[Viewpoint]Digitalizing Korea

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[Viewpoint]Digitalizing Korea

A few days ago, the evening news program on NBC carried a story about a household in Denver that maintains an energy-saving, environmentallyfriendly quality of life by using advanced digital technology. The family uses a remote system to manage its Internet connection, digital TV and various household appliances, and control temperature and electricity usage, saving 30 percent on energy bills.

It is a classic example of how the convergence of broadcasting and communication enables a low-carbon, high-efficiency economy.

But it’s more than just an energy issue. Integration and digitalization of broadcasting and communication are used in various industries, including finance, and they are emerging as the new driving force behind economic growth.

They offer a new opportunity to reshape our lifestyles, just like what happened with the Internet a decade ago.

Advanced industrial nations will not miss this opportunity. “Digital Britain” of England, “Digital 2012” of France and the “New Digital Strategy” of Japan are in the works.

In contrast, despite its status as a mighty Internet power, Korea appears to lag behind on digitalization. To secure its place in this fast-changing world, advanced digitalization must be on Korea’s plate.

“Digital Korea” should be declared as a national priority to boost the economy and overcome the economic crisis.

To this end, four specific action plans are recommended - conversion to digital broadcasting, revision of laws governing the media industry, an upgrade of content and expansion of public access.

Converting to digital broadcasting is a crucial step in building the infrastructure of a digital Korea. Following the digitalization of communications, the broadcasting industry should be fully digitalized. That would complete the digitalization of all information infrastructure of the nation. Germany and Sweden have already completed the process, and the United States is scheduled to follow suit by June.

Korea aims to complete the conversion by 2012, but the plan has been delayed for various reasons. The plan needs to gain more public support and be pushed forward more vigorously. Otherwise, Korea might miss the boat.

Second, the nation’s laws governing the media industry should be revised to ease ownership and other restrictions in order to achieve a digital Korea. Media laws were established during the analog era, and they should be revised to open up a path to allow media and service industries to merge and integrate. The existing obstacles and restrictions will not provide a pathway to new development.

Of course, the media industry is linked to public opinion and culture, so deregulation will not be the magic solution. The nation needs a system to protect and guarantee diversity. Within the larger framework of media mergers, practical measures to guarantee the existence of diverse opinions should be created.

Third, developing new content and services will be sources of power to ensure digital Korea’s prosperity. No matter how many roads are built, they will be useless if there are no cars.

The digital content industry provides the cars that circulate on digital infrastructure. It provides value-added material and can generate a significant number of jobs.

Furthermore, a wide range of public service content can be created to accommodate the increasing need for access as well as other individual demands.

Fourth, the final benefits of a digital Korea should be given to the general public.

The people should have easy access at low cost to various content and services through digital media. That is the key to the project. To this end, the government must launch a program to expand digital access and to provide digital media education to the public.

The value of digitalization is more than improving the efficiency and quality over analog systems. It is significant because digitalization will provide the basis for creating something new.

Digitalization will enable convergence and connectivity to create new values and lead Korea to a new path of unlimited innovation.

The writer is a professor of communication and information at Inha University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Dae-ho
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