Bridging the Digital Divide between Urban and Rural Areas by dcc48652

VIEWS: 10 PAGES: 28

									                                  IDD/TP-09-07
                                    (Version 1.0)




          ESCAP Technical Paper




         Bridging the Digital Divide
   between Urban and Rural Areas:
Experience of the Republic of Korea
                                  IDD/TP-09-01
                                     (Version 1)




          ESCAP Technical PAPER




         Bridging the Digital Divide
   between Urban and Rural Areas:
Experience of the Republic of Korea
                                                                                             IDD/TP-09-07
                                                                                                    (Version 1.0)



                                    ESCAP Technical Paper
                       Information and Communications Technology and
                               Disaster Risk Reduction Division


                          Bridging the Digital Divide
                       between Urban and Rural Areas:
                      Experience of the Republic of Korea

                                     Prepared by Byung-Sam Kang ∗


                            Authorized for distribution by Xuan Zengpei

                                                November 2009



                                                     Abstract
       The Republic of Korea exemplifies addressing digital divide in order to achieve an inclusive and people
oriented information society. While the Government played the facilitator role in terms of policy and formulation
of strategy, creation of a favorable legislative environment, ICT popularization, education and training, financing
activities, it is the active participation of all stakeholders, in particular, the private sector and the civil society
which really made the difference. The foundations for technological base were laid by strategic investments in
science and technology, which paid rich dividends later and enabled the country to leap frog in to the
information era. The Public Private Partnership (PPP) demonstrated social accountability by facilitating
broadband Internet infrastructure even in the rural areas. It also catalyzed innovations in computers and other
ICT tools that made it affordable to the large cross section of population. The participation of the civil society is
to bring long-term sustainability.
      A digital divide index reflecting the gaps for the disadvantaged groups has been put to use to monitor the
process and reach out to, specifically, the people with disabilities, low income, those living in rural areas, and
senior people. Yet another accomplishment has been the establishment of village information networks (‘invil’),
which proved very effective in bridging the digital divide between the rural and urban areas. The experience of
the Republic of Korea is worth-replicating by the governments, the private sector and the civil society to bridge
the digital divides and harness the benefits of information society in Asia and the Pacific.




        Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of the material in this paper do not
        imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United
        Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or
        concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. Mention of a commercial company or
        product in this publication does not imply endorsement by ESCAP.
        The content in this document is the opinions and view points of the author's and not that of
        ESCAP or IDD and this publication has been issued without formal editing.


  ∗
      Mr Byung-Sam Kang, Expert on Space Applications, Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk
      Reduction Division, ESCAP, United Nations Building, Rajdamnern Nok Avenue, Bangkok 10200, Thailand. E-Mail
      address: escap-idd@un.org

                                                          i
                                                         CONTENTS

Abbreviations and Acronyms .................................................................................................iv

A. Introduction.......................................................................................................................1

B. The efforts of the Republic of Korea in combating the digital divide ..............................2
      1. Current status of ICT development in the Republic of Korea....................................2
      2. History of ICT development in the Republic of Korea..............................................3
      3. Bridging the digital divide in the Republic of Korea .................................................6
      4. Monitoring the digital divide in the Republic of Korea .............................................7

C. Bridging the digital divide between rural and urban areas in the Republic of Korea.......8
      1. Extending the broadband Internet to rural areas ........................................................8
      2. Provision of equipment to remote and rural areas......................................................9
      3. Provision of education and training in ICT applications in rural areas......................9
      4. Bridging digital divide between urban and rural areas in the Republic of Korea
         through improved access to appropriate information in the rural areas...................10
      5. Building information village networks (invil) in rural areas....................................11
         (a) Overall feature of invil programme ...................................................................11
         (b) Computer and the Internet education and provision of
             personal computers to establish invils ...............................................................12
         (c) Enhanced access to information and its use as a result of invils .......................13
         (d) Procedure for the selection of villages for invil network coverage...................13
         (e) Establishment and operation of the invils .........................................................15
         (f) Benefits from invil.............................................................................................16
         (g) Sustainability .....................................................................................................18
         (h) Evaluation and feedback....................................................................................18

D. Stakeholders partnership in bridging the digital divide in the Republic of Korea..........19

E. Experiences and lessons learned from Republic of Korea in bridging the
   digital divide between rural and urban areas ..................................................................20

List of Tables
      Table 1. ICT development in the Republic of Korea .....................................................2
      Table 2. Milestones in establishing the information society
               in the Republic of Korea ..................................................................................4
      Table 3. The digital divide gap index and the level of use index
               for four groups of disadvantaged people..........................................................8



                                                                  ii
Table 4. Extending the broadband Internet to small village ..........................................9
Table 5. Building information network village ............................................................12
Table 6. ICT or Internet education and provision of PCs ............................................12
Table 7. Personal computer ownership and the use of the Internet in the
         villages covered by the invils and other area (2007)......................................12
Table 8. Selection criteria and weight distribution ......................................................14
Table 9. Incurred economic advantage (sales volume) through
         Internet shopping mall of invil.......................................................................17
Table10 . Using information contents and e-community activity through invil ............18




