Data centers must be disaster-proofed

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Data centers must be disaster-proofed

South Korea’s pride in its technology prowess took a blow from a meltdown of the services of Kakao Corp., exposing the weakness of a society that has come to rely too much on a certain platform. A fire that disrupted a data center in Gyeonggi Province caused chaos in many everyday lives for Koreans over the weekend. The platform giant’s slack management of its data center and slow response to the accident added to the confusion. The company should feel deeply embarrassed. It must hasten repairs and improvements to its crisis management and its basic planning. Data should have been dispersed to several locations. Where was the backup system?
The government must expedite regulatory reform for dominant platforms. Services should be left to private sector companies. But the state must intervene if a company’s service causes serious disruption to public lives and businesses. President Yoon Suk-yeol speaking on the Kakao disaster said the network is managed by a private sector company, but in the eyes of the people, it can be considered public infrastructure. When a private service comes to dominate everyday lives, the government must supervise.
The government is mulling adding private data centers to facilities for disaster management. The facilities would be restricted to major online business operators like Naver and Kakao. Currently broadcasting and telecommunication facilities fall under such management. The government has revised the Telecommunications Business Act to ensure security of services of major online operators. But those provisions were not enough to prevent the latest mishap. Current regulations focus on stable data communication and not on prevention or response to physical disasters like fires. The Kakao disaster underscored that data centers are as important as broadcasting and telecommunication infrastructure. During wartime, their role could be necessary for national security.
A bill to add data centers into the Basic Law on Disaster and Safety Management Act was proposed in May 2020, but it did not get through the National Assembly. The bill passed one committee but was rejected by the judiciary and legislation committee. The bill automatically was killed. Internet related associations objected to it as over-regulation.
Society has become more reliant on online activities. Private enterprise must be respected to the utmost. At the same time, social responsibility to customers is essential. Data centers must be able to function at the time of any kind of disaster. 
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