Although it was quite early in the morning, the breakfast meeting of Information Technology Professionals' Association of Korea (IPAK) saw many members including Chang Kwang-soo, PH.D,Â Assistant Minister in Informatization Strategy Office of Ministry of Public Administration and Security (MOPAS) on April 13, 2011 at the JW Marriott Hotel.
With respect to the mounting interest from a number of countries in South Korea's electronic government, which ranked first in UN's survey in 2010, Mr. Chang made a speech on 'the strategies and challenges of national informatization in becoming a smart nation.'
Korea's world class e-government
In 2003, commenting on Korea's informatization, ITU mentioned that "the development of information and communication that Korea has achieved over the last 40 years is a miracle and there is no more recommendation to be made." The UN echoed their opinion, saying "Even during the financial crisis in Asia, Korea overcame the difficult period by enhancing investment in ICT and ICT-based electronic government services."
Korea's informatization, especially regarding electronic government, has spurred remarkable development in many sectors of the society by improving administrative convenience and efficiency as well as boosting the economy. Approximately 21 million documents were issued via 'Civil Affairs 24' in 2010 alone; around 32 percent of the service is delivered online; and an impressive 75 percent of people made use of 'Home Tax.' And the country's Government Information Sharing, often noted as the best in the world, resulted in reducing 42 percent of required documents, or KRW 862.9 billion of annual administrative cost.
Such prestigious level of Korea's e-government has led the country to expanding its global cooperation with many international organizations such as UN and IDB. The e-government has brought Korea's staggering profits of US$ 27 million in '08, and US$ 150 million in '10, as a host of countries all over South America, Africa, and Asia request benchmarking for the obvious appeal of cost and time reduction.
Despite the unrivalled reputation, however, Korea's informatization is not without room for improvement. "It goes without saying that Korea needs to make more efforts to improve software, digital contents, and SI, as we have focused our IT development on hardware. Also we should expand the application of IT beyond administrative efficiency and public convenience to disaster prevention and public safety in general," Mr. Chang explained. There is a need for more comprehensive and systematic investment management for national informatization and the government should take stronger measures against the side effects of IT development such as cyber attacks, Internet addiction, and the digital divide, he added.
Recently, cyber attacks have become more technical and well organized. Experts are calling for the government's immediate action as a series of cyber attacks including the well-known DDoS has taken place and the threat of new types of viruses such as Stuxnet is growing.
Leakage of personal information and internet addiction are grave issues too. While the concern for illegal trade of personal information on the internet is increasing, a survey conducted in April, 2010, found a total of 69.5 million cases of personal data leakage through online shopping malls and other websites. Meanwhile, 1.74 million people have been addicted to the internet, and it is equally urgent to reduce the disparity in access to information among the minorities.
"The government is organizing a special committee and fostering experts using simulation training, etc. in order to respond to cyber attacks and potential threats," Mr. Chang explained. "At the same time, we are broadening our global collaboration projects for information security via cyber terrorism defense seminar and global standardization of cyber security index," he added.
He also went on to say, "The Personal Data Protection Act comes into effect in September of this year, which will enhance the public's right to personal information and also effective and quick methods for recovering damage," as the systematic and technical protection of private information is reinforced. Furthermore, the government is planning to extend the use of Internet Personal Identification Number (I-PIN), instead of a social security number, starting from the public institutions, in an effort to encrypt crucial personal data.
In becoming a smart country
Korea has well entered into a 'smart society', which values flexibility, creativity, and humanity based on open and original ideas. This trend has resulted in rapid and wide spread of mobile life in which social class, generation, or profession is irrelevant. Around 20 million smartphones are expected to be in service this year - a significant leap from last year's 7 million - and the broad range of smartphone applications are already fundamentally changing not only how people use information, but also how they communicate.
With the widening global influence of the e-government, Korea will further need to protect the cyber security and make use of informatization for solving current issues on a national scale. "In order to establish the best smart government in the world with the public," Mr. Chang said, "the government envisions the world class mobile e-government and active smart-work environment, based on openness, cooperation, and sustainable growth."
Arguably, the first component of smart government is ubiquitous smart work, which will be reinforced in Korea with a total of 500 smart work centers - including both the private and public - are planned to be built by 2015. "Mental revolution is vital when it comes to smooth operation of smart work environment. Smart work will enable innovative lifestyle by improving productivity and efficiency while reducing traffic congestion and other types of social inconvenience."
MOPAS is currently test-operating the mobile work system, which will likely spread to other sectors of the government. Mr. Chang explained, "We are preparing for a mobile e-government portal that encompasses a mobile service hub for public institutions and a civil affair system for safety, healthcare, and welfare services.
"To improve the efficiency in IT investment and resource management, the government must consolidate information resources," he added. According to experts' estimation, the data integration by National Computing & Information Agency (NCIA) will result in more than 30 percent of reduction in operation cost, which is consequently supporting the government's plan to combine and operate the information system of government institutions through common data infrastructure.
The application of IT will also expand as it will be used in a more multi-dimensional ways for prevention and recovery of natural disasters as well as public administration services. The national information system for animal quarantine, for example, will enable more systematized management of prevention, diagnosis, and control of epidemics such as the foot and mouth disease, which recently raised a serious issue in Korea. The government is also planning to reinforce the satellite communication network by linking the satellite system with CCTVs and other network methods.
Mr. Chang concluded the speech by emphasizing the importance of using IT and smart technologies to make Korea a safe, fair, and egalitarian country.