                                                    iii
                               ABBREVIATIONS

BcN        broadband convergence network
CALS       computer-aided acquisition and logistic support
DMB        digital multimedia broadcasting
           It is a digital radio transmission technology developed by the Republic of sending
           multimedia such as TV, radio and data casting to mobile devices such as mobile
           phones.
DOI        digital opportunity index
           It was endorsed in the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, adopted during the
           Tunis Phase of WSIS for measuring the Information Society.
EC         electronic commerce
EDI        electronic data interchange
           It refers to the structured transmission of data between organizations by electronic
           means.
HSDPA      high-speed downlink packet access
           It is an enhanced 3G (third generation) mobile telephony communications protocol in
           the High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) family, also coined 3.5G or 3G+, which allows
           networks based on Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) to have
           higher data transfer speeds and capacity.
IDD        index for digital divide
IMT-2000   international mobile telecommunication
           It is also known as 3G or 3rd Generation which allows simultaneous use of speech and
           data services and higher data rates.
IPv6       Internet protocol version 6
           It is the next-generation Internet Protocol version designated as the successor to
           version 4, IPv4, the first implementation used in the Internet and still in dominant use
           currently because of foreseeable exhaustion of IPv4 address .
IT839      National initiatives for promoting IT with 8 new services like Wibro, 3 infra structure
           like BcN, 9 new industrial break-though like home network.
OECD       Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
PCS        personal communication services
PDA        personal digital assistant
           handheld computer
SOHO       small office home office
WiBro      wireless broadband
           It is a wireless broadband Internet technology developed by the telecoms industry of
           the Republic of Korea.
Y2K        Year 2000 Problem or millennium bug




                                           iv
                                     A. Introduction
       The World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) held in Geneva and Tunis strongly
emphasized the necessity to bridge the existing digital divide in order to create an inclusive
and people oriented information society. The WSIS also recognized that there were several
digital divides. One is the external divide among different countries and regions, which is
generally correlated with the overall level of the development of the countries and the
regions. Other divides are within separate countries and include the divide between the low
and high income segments of the population, the divide between people living in rural and
urban areas; the gender divide; divides between young and senior citizens, literate and
illiterate, fully able people and people with disabilities etc . Since the majority of the people
in Asia and the Pacific lives in the rural areas where most disadvantaged groups of the
population are concentrated, bridging the digital divide between rural and urban areas is
one of the most important tasks in building an inclusive and people oriented information
society.

     In compliance with commitments made at WSIS, most of the Governments in the Asia
and Pacific region have adopted different polices and strategies and implemented relevant
programs/project to overcome the internal digital divides. Many countries have achieved
significant progress in this endeavor. Unfortunately, even in most advanced regional
countries, the internal digital divide among different social groups still persists.
Furthermore, the current economic crisis which affects the most disadvantaged segments of
the population has also hampers on bridging the digital divide.

      Under these circumstances, many governments sought new solutions to narrow the
digital divide. They periodically review and revise their policies and strategies and adopt
new measures. At the same time, some counties in the region have accumulated valuable
experiences in their efforts to establish an inclusive and people oriented information society
and bridge the digital divide. The case in point is the Republic of Korea which is not only
one of the most advanced countries in the world in term of the application of information
and communication technology (ICT), particularly, the broadband Internet, but also is one
of the most prominent in bridging the digital divide. In this respect, the experiences of the
Republic of Korea could provide valuable lessons to other countries in their quest to create
an inclusive and people oriented information society and close the digital divide.

      In light of the above, this paper focuses on the analyses of the efforts of the Republic
of Korea to create an inclusive and people oriented information society, especially, through
bridging the digital divide between the rural and urban areas. The paper consists of four
main parts. After the introduction, the part one makes a review of the general efforts of the
Republic of Korea to deal with the internal digital divides including the adoption and
implementation of relevant policies and strategies and other measures. It also describes the
results achieved. The second part presents an overview of the efforts in narrowing the
digital divide between rural and urban areas, particularly, through introduction of village
information networks called ‘invil’. The third part stresses the importance of the
establishing partnerships with stakeholders for bridging the digital divide. The last part of
the paper discusses the lessons learned. The paper is expected to be useful to all
stakeholders dealing with building an inclusive and people oriented information society,


                                               1
including policy makers and implementers, representatives of the private sector and civil
society.


  B. The efforts of the Republic of Korea in combating the digital divide

              1. Current status of ICT development in the Republic of Korea

     ICT has become one of the major driving forces of the economic and social
development in the Republic of Korea. It is widely used in all areas of social and economic
activities by the Government such as e-government, the private sector in industry, services,
banking, entertainment and trade, and the population at large. The backbone of ICT
applications is well developed information infrastructure resulting in the very wide
penetration of the broadband Internet. By the number of the broadband Internet subscribers,
the Republic is the leader in Asia and the Pacific and one of highest ranking countries in the
world. As presented in table1, by 2005, over 12 millions households subscribed to the
broadband Internet with the Internet users exceeding 72 per cent of the population of the
country. The mobile telephony is another area of the rapid development in the Republic of
Korea with the rate of the users to the total population being even higher than that of the
Internet.

