South Korea Outlines Strategy for IT Development

Business Week has an interesting article about South Korea’s efforts to remain an IT leader in the global marketplace. Most people think of South Korea’s aggressive investments in broadband, but it looks like they are articulating a strategy for leveraging those investments into new technology in the consumer market — the term “ubiquitous computing” is used quite a bit.

While the technologies outlined in the article aren’t particularly new, what is interesting is the government/industry partnership. It is clear that the Korean government plans to continue a very active role both on the planning and investment side of this strategy. In fact, the article details part of the government’s effort that sounds roughly similar to what the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) does:

“… the soul of many of Korea’s machines is not in the laboratories of Samsung Electronics Inc. or mobile operator SK Telecom, but at the state-run Electronics & Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) in Daejon, 170 km south of Seoul. There, 1,500 engineers — some of them paid by private industry, some by the government — are working on technologies involved in IT839. The institute’s annual budget is $345 million — but that doesn’t count the billions being spent on research and product rollouts by Samsung, LG Electronics Inc., and SK Telecom. “Our role is to help develop basic and core technology and make it a new global standard,” says ETRI President Yim Chu Hwan. “Then new products will be developed by companies in the private sector.”

Given the relative size of the US and Korean economies, arguably Korea’s investment is greater than the US’s as NIST’s core budget is about the same as ETRI’s. In this global context, it is also interesting that NIST’s $150 million (ish) Advanced Technology Program, which is focused on developing high-risk, early-stage technologies, is on Congress’ chopping block once again. (The House eliminated the program and the Senate funded it at $140 million.)

This quote above also highlights Korea’s clear desire to produce “global standards,” which is a rapidly growing battleground in the technology community but has been largely ignored by US policymakers.

The fall will likely be busy time for both the policy community and ACM on issues related to global competitiveness, so you will likely see more posts on these topics. ACM’s major study on global impacts of IT outsourcing will likely be released. In addition, Congress will be wrapping up its annual appropriation bills, which directly impact federal investment in R&D — investments that are critical for maintaining global competitiveness.

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