The Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity & Promotion(KADO) is at the forefront of this mission, spreading the gospel of information technology to the elderly, low-income families, and those in remote areas. The following is the transcript of our interview with the agency's president, Son Yeon-gi.
by Lee Kyung-soon, Reporter / firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Can you describe briefly what your agency does
A: KADO is a special corporation established by the provision of 16 laws to eliminate the digital divide. Our agency was set up in 1984 by the Postal Service for the purpose of cultivating workforce for the IT and telecom businesses. This agency has been active in enhancing regional IT infrastructure and in promoting broadband deployment. Since 2002, it has started working on filling the gap created by the digital divide. Only last year we became an independent entity, separate from the Postal Service.
Our agency is operating an Information Access and IT Training Program to reduce income gap between haves and have-nots of personal computers, and other factors. It is also charged with installing used PCs in low-income neighborhood schools and providing complementary computer accessories for the disabled. In addition, we develop contents for elders with disabilities, operate computer education programs in partnership with the Association for Senior Citizens, and provide counseling for those addicted to computers.
Q: Currently where do you think our country is at in terms of information access How is your agency going to support this
A: I believe Korea has come very far since the 1990s. Despite the government's commendable efforts, computers were perceived in the 1990s as an exclusive toy for the few. Since 2000, the situation has changed. As the government helped the IT industries develop in significant ways, those familiar with computers have increased hugely. Although many people from the low-income bracket and those with disabilities have been able to have access to computers, we still have a long way to go to benefit all the people in the country.
Our agency makes available computers to all comers in 994 locations across the nation. We keep buying special instruments for the disabled to allow them to use computers without inconvenience while sending out helpers on site. We will continue expanding our business until all the people in the country can use computers freely and thus eliminate the digital divide.
Q: Your agency agreed with Microsoft on June 30 to eliminate the digital divide. What was agreed in that memorandum
A: With the agreement, we will be able to work on eliminating digital divide better. We will open regional information training centers for the elderly at major universities and welfare offices across the country by June next year. Besides, we will send IT training personnel to developing countries, all thanks to Microsoft's grant. Microsoft Korea pledged 4 billion won for software and cash provision for just this year. Since this agreement lasts for three years, the combined amount will be more than 10 billion won. The latest agreement will be a starting point for us to strengthen ties with Microsoft Korea in information training, installation of used PCs and software, and resolving digital gaps among nations.
Q: Your agency is leading the effort to reduce the digital divide in developing nations. What have you achieved so far and what are your plans for the future
A:This is an occasion where we can project our image as an IT superpower to others in the world. Our agency is planning to send personnel and PCs to Southeast Asia and Africa. Recently we donated 160 used PCs to the Dominican Republic. We also send out college students during the summer vacation to these countries as PC instructors.
Q: Can you suggest ways to improve Korea's IT industries
A: For example, there are well-developed road systems in industrialized countries. It is no use if these are not properly maintained or people do not observe traffic rules such as stopping for pedestrians and not honking the horn near schools. In other words, without "software," hardware alone cannot do the job. It is undeniable that Korea has become the best in IT. But it is useless if we do not take full advantage of it. Thus it is of paramount importance that we help all the people benefit from it.