      Not surprisingly, that the advanced ICT infrastructure stimulates the use of ICT in all
sectors of social and economic life. For example, by 2005, the Internet banking was used by
over 26 million people in the area of trade, e-commerce accounted for almost 20 per cent
of all transactions.
                    Table 1: ICT development in the Republic of Korea

                                  2001      2002     2003       2004     2005     2006     2007     2008

 Broadband internet subscriber
                                   781     1,041    1,118      1,192    1,219    1,404    1,471    1,505
 (10,000 households)
 Internet users
                                 2,438     2,627    2,922      3,158    3,301    3,412    3,482      -
 (10,000 persons)
 Internet usage rate
                                    56.6     59.4       65.5     70.2     72.8     74.8     76.3     -
 (percentage)
 Mobile phone subscribers
                                 2,905     3,234    3,359      3,659    3,834    4,020    4,350    4,427
 (10,000 persons)
 e-Commerce transaction
                                   119      178         235     314      358      414      517       -
 (KRW trillion)
 e-Commerce transaction rate
                                     9.1     12.8       15.1     19.3     19.8     22.0     26.1     -
 (percentage)
 Internet banking subscribers
                                 1,131     1,771    2,275      2,427    2,674    3,591    4,470    4,694
 (10,000 persons)
Source: Broadband internet subscribers, mobile phone subscribers: Ministry of Information and Communication;
        Internet users, internet usage rate: National Internet Development Agency of Republic of Korea;
        e-Commerce transaction volume: National Statistical Office;
        e-Commerce transaction rate: Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Energy; Korea Institute for Electronic
                                        Commerce;
        Internet banking subscribers: Bank of Korea.


                                                    2
                2. History of ICT development in the Republic of Korea

      It is well documented that the Republic of Korea was one of the major beneficiaries of
the trade globalization and liberalization process. In fact, the country was one of the Asian
tigers which, to a great extent, developed the momentum for fast development in the entire
region. The Government of the Republic of Korea was one of the first countries to adopt
export oriented policies and economic liberalization. It is well known that as a result, the
Republic was able to develop an export oriented industries, in, textile and micro-electronics.
It is important to note that prior to the export led industrial growth, government had
developed the endogenous, scientific and technical capabilities of human resources. This
was considered a courageous move in spite of the relatively poor status of the country at the
time. The governments had very limited recourses and had lot of urgent priorities. However,
the Government of the Republic of Korea made it a priority to build technological
capability and, human resources as an investment to the future. They sent thousands of
students abroad for education, established national universities and built scientific,
technological and research institutions.

     These investments have already paid dividends. Without capability to deal with
technology and, especially, without competent human resources, the country would not be
able to establish their own technologically advanced industries. Step by step, the county
developed its technological base including technology savvy government institutions,
capable human resources, academia and universities, research and development institutions,
the technology oriented private sector, and an equally important technology admiring
population.

      This effort by the Government has since resulted in the establishment of a
technological base supported by a sophisticated micro-electronic industry leading the
country to leap frog into the information era. Further concerted efforts of the Government,
the private sector, academia and the civil society were required to successfully develop ICT
in the country. Incidentally, the foundation for this success was made in the seventies and
eighties.

      The Government of the Republic of Korea played a leading role in the ICT
development in the country. As indicated in table 2, this role had several dimensions which
included relevant ICT policy and legislation formulation; establishing an institutional
framework incorporating e-government; promoting research, development, education and
training; establishing close partnership with the private sector; and undertaking ICT
popularization through understanding and awareness campaigns among the population.
The private sector actively participated in the discussions, formulation of policies and
strategies and their implementations. The public/private partnership along with active
participation of the population was one of the prominent features of national efforts in
building the information society and bridging the digital divide. Table 2 also shows that the
ICT development was a gradual step by step process with each step creating the foundation
for further development. Due attention was paid not only to increasing the understanding
and awareness of ICT among the general public but also promoting reliability and security
of access to information.



                                              3
Table 2: Milestones in establishing the information society in the Republic of Korea

1993   Launching of                • Launching of government administration information network
       informatization
                                   • Launching of free market competition paging service
                                   • Popularizing personal computers

1994   Promotion of                • Adopting information infrastructure plan
       Informatization
                                   • Establishing the ministry of information and communication
                                   • Commercializing internet services
                                   • Increasing data communication subscribers

1995   Stabilization of adopting   • Framework act on informatization promotion
       Informatization
                                   • Confirming the blueprint for high speed information
                                     infrastructure
                                   • Enhancing public recognition of the internet
                                   • Revolutionizing online environment through internet technology
                                   • Launching cable TV service

1996   Dawn of the Internet        • Foundation of effectuating framework of informatization
                                     promotion act
                                   • Initiating localized pilot projects in reducing the
                                     ‘regional digital divide’
                                   • Introducing EDI, EC and CALS
                                   • Spreading multimedia applications
                                   • Popularizing personal data communication
                                   • Appearance of cyber community

1997   Opening Internet Era        • Accomplishing the first phase of high speed information
                                     infrastructure project
                                   • Beginning of e-commerce services
                                   • Initiating PCS service
                                   • Popularizing EDI and CALS

1998   Enhancing the Internet      • Shaping countermeasures on Y2K problems nationwide
       and Coping with Y2K
                                   • Providing public administration services through internet
       Problems
                                   • Investment fevers on SOHO
                                   • Popularizing internet plaza (PC Cafe/Network game room)

1999   Reforming Society with      • Establishing ‘Cyber Korea 21’ (The Second master plan of
       The Internet Revolution       informatization promotion)
                                   • Rapid increasing IT venture businesses



                                                  4
                               • Mobile phone, surpassing fixed line subscribers in numbers
                               • Mitigating adverse effect of informatization : digital divide,
                                 hacking, computer virus
                               • Launching mobile internet service

2000   Popularizing Internet   • Establishing master plan to promote e-commerce
       and e-Business
                               • Using e-document of all government agencies
                               • Applying e-business to off-line businesses

2001   Activating Mobile       • Stimulating mobile internet through mobile phone, PDA
       Internet
                               • Broadband internet infrastructure recognized as the world best
                                 by OECD
                               • Launching digital terrestrial TV broadcasting service

