Starting this year, all Korean public servants, from rank-and-file members to high-ranking officials, will receive software education. The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) said on Jan. 21 that nearly 4,000 public servants will take software courses each year starting from this year.
Software mind cultivation will be newly added to the basic education curriculum for each rank. Computer education for civil servants will be divided into two courses: one for high-ranking officials and the other for low and mid ranking officials.
Above all, the government plans to teach software programming to new 5th and 7th grade civil servants to help them improve their work and policy planning capabilities by tapping into software’s creative problem solving techniques.
“We’ve decided to step up computer education for civil servants in order to help them understand future changes driven by software and help them utilize software in planning policies,” the MSIP said.
The MSIP is also pushing for the development of e-learning courses for all civil servants. Professional courses will be also separately prepared to help those with a keen interest in how to design and write programs advance their studies to the next level.
The software industry has welcomed such a move with open arms. The software industry has been long wrestling with one festering problem. The industry has been repeatedly chanting ‘Pay the right price for software’ for years.
Their chants are often directed at the public procurement market. In other words, it means that software has been undervalued at the public procurement market.
There are frequent complaints about the public sector keeping software maintenance and support costs low. In the process of making each year’s budget allocation decisions, the area of public-sector informatization has taken a backseat. In particular, the software industry has long criticized that the public sector takes the lead in shrugging off homegrown software in favor of foreign-made software.
According to the software industry, civil servants’ lack of knowledge on software technology has encouraged them to continue to use what they have been using and what other public institutions have been using, i.e. foreign-made software. As a matter of fact, in various software seminars, representatives from the software industry unite in saying: “Korean civil servants and public institutions brush Korean software products aside.
This is because they have little understanding of software. Korean software finds no place for itself in the domestic market. Thus, we end up peddling our software products in foreign markets.”
“Korean civil servants do not take risks. They always try to play it safe and avoid experimentation, so new Korean software products are left to gather dust on the shelf. The S. Korean government recommends using Korean software, only to fall on deaf ears in the field,” the CEO of a Korean software company pointed out.
In July 2015, under the direction of the South Korean president, the government announced its plan to nurture talent for turning Korean society into a software-oriented one.
Preparations are already underway for making coding classes compulsory at elementary schools starting from 2018.
The government plans to have 30 percent (60,000) of the nation’s elementary school teachers learn software programming, roughly 6,000 of whom will be further trained to become professionals through in-depth training courses.
South Korea, home to global electronics titans like Samsung and LG, is viewed as an ICT powerhouse in the world. However, the title only applies to the nation’s hardware power.
The industry hopes that the government’s move to improve Korean civil servants’ computer literacy skills, along with the scheduled provision of compulsory coding classes at elementary schools, will help make software a pillar of Korean society.