[Viewpoint]A new Internet age

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[Viewpoint]A new Internet age

The ministerial meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development will take place in Seoul from June 16 to 17. At this meeting, the member countries will look at the Internet’s influence over economy and society since it was established for civilian use in 1995. The body will also discuss the growth and development of the future Internet economy.

When Korea joined the OECD in 1996, many said it was premature for the nation to be part of such an organization, given its economic capabilities. However, the rapid growth of high-speed Internet access in the early 2000s worked as a detonator for Korea’s success in becoming one of the world’s most advanced IT nations. It is no wonder that Korea was able to host the meeting this time.

In this meeting, ministers from member nations will discuss a wide range of issues such as how to engage those not connected with information technology, how the Internet can contribute to the resolution of energy and environmental problems and how to build a system of global cooperation.

A Seoul declaration is expected to be adopted. On the basis of the discussions on these topics, the key words of this year’s OECD ministerial meeting are the three Cs ? creativity, confidence and convergence.

Let’s talk about creativity. High-speed Internet networks in Korea were developed rapidly based on competition among operators that entered the market with no business permit restrictions. In a short period of time, these networks changed our lives and society. Sharing and searching for information heightened the people’s intellectual level, and open markets appeared, reviving the nation’s commercial trade.

Electronic government improved the efficiency of administrative work, and a new genre of culture called e-sports was born. What enabled 7 million Koreans to cheer on the streets for the 2002 World Cup games, and what enabled the voters to elect a president was the Internet.

Today, Korea’s Internet faces a crisis of trust. As the economy and society rely more on the Internet, concerns are growing about safety. Spam e-mails, online scams, leaks of personal information, defamations, Internet addiction, youngsters’ exposure to harmful information and hacking are just some of the serious negative functions of the Internet in our society.

Although Korea has an indisputably strong IT industry, the nation was the first to experience a massive computer virus attack, which paralyzed the nation’s Internet infrastructure. Massive copyright violations through P2P sites’ file sharing also hinders the development of creativity.

Convergence has already begun in Korea at various layers. Voice, data and broadcasting are provided through a single mobile phone, and products that provide integrated services are sold. More new services such as Internet telephony and IPTV have appeared on the next-generation network, and mergers between businesses are changing the landscape of the industry. The core of convergence is how to integrate broadcasting, which creates content, and communication, the medium to transmit the content.

In order to achieve “coopetition,” or cooperation among competitors with different values, artificial partitioning should be lifted and the dogma that supported the broadcasting and the communication sectors must be broken. As long as the two sides continue their power struggle, they will face the dilemma that crippled the DMB market, which was the world’s first but is failing because the legislation needed to support it has not been passed. Abuses of power by those holding content and networks and inefficiency caused by failing to meet the changes of the era must never be repeated.

Even after digitization, broadcasters’ role of serving the public interest will continue, and facilities investments should continue in order to further grow the industry and accelerate the spread of information.

The OECD is mulling over how to create a competitive environment where entries to the market can be possible without facilities as long as services are available.

It is also discussing how to guarantee a content provider’s free access to the Internet and how to establish fair competition in the media market based on “must-have” content.

Korea must embrace these issues as food for thought. In order to maintain its reputation as an IT superpower even after 10 years, reform-minded, farsighted thinking and hard work are a must.

*The writer is a professor of economics and Hansung University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Nae-chan
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