2002   Maximizing Digital      • Establishing e-Korea vision 2006 (The Third Master Plan on
                                 Informatization)
       Competitiveness
                               • Laying the foundation of e-government
                               • Initiating world’s first IMT-2000 service
                               • Launching digital satellite broadcasting service

2003   The Maturity of         • The ‘Participatory government’ launched
       Informatization and
                               • The political issue has been moved from facility base over
       communication
                                 to the service base, due to the market maturation of
                                 telecommunication market
                               • The personal privacy and information security issues are raised
                                 (plan to prepare personal privacy and information security
                                 guideline)
                               • Establishing the road map for e-government
                               • Announcement of ‘broadband IT Korea vision 2007’ (Revision
                                 of the Third Master Plan for informatization promotion)
                               • Issuing the government forms over internet
                               • Launching mobile banking service

2004   Building New ICT        • Promote the building of ICT growth-engine infrastructure
       Growth Infrastructure
                               • Number of internet users exceeded 30 million people.
                               • Build broadband convergence network (BcN) implementation
                                 plan
                               • Draw up u-Sensor Network Master Plan
                               • Establish IPv6 Promotion Master Plan
                               • Promote IT839 Strategy
                               • e-Commerce transactions reached KRW 300 trillion



                                              5
 2005    Beginning of Digital        • Formulation the middle and Long-term Information Security
         Convergence Era               Roadmap
                                     • Launch of terrestrial and satellite DMB service
                                     • Banking via the Internet exceeds banking done by tellers

 2006    Starting the Journey to     • Establishing ‘u-Korea Master Plan’
         the Ubiquitous World
                                     • Launching commercial services on BcN, WiBro, and HSDPA
                                     • Ranked the top in DOI for two consecutive years

Source: National information society agency, National Informatization White Paper (2006).



                   3. Bridging the digital divide in the Republic of Korea.

      Bridging the digital divide has been always a priority in the country. In 1996 the
Government promoted localized pilot projects aimed at reducing the divide among different
regions in the country. In 2001, the country adopted the Digital Divide Act. The main
objective of the Act was to reduce and eventually close the digital divide between the haves
and have-nots. The primary target of the Act was disadvantaged groups of the population
including the low income people, people with disabilities, senior people, people living in
rural and remote areas and housewives, etc.

      The Act stipulated that a five-year master plan should be developed. Accordingly, the
First Master Plan on Bridging the Digital Divide (2001-2005) was formulated and launched
in 2001. The Plan was divided into annual master plans. Twelve national ministries took
part in the implementation of the act including the Ministry of Education and Human
Recourses Development, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs,
the Ministry of Information and Communication (this Ministry has recently merged with
the Telecommunication Commission of the Republic of Korea) and the Ministry of
Agriculture and Forestry. To coordinate the implementation of the Act a Committee on
Bridging the Digital Divide was established. The newly created ‘Agency for Digital
Opportunity and Promotion’ assumed as the main implementation body for the Act. In
addition, public access centres were established around the country. Special attention was
given to the provision of ICT learning opportunities.

     Under the Five-Year Master Plan, 40 major activities were implemented in six main
priority areas, i.e., infrastructure, access to telecommunication, IT learning, contents for
marginalized people, e-life, and global digital divide. The total budget for these activities
was around US$ 1.9 billion. Both the Five-Year Plan and annual plans were periodically
reviewed. The results of the evaluation including implementation plans and contributions
from concerned ministries were published in the White Paper of the Government.




                                                    6
                 4. Monitoring the digital divide in the Republic of Korea

      As mentioned earlier, the implementation of the Digital Divide Act is periodically
reviewed. This review not only makes evaluation of the activities and expenditure but more
importantly the impact of implementation of the Act on bridging the digital divide. For this
purpose, an implementation index for digital divide (IDD) was developed in 2003. This is
an aggregated index, which takes into account accessibility to the Internet, capacity of
people to use the Internet and computers and their actual utilization. Accordingly, IDD is
the sum of three weighted sub indices. As the entire country was already covered by the
broadband Internet network, the sub index for accessibility was not considered to be the
main reason for the digital divide. Similarly, the population of the country is well educated
and ICT training is readily available, hence, the sub index of capacity development does not
represent the main course of the digital divide. Consequently, use of computers was
considered most important for obtaining positive results, thus, the sub index of utilization
became the major contributing component of the IDD. Accordingly, the following weighted
ratios were adopted to determine IDD: accessibility = 30 per cent, the capacity = 20 per
cent and the utilization = 50 per cent.

     In turn, accessibility, capacity and utilization are also aggregated indices. The sub
index accessibility consists of the ability to access to the Internet when necessary (weighted
60 per cent), the availability of related tools such as software and hardware (20 per cent),
and the performance of the computers and the Internet (20 per cent). The sub index on
capacity consists of the ability to use computers (50 per cent) plus the ability to use the
Internet (50 per cent), and the sub index on utilization consists of the frequency of use (60
per cent) and the usefulness of use (40 per cent).

     The gap index of the digital divide which is called the aggregate index of the digital
divide (AIDD) is calculated as follows:
Gap index (AIDD) = (1 - IDD for the disadvantaged group concerned / IDD for the general population) *100

     AIDD ranges from 0 to 100. If AIDD is closer to 100, there is a wider gap between the
general population and the disadvantaged group concerned.

