The Korean government recently announced an IT roadmap dubbed the “Giga Korea Strategy.” The plan details a future eight years from now in which Koreans will be able to enjoy holographic videos generated by smart phones and a mobile communications network forty times faster than the current one. Today, we have invited Mr. Na Seung-shik나승식 of the Information and Telecommunication Division at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy to tell us more about the future waiting for us in 2020. First, he tells us about the government’s blueprint for upcoming IT development.
IT experts envision a future of the hyper connectivity revolution in which various devices connected to the network create new values. Looking back to 2010, there were reportedly 10 billion IT devices and cell phones being used in the world, and these technological innovations connected people all over the globe. More devices are bound to link people with other people, people with things, and devices with other devices. The amount of information or data traffic will skyrocket off the charts. Last year, Korea’s IT export was remarkable and Korean IT products were known for high quality, but in 2020, Korea wishes to become the world’s third largest IT exporting nation, following the United States and China. In terms of contents, Korea plans to ride the momentum of the wave of Korean culture sweeping the world and become the fifth largest contents exporter in the world. Software businesses will have to play an important part in this plan. There are about 13 solid software companies in Korea. The government plans to more than triple that number by 2020 to have 50 such businesses.
The Ministry of Knowledge Economy projects that mobile communication network connection would speed up to one gigabyte per second by 2020, ushering in an era of hyper connectivity where people and devices would be linked in countless ways. In order to realize such a future, the Korean government has presented a set of strategies to become the world’s third largest IT exporting nation and the fifth largest contents creator in the world, and nurture fifty global software companies. The world has long recognized Korea as a power player in the global IT industry. Over a quarter of Korea’s export last year occurred in the IT sector, amounting to 156 billion U.S. dollars, and Korea also leads the global smart phone market. Korea has produced noteworthy outcomes in technology integration, such as sea-faring vessels with cutting-edge communications technology, advanced training jets with locally developed application software, and the supersonic advanced trainer T-50 Golden Eagle. What has spurred Korea to further step up its technological advances?
In terms of IT exports, Korea ranks fifth, following China, the United States, Germany, and Japan - and a number of Korean-made products are counted as global top sellers. Nonetheless, there is room for improvement. Some downplay Korea’s prominence in the IT sector as cosmetic. Compared to the level of IT consumption or usage, Korea lacks source IT technology or locally produced parts and components, particularly in the area of software development or platform technology, when compared to the industry-leading United States. Korea needs to make steady efforts to make up in that area. Also, Korea needs to focus on promoting human creativity. We’ve all seen what an innovative mind like Steve Jobs can do to take an industry to a whole new level. Korea has to work hard to cultivate a pool of creative talents.
Although Korea’s IT and communications infrastructure is ranked among the best in the world, the nation relies on imports to supply network equipment and key components for communication devices. Korea failed to promptly join the new wave of smart phones when Apple rolled out the innovative iPhone in 2009, and is still trying to catch up with the trend. In order to not miss the rapid changes in the IT industrial paradigm, Korea needs to look ahead and be proactive for the future, as represented in the government’s Giga Korea 2020 plan.
The current data exchange speed remains in the megabyte range, but in 2020 we expect the speed to be in the gigabyte level. To gear up for that change, Korea has set up a comprehensive set of measures in the areas of networks, devices, software platforms, contents and services, which will be implemented from 2013 to 2020. The focus will be placed on building giga-level wireless networks and realizing holographic displays and a computing power 1,000 times faster than the current version. These efforts will also involve industry integration. Just as IT has integrated with traditional manufacturing industries like automobile, shipbuilding, and construction, IT will penetrate deeper into every Korean’s life by integrating with medicine, education, energy, and food. In addition, the plan includes such agendas as nurturing more creative minds, creating more jobs for young Koreans, boosting the efficiency of welfare services, building intelligent life and disaster safety nets, and constructing the first-class network infrastructure for education.
To lead the era of hyper connectivity, Korea strives to secure key source technologies in building networks and platforms needed to instantly transmit and receive 3D, 4D and holographic contents. If the plan comes true, eight years from now it would take only three minutes to download a 3D film like “Avatar,” as compared to three hours. The present-day version of smart phones will be converted to the glasses-free three dimensional device by 2017 and the holography-enabled phone by 2020. Such innovations would lead to 105 trillion won or 92.6 billion U.S. dollars in productivity and 690 thousand new jobs by 2026.
It’s important to stay one step ahead of the smart revolution. For instance, look at Japan, which had seven of the world’s top ten IT companies in the 1990s. But just ten years later no Japanese company ranks in the top ten. This example illustrates why it is urgent for Korea to keep pace with, if not take lead of, the rapidly changing industrial trends. Technological integration is just right for Korea. The nation has a long tradition of integrating various elements to create something much better, just like bibimbap mixes different ingredients to make a delicious dish. Also, Korea has accumulated much competitiveness and technological know-how in the IT field, which could help the nation propel itself to the next level.
In the era of IT hyper-connectivity, integration of technology and industries is projected to create new markets and intensify competition in software and platform development. Just as the nation was able to create today’s IT Korea by kicking off the Cyber Korea 21 plan during the financially troubled days of the late 1990s, Korea has now invested 1.4 trillion won to set a nationwide R&D project in motion. This will present a new and improved IT Korea eight years down the road.