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How Leading Nations Reach ICT Supremacy

November 23, 2010 - 2 Comments

What separates the technology-advanced nations from all others, and how is that supremacy being applied most effectively for social and economic advantage? This is a question that I’ve asked myself repeatedly over the last decade.

Clearly, I’m not alone in my quest for insights that help our understanding of why some nations have excelled at enacting meaningful Information and Communication Technology (ICT) market development.

What I’ve learned to date: the nations that were able to make a quantum leap in progress did so only after they completed a candid assessment of their current status – essentially, a detailed situation analysis that ranked their relative position in the global networked economy.

What the global market leaders do with the results of their candid assessment is truly pivotal, because it sets the overarching context for all “next step” debates that follow.

In fact, I’ve discovered there’s a similar polarization to the way that people will approach the issue of climate change and global warming. Some will seek to reach a thoughtful consensus and prepare a logical plan of action, while others will be more influenced by industry-led groups that are formed to dispute the scientific evidence — and thereby sustain the status-quo.

Here’s a case in point, where progressive thinking has created positive outcomes. Let’s consider the ICT leadership in South Korea. The following are excerpts from a recent market update in an Australian publication.

One Nation’s Plan to Maintain Their Leadership

”On a vast slab of reclaimed land jutting into the Yellow Sea, South Korea is constructing the world’s largest purpose-built online city, Songdo. Within 10 years the government hopes big foreign investors and 250,000 people will flock to Songdo — known as a “ubiquitous city” for its boundless use of information technology.”

“For the world’s most wired country, it represents a bold testing ground for developing a ‘knowledge economy’ that is no longer reliant on manufacturing.”

“South Korea resolved to provide widespread high-speed internet more than a decade ago and now tops the world in broadband access. Just like education or high-speed rail, broadband is viewed as another type of infrastructure that gives the economy an edge.”

“Tax breaks for foreign companies are one way to retain investment — extensive broadband is another. A private sector survey this year ranked Korea’s download speeds as the fastest in the world. Seventy-five percent of the population having access to high-speed internet, at an average speed of 22Mbps and the top speed of 100Mbps for about $30 a month. The Korean government first passed laws promoting broadband in 1996, and since then the public has come to view broadband as a necessity.”

“But how is broadband contributing to the economy as a whole? Measuring precise impacts is difficult, but the government estimates that short-term benefits of 41.8 trillion Korean won ($37.03 billion) easily outweigh construction costs of 27.3 trillion won.”

“The president of the National Information Society Agency, Dr Seang-tea Kim, also stresses the key role of information technology in spurring its economic and social development. Broadband acts as the foundation stone of Korea’s ICT prowess that has in turn resulted in enhanced productivity, reduced costs and the opening of new business markets.”

Setting Realistic Market Development Objectives

Notice something missing? They’re not complacent; not satisfied at being ranked #1.

Now, given the mounting evidence that has demonstrated how South Korea reached its leadership pinnacle, you may think that those who wish to perpetuate the status-quo in other trailing nations would be at a loss to support their counter-position.

Quite the contrary. They’ll highlight population density as the reason why South Korea’s broadband adoption is superior. Granted, there are important differences to consider when performing a market benchmark study – that’s why I suggest using “geographic parity comparisons” to build a business case for new infrastructure investment.

Meaning, if you’re attempting to establish a defensible recommendation for one of the trailing nations, then you should compare similar regions, cities/towns and communities from the leading broadband nations to your own local environment. Don’t be deterred by any attempt to cloud your local assessment with clever distractions – stay focused on a plan of action to reach parity with your geo peer-group global market leaders.

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  1. As well, David I've seen countries (or at least individuals and/or groups in them) do innovative projects to be more connected for a very specific, pressing problem or opportunity - either because that motivated them to collaborate on it and/or they saw a method or approach in another project that they could replicate or adapt to their situation. Few things are more powerful than a successful example to spur others to imitate then improve something they saw or heard worked well. One thing I'm enjoying about Cisco is that you and your colleagues are experimenting with using your tech in various, specific situations, inviting others to co-create, crowdsource or otherwise collaborate in making your stuff useful in our work, home or social life. Specific scenarios are stories we can all understand and improve rather than "just" hearing the tech behind a product or service. Kudos

    • Kare, agreed, the application "how-to" context can be invaluable to practitioners who need specific examples of the solution in action. Case in point, the Cisco Smart+Connected Communities insight provides the product and service application scenarios, and the online community at the S+CC Institute site offers additional context from people who have "been there, done that."