    The level of digital use by the disadvantaged group concerned compared to the general
population is calculated as follows:
       Level index = (IDD for disadvantaged group concerned/ IDD for the general population)*100

     AIDD and IDD are calculated and published annually to boost up the efforts of all
stakeholders to narrow the gap. AIDD is mainly calculated for the following disadvantaged
groups: the people with low income, the people with disabilities, the people living in rural
areas and the senior people. AIDD for these groups of people is presented in table 3. Due to
concerted efforts of all stakeholders, the average gap index for the four groups dropped by
around 38 per cent from 55.0 to 34.1 from 2004 to 2007. The best performing groups were
the people with low income with the respective index decrease of 45 per cent as well as the
people with disabilities with respective index falling to 42 per cent. In case of the people
with low income, the relevant figures may indicate that the access and use of ICT as well as



                                                   7
ICT training have become more affordable for them. The progress achieved with respect to
people with disabilities is due to introduction of more user friendly software and hardware.

      However, in the cases of the senior people and the people living in rural areas the
progress was significantly slower, 33 and 36 per cent respectively, and the gap index
remained relatively high. It is possible that these two groups may find the use of ICT less
useful and may have difficulty in learning how to use ICT. The high level of the gap index
for the people living in the rural areas may also indicate some difficulties in accessing the
broadband Internet.

                Table 3: The digital divide gap index and the level of use index
                          for four groups of disadvantaged people
                                     2004                 2005                 2006                 2007

                               Gap                  Gap                  Gap                  Gap
                                        Level                Level                Level                Level
                              Index                Index                Index                Index

 People with the disability   42.5          57.5   34.8          65.2   26.1          73.9   24.0          76.0

 Low income people            44.4          55.6   35.8          64.2   27.0          73.0   24.5          75.5

 Rural people                 66.2          33.8   58.3          41.7   50.2          49.8   45.4          54.6

 Senior people                59.1          40.9   50.7          49.3   41.6          58.4   37.4          62.6

 Average                      55.0          45.0   46.7          53.3   38.0          62.0   34.1          65.9

Source: Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity & Promotion, Digital Opportunity White Paper (2007), pp. 30-31.


        C. Bridging the digital divide between rural and urban areas
                          in the Republic of Korea

                     1. Extending the broadband Internet to rural areas

     Initially, the Korea Telecom was mainly responsible for the broadband infrastructure
construction including in the rural areas of the country. Even after its privatization in 2000,
the Korea Telecom continued this activity till 2005. From 2006, a consortium consisting of
the Ministry of Communication and Information, local governments and the Korea
Telecom took responsibility for the construction of broadband Internet infrastructure,
specially, in rural areas.

     By 2002, out of 3.47 million households in the country, 3.030 thousands or 81 per
cent of all households had access to the broadband Internet. In 2003, all villages which
were unconnected to the broadband Internet and had more than 100 households were the
focus for broadband infrastructure construction and received accesses to the broadband
Internet. (See table 4.) Subsequently, in 2004-2006, the smaller villages with the number of
households from 100 to 50 were covered by the broadband Internet. By the year 2007, only


                                                     8
28 thousands of households or less than one per cent remained unconnected to the
broadband Internet.

                Table 4: Extending the broadband Internet to small village

                No. of          Total no. of     Covered no. of
                                                                       Covered         Uncovered no.
            households of       households        households
                                                                      proportion       of households
            target villages     (thousand)        (thousand)

  2002       Nation wide                               3,030              81%                 440
  2003           +100               3,470              3,180              84%                 290
  2004            +50                                  3,250              86%                 220
  2005            +50                                  3,530              94%                 240
                  +50               3,770              3,680              97%                  90
  2006
                  -50                                  3,685              98%                  85
  2007            -50                                  3,742              99%                  28
Source: Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity & Promotion, Digital Opportunity White Paper (2007), p. 55.

                    2. Provision of equipment to remote and rural areas

     Pursuant to the National Plans to narrow the digital divide between urban and rural
areas, the remote and rural areas were not only provided with access to the broadband
Internet infrastructure but also with the necessary equipment such as personal computers,
software, peripheral equipment, etc, to ensure the access to the Internet. Equipment was
placed at special spots where they could be easily accessible to the local population and
were not required to pay any additional renting charges. Depending on the needs and
availability these spots included town offices, town halls, libraries, post offices and spots
adjacent to local governmental offices. This programme covered even the smallest
administrative units.

      3. Provision of education and training in the ICT application in rural areas

     As mentioned before, many people in rural and remote areas do not have sufficient
capacity to use computers and the Internet. This is reflected in the sub index of capacity and
consequently in the Index of Digital Divide. To mitigate this problem and enhance the
capacity of the local population to use computers and the Internet, specialized learning
courses with designed programmes are being conducted in rural areas. These courses were
accompanied by real life learning programmes aimed at enhancing interest in ICT
applications of the population in rural areas. Similar educational courses exist for other
disadvantaged groups of people such as people with disabilities, senior people and the
people with low income.

      The real life learning courses were gradual training with evolving programmes based
on demand and needs of the participants. The initial programme the first steps of learning
starts with concepts and understanding of the Internet as well as simple applications


                                                   9
ofcomputers and the Internet such as e-mails, messengers, finding and reading news, etc.
The second step, which was called convenient Internet use focused on the Internet shopping,
use of different services, money transactions and bills payments. The third staged which
focused on the Vivid Internet, included learning to access useful information such as
traffic details and exchanges rates as well as promotion of Internet communication skills
such as blogs and messengers creations. The fourth stage deals with interest and creative
aspects of the Internet which includes the application of digital cameras, creation of movies
and UCC (User Created Contents). The fifth stage focuses on work with computers and the
Internet and includes preparation of power points presentations and slides shows. The next
step of learning allows the participants to use different software such as open office for
word processing and preparing documents. Finally, participants learn the basics of
maintenance of personnel computers and security protection such as identification and
removal of viruses and malicious codes.

