Brian Arthur, only after the bubble burst there came a decades-long establishment period.
Taking the US rail revolution for example, the US railway increased tenfold (from 30,000 miles to 300,000 miles) in the 1860-1900, after its bubble burst. The expanded railway network connected the east and the west economies of the US, helping the US economy grow into the largest economic region in the world. The increased economic power and the mass production played an essential part for the US to gain the world hegemony.
This makes us pose a question, “Can information and communication technology have the same path as the US rail revolution had?”
Brian Arthur gave an answer to this question. “Assuming that the emergence of Microsoft and Intel in the 1970s-1980s was the turbulence age, the media attention age was in the 1990s and the establishment age will be in the 2000-2030 after the bubble burst in 2000.”
We don’t know whether or not Arthur’s theory will be right or wrong. What we know is, according to his theory, information and communication technology will experience an establishment period in the coming 20 years. That is, information and communication technology has still a large growth potential and prospective demand going forward.
These days, many people question if the information and communication technology has the economic validity. I am certain that information and communication technology will continue to be the driving force of the Korean economy as it did in the past several decades.
Especially, our information and communication policy and technology are world’s best, excellent enough to be shared among the global community and utilized for common prosperity of the world. If we share our information and communication technology with other countries, it would not only raise our national competitiveness and image but also create a new growth engine for the Korean economy.
To that end, we should step up efforts to market our superior information and communication technology abroad. Korea should pay particular attention to developing global human networks and making global social contributions. If we are lax in doing those, our information and communication technology might come to a deadlock before long.
In recent several months we all witnessed the speed and the impact of the global fiscal crisis having on the Korean economy. If we don’t prepare now for the global wave of technology in the future, we could face a more serious situation than the present one.
Yeongi Son is a chairman of Information Communication Ethics Association and an invited professor of University of Seoul. From 2002 to 2009 he served as a President & CEO of Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity & Promotion (KADO). He was in Soong-sil University as professor in the Department of Information in Sociology from 1999 to 2002. He obtained his master's & doctor's degree in Sociology from Texas A&M University.