[Viewpoint] Keeping pace with digital Darwinism

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[Viewpoint] Keeping pace with digital Darwinism

People have already started betting that Korea’s IT industry could be next in line to catch the so-called Galapagos Syndrome, or evolution out of sync with the rest of the world. The local industry has long been complaining of various restraints on standards and infrastructure making their products reclusive from globalization. But “Galapagosization” may indeed be taking effect, with the local industry isolated and oblivious to the ongoing paradigm shift and business revolution happening on the global front.

The buzzword at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January was data management. Even the non-tech field leaders at the forum addressed the theme of “Big Data, Big Impact: New Possibilities for International Development” to make the most of, and control, all types of data. Washington plans to invest $200 million to forge ahead in the field of big data analytics, which means devising next-generation computing technologies to find the best data for dealing with various real-world problems.

The accelerating growth of information being stored online means there are limits to just how useful traditional databases can be. Pioneering, new computing tech can swim through this sea of information to net the right set of data for problem-solving. The U.S. has been moving aggressively to tap this field thanks to the wealth of information and data being collected by multinational search giants like Google and Yahoo.

And such computing technology is already on the horizon. Whereas the idea of talking to your computer - and asking it, for example, to recommend fun things to do tonight - used to be realm of science fiction, this may not be the case for much longer. Last year, IBM’s supercomputer Watson challenged human champions on the U.S. TV quiz show “Jeopardy.” Using artificial intelligence, the machine successfully answered questions to triumph over its human adversaries and rack up 74 consecutive wins. Apple and other tech companies are also trotting out highly intelligent computers.

Meanwhile, software companies are engaged in heated competition to roll out optimal business solutions and codes to package corporate data and consumer information, which has been gathered through social networking services, so it can be applied to product ideas and marketing. Apache’s open-source Hadoop technology marked a new frontier in terms of business solutions, while Google’s new pilot service consolidates bid data solutions using its cloud computing technology. Once the service infrastructure is set in order, a new global ecosystem of private and public data will form under these service platforms and vendors. By all accounts, the new services will arrive on our shores quite soon. Amazon plans to employ its prized analytics systems to launch big data Web services in Korea next month.

Despite Korea having been recognized as an IT powerhouse, however, the local industry seems unsettled by the sudden opening of new horizons and ecosystems. Experts point to its weaknesses and limitations in terms of innovation and creativity, due in part to its intense focus on apps and style without any in-depth work on original and basic technology. Until now, the industry has largely been content with its knack for upgrading and applying imported technology. While foreign rivals worked on data storage and management, and sought innovative ways to employ them to build a new infrastructure, local portal companies were more busy drawing ads and working in stable, profit-making businesses. As such, the industry lacks the database know-how and infrastructure to jump on the “big data” bandwagon.

State regulations on privacy also hinder firms’ ability to make any headway in the data field, as Koreans are notoriously suspicious about sharing personal information. But we basically have two choices: Maintain our IT powerhouse status or become the next Galapagos. If we choose the former, we must act fast. Deregulation, support, strategic development and public awareness must all change in concert for us to stay in the game.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Yang Sun-hee
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