      In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishery develops its own learning courses
for people living in the rural areas. This programme concentrates on income generation
activities and intends to generate interest of people in a meaningful use of computers and
the Internet. The programmes of the courses are designed for two groups of the rural
population. The first group consists of people who are not interested or have lost interest in
the Internet. The second group consists of people who are interested and sufficiently literate
in computers and the Internet applications. For the first group, the programme is developed
to generate or restore the interest in the Internet. This programme focuses on the Internet
banking, online shopping, digital camera application, and access to online administrative
services of the Government. For the second group, the programme is designed to help local
people to increase their income through web-based diary management, product history
management, homepage construction, and selling products through e-commerce.

             4. Bridging the digital divide between urban and rural areas
                   in the Republic of Korea through improved access
                      to appropriate information in the rural areas

    The enhancement of access to appropriate information was one of the major
government led programmes in the rural areas in the country. The main responsibility for
and the coordinating of this programme called ‘Initiative for Local Informatization
Promotion’ rests with the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affaires.

     The vision of this programme was to build an optimized information service
infrastructure and to develop balanced integrated information services to meet specific
information needs of all areas for narrowing the digital gap and eventually creating
ubiquitous information environment for prosperous and high quality life.

     The goals of the programme were as follows:
     • Building of a standardized information infrastructure for the use of the public and
        cooperatives;




                                             10
     •   Facilitation of balanced development by narrowing the digital divide between the
         rural and urban areas and promoting the participation of rural population in the
         information era;
     •   Provision of various information contents leading to increased convenience of
         living in rural areas;
     •   Creation of requisite institutional arrangements for provision of systematic and
         efficient local information services.
     The implementation strategy of the programme included the following:
     • Coordination of efforts in all ministries involved in enhancement of local
        information services;
     • Development of localized information services in accordance with local needs and
        environment;
     • Provision of secure and sustainable connection between e-government and local
        information services;
     • Building local e-centres as the nodes of local information hubs, if required;
     • Improving community spirit among local and migrants living in rural areas
        through information communities;
     • The rural informatization programme was also expected to develop a legislation
        and institutional framework. In 1977, at the first local information enhancement
        plan, a standard decree was formulated for implementation by the local
        government. After the launch of the second local information enhancement plan in
        2002 a national law for local information enhancement was enacted.
     After the completion, the second plan was followed by another local information
master plan. Along with the legislative initiatives, online administrative services were
innovated. In particular, 21 public operation procedures of the Government were
redesigned to secure compatibility between e-government and the local information
services.

            5. Building information network villages (invil) in rural areas

(a) Overall feature of invil programme
         One of the major activities of the programme on the enhanced information access
    was the establishment of invils in rural areas. By 2007, 338 invils had been built in the
    country with total budget allocation of US$ 122 million. The pace of the establishment
    of invils is given in table 5.
          Local governments actively participated in the building of invils. The number of
    invils built by the local governments is presented in brackets. Over all, more than 22
    per cent of invils were due to the efforts of the local government. In 2005, all invils
    were established by the local governments. This may indicate the importance local
    governments have accorded to the invils and enhanced provision of information to the
    rural population as a whole.



                                             11
                        Table 5. Building information network village
                   Total      2001       2002       2003         2004       2005       2006       2007
No. of Village 338 (77)       24 (6)     78 (3)    87 (11)        70         (19)     26 (15)    34 (23)
Budget
                116.0            8.1      29.0          30.6      24.5        5.6          7.5     10.8
(billion won)
Source: Information of Ministry of Governmental Administration and Home Affairs, Korea Agency for Digital
        Opportunity & Promotion, Digital Opportunity White Paper (2007), p. 298.
Notes: Numbers in ( ) were done by local government; budget including local government.


(b) Computer and the Internet education and provision of personal computers to establish
    invils
         Concurrent to establishing invils, due attention was given to improving people
    capacity to use computers and the Internet. From 2001 to 2007, over 158 thousand of
    rural residents had received education and training in the Internet and computer
    applications. Besides, according to table 6, almost 30 thousand computers were
    provided to the residents of the rural areas during the same period.

                 Table 6: ICT or Internet education and provision of PCs
                              Total       2001       2002         2003    2004-2005     2006      2007
No. of people educated       158,336     18,332     40,606       27,210    17,224      54,964      -
No. of PC                     24,871       2,722        7,427     6,844      5,475      1,139      1,264
            Source: Information of Ministry of Governmental Administration and Home Affairs.


