SEOUL, KOREA — “The National Computing & Information Agency (NCIA) began from an idea that the government put all its IT resources of the central government agencies together in one place and manage them in an integrated manner,” says Dr. Kim Kyung-sup, president of NCIA.
The start of NCIA was just the world’s first GIDC (Government Integrated Data Center). At the moment, NCIA is referred to as “the benchmark of the GIDC” and recognized as one of the best e-government solutions in the world, says Dr. Kim. His claims are backed by the UN e-government survey of 2010, where it ranked first out of 192 countries surveyed. It was 5th in 2005 and 15th in 2002.
“No other government in the world has ever tried this work. At first, a number of people were skeptical about the success of this project due to potential conflicts of interests among ministries and its scale,” says Kim.
Go for Smart E-Government through G Cloud Computing Service
The number of smartphone users in Korea has now surpassed 20 million. It means 4 out of 10 Koreans are using smartphones. Interactive communication has become a crucial feature of the smart era. At the heart of the trend, there is the cloud computing service. The government judged that it is important for them to keep pace with the public and the current trends in services, and so it decided to introduce a new paradigm, ICT (Information and Communications Technology) based government service. The idea is to present smart e-government services through the Government Cloud Computing Service (G Cloud).
The Korean government mapped out a plan to provide a cloud and mobile based environment. NCIA set up three goals – transferring 50% of businesses of central government agencies from current systems to a cloud based one, raising open source software adaption rate up to 40% and cutting down operational costs by more than 30% – to offer the world’s best G Cloud Computing Service. “To this end, the government is in the process of building a G Cloud platform focusing on putting forth credible services, operational efficiency, introducing more of open source-based standards, to successfully migrate the businesses into new environment.
Accomplishments and Challenges of Smart E-Government
Over the past six years since its establishment, NCIA has made the e-Government more stable, secure and efficient. It has also propelled the growth of small and medium-sized IT companies and supports the export activities of the GIDC model. The Korean G Cloud will be remembered as one of the most successful endeavors of e-government challenges once it is completed.
The security of the e-government system has been tightened. “Simply, the number of rule-sets automatically block cyber-attacks which show that security has been dramatically enhanced,” Dr. Kim continues. “The number of rule-sets registered was about 8,000 in the early days of NCIA. However, in 2011, this figure has been doubled. NCIA has developed a comprehensive defense system called e-ANSI (Advanced National Security Infrastructure) which covers physical and cyber security. Thanks to e-ANSI, NCIA has successfully defended all systems even though the number of cyber-threats continue to increase.
Security issues of cloud computing remains a major concern for the initiative. People often think that risks may increase since all the data is concentrated in one place. NCIA has eased the worries by providing a systematic defense mechanism and keeping it in optimized conditions 24/7.
“We succeeded in reducing not only equipment costs but also operational costs such as salaries, utilities and maintenance. Therefore, we were able to enhance efficiency in managing IT resources of the government,” Dr. Kim explains. NCIA purchases equipment and software on behalf of all the ministries and offers these tools through virtualization and automation technology. All of these efforts have finally paid off. The cost of maintenance and operations has been decreased by 30%. At the same time, redundant spending of government funds has been considerably reduced. The government has also saved about KRW 63.4 billion (USD 54.8 million) since NCIA has been in operation.
“We are implementing various policies in order to shape a market environment to support the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises,” says Dr. Kim. "NCIA has not only strengthened its capabilities by going into partnership with local companies but also in actively introducing new trends and technologies and spreading them across all sectors of the government.” Small and medium-sized companies are participating in about 50% of all the projects of NCIA each year.
Developing Countries Emulate NCIA
With world-wide recognition of NCIA's GIDC model, the Korean GDIC is emerging as a benchmark for developing countries who are in the process of introducing or spreading e-government systems. More than a thousand public officials from over a hundred countries have visited the NCIA since 2007. They want to learn more about the Korean e-government's innovative services and its sophisticated operational know-how.
They are mostly high-ranking officials of ministries taking charge of developing policies on e-governments or executing them across government bodies. Some of the officials include the Minister of Energy from Brunei, the Minister of Information and Communication of Mongolia and the General Secretary of the UAE Cabinet. They are considering building an e-government system in their own country by taking the Korean GIDC model and study NCIA’s know-how in data center management. They want to know more about how NCIA enhanced the stability and efficiency of the system and bring economical benefits through the integration. A number of Korean IT companies have mentioned NCIA (GIDC) as one of the promising exports of Korean e-government solutions in a recently conducted survey by a government agency.
Exporting the GIDC Model
Increasing interest from other countries in the Korean e-government system is a positive sign for Korean IT companies who want to enter overseas markets. NCIA tries its best to share its experiences with other countries who want to build a mature e-government system with local companies. The Korean government has succeeded to export USD 235M of e-government solutions in the areas of tax, public procurement and customs clearance systems in 2011. The Vietnamese government has applied for an EDCF loan from the Korean government in order to construct its own GIDC at Hanoi. Indonesia, Philippines and Kenya are also considering introducing a GIDC based on the Korean model in their own countries. The Korean GIDC model is expected to arouse wide interest to other countries.
NCIA plans to offer consultations on operations and security aspects of its own development. Much of the demand currently comes from countries that are currently operating data centers or are planning to launch related projects. NCIA plans to transfer technology and know-how by signing MOUs and carry out joint projects such as inviting foreign engineers into Korea and providing on-the-job training programs, and conducting collaborative seminars to share the knowledge.
Efforts Underway to Promote Korean E-Government Solutions
NCIA opened the Korean e-Government showcase on November 30, 2011. This showcase will facilitate the introduction to the Korean e-government system to overseas visitors. “Korean dramas, K-pop and movies have become popular overseas. People call it the ‘Korean Wave’. Recently the Korean e-government system has also become a prospective export of Korean Wave. The number of foreign visitors who want to learn the Korean e-government system is surging. That is why we decided to make the showcase”.
The exhibit presents ten best practices out of more than 1,000 e-government services such as tax, customs clearance and procurement. Visitors have a chance to experience Korean e-government solutions. The showcase is operated through a partnership with the NCIA, related government agencies, and private companies involved with developing GDIC.
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
July, 2012 — A collection of articles on e-government by IT Times.