Competition used to occur naturally between states in the past. But in the 21st century, they occur between cities that make many attempts to improve their own competitiveness. In a word, the world is now turning into a globally competitive community. Under these circumstances, u-information technology is gaining worldwide interest as an effective way to bring talented manpower, information and enterprises together.
Efforts are being made in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, and European nations to introduce the state-of-the-art technology into the concept of urban development under the theme digital city or wireless city. Especially, Japan has been endeavoring to work out a strategy to build a u-Japan since 2004.
Korea began using the term u-City after accepting the concept of ubiquitous computing, a post-desktop model of human-computer interaction created by Mark Weiser, the chief technologist of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in California, in 1998. There have been a lot of research in this field since 2002. As a result, many local governments in Korea have applied this concept to various development projects since 2005 based on a practical approach to it.
Since 2007, when it enacted a law on the construction of u-Cities, the central government has been implementing a variety of policies to build a u-Korea. This is in an effort to lay out knowledge information infrastructure and enhance the competitiveness of the information industry.
Under these circumstances, the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) was established as Korea's first FEZ in August 2003 with the goal of achieving the world’s top competitive excellence by 2020. It consists of the three regions of Songdo, Cheongna, and the island of Yeongjong. Together these three areas are 51,739 acres (209.38 sq. km). This is a third of Singapore, 2.5 times the size of Manhattan and more than 70 times the size of Yeouido in Seoul.
The IFEZ Authority set forth the theme Realizing Global Leading u-City as a concrete medium and long-term vision for turning the IFEZ into a u-City.
1. Creating Demand
The first and foremost strategy of the IFEZ Authority is to create demand through advance investment in public projects, including the construction of a Tomorrow City and integrated intelligent urban operation centers. The Tomorrow City project is especially expected to serve as the world’s first state-of-the art u-City model. Its construction began in April 2008, and is expected to finish this year.
Specifically, three free ubiquitous spaces – Access Free Space, Content Free Space, and Data Free Space – will be built to provide visitors with free chances to access, use and exchange content and data. The concept of augmented reality (AR) will be absorbed into urban environments. A kind of digital architecture will be built based on a GPS location system and ubiquitous robot technology. As such, the u-City will emerge as the world’s first and foremost city.
Symbolizing the IFEZ’s status and brand as a new growth engine for the country, Tomorrow City will serve as the economic and cultural center of Songdo, the IFEZ, and the whole of Incheon. It will also signify the birth of a new u-City as a Global Core Node or as the world’s first state-of-the-art urban space.
Integrated Urban Operation Centers
The world’s largest integrated intelligent urban operation centers are being built within Tomorrow City. The centers, which will go into operation in 2012, will provide citizens with safer, more convenient and cheaper public services based on ubiquitous technologies for traffic, environment, crime prevention and urban facilities. They will also improve the corporate conditions through a u-Business environment and help urban managers save management costs.
An intelligent center will be built in each of the three districts of the IFEZ. A basic design has already been drawn for Songdo. For Cheongna and Yeongjong, the Korea Land Corporation has been carrying out construction projects on a step-by-step basis as scheduled. When all these projects are completed, citizens and businesses can access any kind of information and receive whatever u-Services they need.
Remarkably, from 2005 to 2009 the IFEZ Authority has succeeded in attracting six different investments worth a total of W15.3 billion (US$12.4 million) from central government agencies such as ministries of Information and Communication and of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs. The u-Safety project launched by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs in 2008 became a model project for cities and provinces across the country with its installation and operation of a wireless mesh CCTV system. In June, Songdo District was designated by the ministry as a model u-City and, therefore, received a subsidy of W2 billion (US$1.6 million). Cheongna District was designated as a target for a u-Echo City R&D project.
2. Investment for Setting up a State-of-the-Art Industrial Cluster
Setting up a state-of-the-art industrial cluster is one of the IFEZ’s four strategies aimed at establishing a virtuous knowledge ecosystem ranging from R&D to commercialization to reinvestment. This will be based on an organic linkage between domestic and foreign businesses, universities, think tanks, and support agencies. For this cluster, the IFEZ is building a complex which includes a 660,000 square meter science village, a 79,200 square meter RFID/USN center, and a 198,000 square meter bio R&D complex.
The construction of the u-City is underway from a new strategic point of view. When other cities are built, only the aspect of urban development strategy is considered. But the IFEZ researches, develops, and tests ubiquitous technologies and applies them to the construction of its own u-City. All elements necessary for its construction are being integrated into a u-IT cluster.
The IFEZ is operating an RFID/USN center that has been built with a joint investment of W371.7 billion (US$301 million) from the former Ministry of Information and Communication and the Inchon Metropolitan Government. The center is being surrounded by about 24 Korean and foreign RFID technology developers, including Alien Technology, the world’s top manufacturer of RFID technology, and R&D centers. The Finnish Minister of Communications, impressed after a visit to the center, said, “It was a precious moment for me to witness the potential of Korea as a u-IT powerhouse of the world.”
With the construction of the state-of-the-art industrial cluster as momentum, global enterprises such as IBM and Cisco have pledged investments in the IFEZ. The first outcome of the IFEZ’s efforts to induce such foreign investments is a project for Bio Research Complex (BRC) in order to foster it as East Asia’s leading bio cluster. It will be built with an investment of US$450,000 from IBM, a long-term loan worth US$20 million, a W30 billion (US$24.3 million)-worth joint research project with IBM Watson-Almaden Research Center, and an investment of more than W300 billion (US$243 million) from the Gachon Gil Foundation.
The IFEZ’s success in attracting an investment from IBM, which has the world’s largest R&D network and whose executives hold the world’s largest number of patent licenses, will pave the way to emerge as Northeast Asia’s best business hub. The BRC project bore fruit after the IFEZ’s two-year effort to build the trust of investors. They dealt with IBM, which took interest in the IFEZ project when the latter was building an intelligent service zone, and the Gachon Gil Foundation, which is rising as a world-class medical foundation.
The IFEZ signed a memorandum of understanding on investment with Cisco, the world’s largest supplier of networking equipment and network management for the Internet, in December 2008. In addition, it also signed a joint investment agreement with Cisco and Gale International on the establishment of a global u-IT center.
When the 68-story Northeast Asian Trade Tower is dedicated in 2010, several world-class IT R&D centers furnished with key u-City functions, including the a u-IT Solution Development Center, a training center, and an executive briefing center, will be integrated into a cluster at the tower.
3. Creating Synergy Effects through International Events
In order to enhance its own brand value and strengthen its global leadership in ubiquitous technology, the IFEZ, as the u-IT hub, is planning to host a variety of international events. This includes the 2009 u-City International Conference, the 2009 RFID/USN Korea, and the 2009 Incheon International Digital Art Festival.
The 2009 RFID/USN Korea is a massive international event in which more than 35,000 staff from some 200 enterprises in about 30 countries around the world are expected to participate. Unlike in the past when it was held in Seoul each year, this world-class event, which is the largest international event ever held in Korea, will be held in Incheon this year, given the growth potential of the IFEZ’s u-City.
As Peter Drucker, a world-renowned management consultant and social ecologist, once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Following this axiom, the IFEZ Authority staff have worked hard to create a future by setting goals and trying to attain them. They are furthermore resolved to ceaselessly seek opportunities for the free economic zone’s growth and development. They are looking for chances to realize the special zone’s visions under the leadership of the Mayor of Incheon Ahn Sang-soo and Lee Heon-seok, commissioner of the IFEZ Authority.