        Table 7. Personal computer ownership and the use of the Internet in the
                  villages covered by the invils and other area (2007)
                                   Average for             Average for          Average for
                                      invil                  Korea              rural area
         PC
                                        66.5                    78                    44
         (%)
         Time with PC
                                        14.3                    13.7                  10.8
         (Hours per week)
         Internet use
                                        64.5                    74.8                  29.4
         (%)
       Source: Internal information of Ministry of Public Administration and Security, Korea
               Agency for Digital Opportunity & Promotion, Digital Opportunity White Paper
               (2007), p. 299.
         Participation of the local people in rural areas in the invils network brought
    significantly positive results. As evident from the data given in table 7, in 2007, over
    66 per cent of people covered by the invil network had computers and about 65 used
    the Internet. These figures reflect a higher use of computers and Internet by people in
    the network compare to others living outside the network. 44 per cent and 29 per cent
    of the people living outside invil network use computers and Internet respectively. It is


                                                   12
    evident from table 9 that invil network users are on the average 10 percentage points
    less than their counterparts in the country with respect to computer and internet use.
    Those covered by the invil networks spent more time surfing the Internet than their
    average counterparts in the Republic. This is convincing evidence of the effectiveness
    of the invil networks for bridging the digital divide between the rural and urban areas.

(c) Enhanced access to information and its use as a result of invils
         As mentioned in the last section of the paper, the invil network brought significant
    increase in the use of the Internet in rural areas both in terms of the number of users
    and time they spent with the Internet. This was due to awareness and personal
    computers provided to rural areas where people were covered by the invil networks.
    Another important reason for the successful enhancement of rural information
    environment was the fact that during the implementation of the invil programme, the
    local information infrastructure was built at a level (minimum level was provided with
    optic-fiber and ADSL: Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) similar to that in urban
    areas. To assist users of the invil network, full time instructors and web masters were
    employed. Both these categories were paid by the government at the beginning and
    they were available for the provision of education and help in maintenance, running
    homepages and blogs as well as conducting e-commerce.
         The users of the Internet in rural areas covered by invil networks found many
    useful applications of information. They include among other things:
         – Search for and use of information on prices of local products;
         – Exchange information on farming and other local business activities;
         – Use online education;
         – Search for and get access to public administrative information and services;
         – Participate Online in cultural events;
         – Create and use village blogs and homepages which, inter alia, reinforce the
             community spirit of unity.

(d) Procedure for the selection of villages for invil network coverage
          One of the major challenges of the invil networks as most of other e-centres is the
    difficulty in achieving their financial sustainability. During the building of the invil
    networks, it was the responsibilities of the central and local governments who financed
    the construction of the information infrastructure, provision of equipment including
    personal computers, training and education of end users and invil staff, and invil
    locations. The central and local governments also took lead in covering the costs of
    invil networks operation and maintenance. Therefore, to increase the effectiveness and
    efficiency of public resources allocated for invil networks, an elaborated procedure for
    selection of the villages to be covered by the invil networks was established.
         In accordance with the procedure, the villages interested in the invil network fill
    the application form and submit them to the municipal authorities.
         The application form contains the following information:
         – Preferable type of invil (what would be the representative brand for products


                                             13
             or services);
         – Information on population and geography of the village;
         – Interest and commitment to participation in the invil network of the
             population of the village;
         – Description of information infrastructure available including number of
             computers owed by the population and the Internet subscribers;
         – Required budget and the model of financing;
         – Establishment plan indicating milestones.
         The application forms are collected and evaluated by the municipal authorities
   concerned. The evaluation is based on information contained in the application form
   and a visit to the proposed site of the invil. Before the evaluation, key selection
   criteria are identified. The criteria usually include expected impact of the invil, the
   feasibility of the construction and operational plans, the proposed location of the invil,
   conformity and complimentarily to the existing municipality policies and goals.
         Consequently, all information available for the evaluation is checked against the
   key criteria. The recommended applications are submitted to the district authority. For
   the review of the recommendation, the district authority sets up a review committee
   which consists of governmental officials, representatives of the business and civil
   society, academia and other experts on rural development.
         The application recommended by the district authorities are submitted to the
   Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs for the final selection. The
   decision of the Ministry is based on the recommendation of the district authority,
   review of the operational plan and the site investigation. The information available is
   checked against the four main weighted selection criteria, namely, the will of the
   municipal authorities, the will of the people in the village, the environment, and the
   model of financing. All main weighted criteria consist of subcriteria, components as
   presented in table 8.
                      Table 8. Selection criteria and weight distribution
         Criteria (Weight)                                  Subcriteria (Weight)
                                           Execution system and feasibility of operation (3)
Will of municipal authorities (10)         Availability of dedicated expert (3)
                                           Support from municipal authorities(4)
                                           Interest, commitment and real users of people (20)
Will of people (40)                        Proportion of taking burden of cost (10)
                                           Availability of leader (10)
                                           Location and number of households (10)
Environment (20)                           Accessibility of e-centre and operation (5)
                                           Linkage with other policies and programmes (5)
                                           Existence of goods or services to sell (10)
Profit model (30)                          Feasibility of development and profit (10)
                                           Number of PC, Internet subscription (10)
      Source: Internal Information of Ministry of Governmental Administration and Home Affairs.


