Everybody is talking about smart lately. Apart from its lexical definition, smart became the hottest keyword today as it is widely used for different industries and products such as smartphones, smart TVs, smart work, and smart management. The Korean government has also decided to keep up with the latest trend to evolve into a smart government.
Having ranked first in the world in the UN Electronic Government Survey, the Korean government is planning to improve the service quality and enhance the utility of the electronic government, setting the standards as the world-class smart government. The recent announcement of Ministry of Public Administration and Security (MOPAS) revealed that the Ministry will establish 500 smart work centers by 2015 to spur the use of electronic documents.
Kim Nam-seok, Vice Minister of Public Administration and Security, met with IT TIMES to talk about Korea's plans to become a smart government that could, according to him, also help to increase productivity and solve many societal issues including low birthrate, aging society, pollution, and energy crisis.
Q: What does Korea's e-government service signify to the rest of the world
A: Only after about 10 years since it officially launched the electronic governance service, Korea established a world class e-government. Ranking first in the 2010 UN E-Government Survey also had a historical significance for Korea, a country that has benefited from a number of international aids in the past. Recently, many countries around the world became interested in Korean e-government and visited Korea to find answers to their own questions and issues. This year, total of seven Ministers and Vice Ministers from countries such as Brunei, Honduras, and Panama came to Korea to learn about Korean e-government system.
Korean e-government is setting standards to the rest of the world, and with more than 2,000 systems, it will help each country find solutions to the issues in building their e-government. Furthermore, I believe that the experience and successful cases of Korean e-government will boost and improve the e-governance of many countries and consequently reduce the information gap in the world as well as prevent corruption by providing convenient and transparent administrative services. Korea and the rest of the world will now need to collaborate to solve global issues and develop together through e-government.
Q: What countries have requested e-government consultation so far and how was their reaction
A: E-government consultation is vital for Korea to cooperate and build close relationships with different governments and the Korean government is providing policy consulting as well for the countries who signed MOUs with Korea. In August 2009, for instance, Kuwait and Korea's IT Cooperation Committee (ITCC) agreed on Kuwait Informatization Policy Consulting - total 8 rounds for 24 months - and the two countries met four times so far. The cost including airfare is paid by the Kuwaiti government, while Korea's top experts offer consultation, especially focusing on information security, disaster recovery, and surveillance system.
Kuwait has previously received similar informatization consultation from countries such as Singapore and UK, but the government is highly satisfied with the expertise of Korean specialists, even asking for the Korean government to accept additional projects. And recently, the Minister of Energy and Electronic Governance of Brunei, Omar Yasmin, visited Korea to meet with the Minister of Public Administration and Security, Meng Hyeonggyu, and asked for consultation on e-government technologies, informatization town, and integrated government data center. MOPAS has organized three teams of consultation committee for the project, which consists of three meetings. It is a significant achievement for Korea to enter the Brunei e-government consultation market that has been dominated by Singapore until now.
Q: Tell us about the e-government-related export results as well as future plans.
A: In the e-government industry, those that first take the lead in the market tend to receive more orders in the future because of their technological know-how regarding system maintenance and so forth; and even small projects eventually expand to huge scale projects after numerous evolutions. For those reasons, Korea will have a great advantage in the long run once we start leading the overseas market and get a foothold in foreign countries.
The e-government-related export resulted in only US$ 9.87 million in 2007; but the number has nearly doubled annually for the last three years. And in 2010, thanks to ranking first in the UN survey, the export recorded US$ 148.76 million, which was 223 percent higher than the previous year (US$ 66.7 million). The government has set the plans to reach US$ 200 million with e-government exporting this year and is currently working on various projects to expand the exports in a more systematic way.
The Electronic Government Export Strategy Seminar held in February provided the opportunity for both the private companies and government to share their strategies and experiences. And the government tried to enhance the cooperative relationship with the private sector through discussions with CEOs of Korean IT companies that export e-government-related technologies, while opening a hot-line between the government and IT companies to facilitate overseas contracts.
Furthermore, in March, Korean government conducted an e-government training program - which will become an annual event from next year - for the first time for senior members of the governments from developing countries.
As the cooperation with the government is crucial for overseas e-government businesses, we are planning to improve the environment for Korean IT companies by means of MOU with foreign governments, IT Cooperation Committee, Experts Meeting, and Informatization ODA network, so that they can advance to overseas market more easily.
Q: What plans does Korea have in order to evolve into a smart government
A: MOPAS announced the Smart Government Plans last March in a bid to respond to recent changes in information technological environment with smartphones, tablet PCs, SNS, and cloud computing as well as to prepare for future society,
Our plan is to provide a wide range of mobile e-government services, which used to be limited to computers, and allow the public customize them to their individual needs.
In addition, we will further apply cutting-edge IT technologies to solving national issues including natural disasters and children safety. The government will progressively evolve into a smart work system where people can work anywhere and anytime they want. MOPAS is planning to build 500 Smart Work Centers (50 public and 450 private) near residential areas and city centers across the country by 2015.
After opening two Centers in Dobong and Bundang last year, in 2011, MOPAS will build eight new Centers in the Metropolitan area so that the public employees can access the service.
Moreover, we are planning to find more jobs suitable for smart work, restructure the personnel system, and also enact 'Smart Work Promotion Act.' The Smart Government Plans will spur the employee productivity and also contribute to solving diverse societal problems such as low birthrate, aging population, and pollution.
Q: Could you explain to us about the international standardization of e-government
A: There are two ways to internationally standardize the e-government system: to standardize through an international organization, and to standardize by taking over the vast majority of the market. Korean system is well becoming the international standard in terms of the initial e-government system including procurement, taxation, and patents, but we still have difficulty with standardization via the domination of the overseas markets.
Korea's e-government services are unique in a sense that we have developed the services customized for individuals on our own, which explains why the government does not pay for any multinational corporation package and it also owns the intellectual property rights for the system.
To export the system to foreign countries, however, significant part of it must be modified for the local environment or international standards, and Korean IT companies are losing price competitiveness as a result. For that reason, we have developed the e-government standard framework that can be used both in Korea and in overseas markets. The framework is a development support tool, which provides, in advance, the common features essential for establishing information system, helping to save 20 to 30 percent of the time or cost for development.
From now on, new e-government projects must utilize the standard framework, and MOPAS will actively assist in case a foreign government requests Korea's e-government standard framework.
Q: What are the main focuses of the e-government Export Support Committee
A: In overseas e-government markets, Korean IT companies sell their product, i.e., the e-government system operated by Korean government, to a foreign government. So it is inevitable for Korean government to establish close and cooperative relationship with the IT companies as well as with foreign governments in order for the Korean e-government system to advance to international markets.
Therefore, MOPAS is trying to facilitate such cooperation by, for instance, explaining our goal to export 200 million dollar-worth of e-government technologies to the related IT companies' CEOs last March. Also, the hot-line to the relevant officials and experts will enable the companies to share project information and ask for government support at the right time. The Ministry will especially focus on cooperation projects with foreign governments and international organizations while supporting private companies for their own projects as well. Moreover, we will enhance our role as a mediator so that Korean companies avoid overheated competition in international markets.
The following is series on the Korean e-Government system from June 2011
April, 2012 — Local government office that provides e-government service through a TV in the Kangnam governmental office
May, 2012 — E-Procurement System that manages the whole process of bids & contracts electronically.
June, 2012 — Home tax System.
September, 2012 — A collection of articles on e-government by IT Times.