                                                14
         Since the invil networks are built for the use of the village population their interest
    in and commitment to are the most important consideration for the selection of a village
    to be covered by the invil network. The model of the invil financing is the second most
    important consideration which is followed by the village environment and the interest
    of the municipal authority. Among the sub components, the preparedness of local
    people to use the invil network is the most important criteria.
         The villages which have received the highest scores are selected by the Ministry
    of Government Administration and Home Affairs for established of the invil network.
    After the completion of the selection process, a detail establishment and operation plan
    is developed for each invil. Such plan consists of five major parts, namely, a) Main
    features of the selected village, b) The reason for the selection, c) Distribution of
    financial burden among stakeholders, d) Operational modalities and further
    development strategy and e) Expected results. The entire plan includes the following
    elements:
         i) Main features of the selected village:
              - The name of the village;
              - The background of the village and its needs;
              - The natural and social environment;
              - Basic information;
              - The composition of the population;
              - Number of personal computers and capacity to use them;
              - The Internet subscription;
              - Indigenous or leading group of population;
              - Major public facilities;
              - Main products and tourist site seeing places;
              - Linkages or sibling connections to other villagers and organizations;
              - The revenue of households;
              - Other projects subsidized by other ministries and the municipal
                  authorities.
         ii) Reasons for village selection:
              - Determination of the people to participate in the invil network;
              - Creation of cyber community;
              - Income generation;
              - Availability of physical site for the invil establishment;
              - Available information infrastructure;
              - Miscellaneous.
         iii) Distribution of the financial burden among stakeholders;
         iv) Operational modalities and further development strategy;
              - Operational modalities;
              - Strategy for further development;
         v) Expected results.

(e) Establishment and operation of the invils
        When a village is selected to be covered by the invil network, the Ministry of
    Government Administration and Home Affairs, through its specially created Local


                                              15
    Information Development Organization, provides the village with approximately 200
    million won, (approximately US$ 200,000). This money is spent for the establishment
    of the invil including equipment and installation. The Local Information Development
    Organization (LIDO) also undertakes training of invil operators free of charge. Since
    the invils are located in public buildings such as village halls, libraries, post offices,
    governmental offices, no funds for setting up office are provided. Since providing
    funds for establishing invil information centres, LIDO will not provide any further
    funds for operational activities. However, funds could be provided under special
    circumstances. Besides, progress of invil officers and operational plans were
    periodically evaluated and further allocations were based on the successful
    implementation of the operational plan and results achieved.
         The exact amounts of the funds provided to villages depend on local conditions
    and needs. An invil may have from ten to twenty personnel computers and one or two
    operators who are paid from the invil income. In addition, each invil is usually headed
    by a young volunteer who works free of charge.
          Each invil is a multipurpose centre which focuses very much on the needs of the
    villagers. When a majority of households are connected to the Internet, the invil
    network may use the opportunity for training purposes. However, when the villagers do
    not have sufficient personal computers, the invil network services are offered to seek
    for relevant information. Furthermore, most of the invil networks have a specific areas
    of focus on advertisements. For instance, the Lake Invil focuses on advertising local
    tourism and recreational services related to the local lakes. The Bean Sauce Invil
    focuses on the production and sale of the sauce. The Medical Mud Invil spreads the
    information on local medical mud and related services. There are also other invils
    focusing on different fruits, vegetables, tourist and recreational services. All invils can
    be located in internet at http://www.invil.org which also plays a key role as the online
    market place for goods and services. Invils product sales are linked to a large
    agricultural online home shopping Internet site at http://www.nhshopping.co.kr.
         Advertising and sale of goods and services is extremely important for operation
    and sustainability of invils since a small percentage of the income from the sales are
    allocated to invil operation and maintenance cost.

(f) Benefits from invil
         The implementation of the invil programme has helped to upgrade the ICT
    environment in respective villages almost to the level of urban areas in terms of the
    ICT infrastructure access to the broadband Internet, the number of personal computers
    and the time and rate of use of the Internet invil villages are on par with urban areas.
    People have become accustomed to the use of information received through the invil
    services.
         Agriculture and rural development are the most popular sources of information
    sought from invil networks. This includes information on improved agricultural
    techniques, organic products, food processing and storage, water management, prices
    of agricultural product, rural credit, etc.




                                              16
       Online education is another important area of the invil services. Online learning
 materials on different subjects are easily available in the Internet including, vocational
 training. Students use the Internet for the distance education as teachers use the invil
 network for upgrading their qualification.
       The villagers of all ages greatly benefit from improvement in ICT literacy. For
 young people, the knowledge of computers and the Internet significantly increased their
 opportunity for meaningful employment. Most senior people who were not used to
 computer applicants and use, initially started with the following uses, searching,
 retrieving and processing information to creating blogs and homepages, and
 exchanging e-mails when introduced to invil services.
        Through the use of the invil services, the villages are now able to directly access
 the governmental information and enjoy cultural events without traveling to big cities.
 It is also convenient to interact with the governments by sending comments, complains
 and requests via the Internet.
      The rural areas of the Republic have undergone significant changes in the local
 demography with increasing shares of local population being migrants and senior
 people. This new trend in the demography requires new approaches in harmonizing,
 uniting and activating community spirit. The experiences of the invils network clearly
 indicates that the establishment of e-communities facilitated by the Internet homepages
 and blogs and based on common hobbies, business and other interests make visible
 contributions to the unity and harmony of the local people.
      Most of the revenue for invil networks comes from the use of the invil cyber
 shopping malls by small businesses both for advertizing and selling their products and
 services such as tourism and other recreational services as shown in table 9. Goods and
 services which are traditionally well sold through established merchandising channels
 do not usually bring additional profit by being sold in the invil mall. The marginal
 benefit from participation in the invil shopping malls is created for unique goods and
 services which are produced in small amount and which previously had difficulty in
 accessing the market.

                 Table 9: Incurred economic advantage (sales volume)
                        through internet shopping mall of invil
                                    (Million won)

                                    2005                     2006                     2007

   Goods                  Approximately 1,300                2,370                    3,996

   Tourism                Approximately      300               569                    1,404

   Total                  Approximately 1,600                2,939                    4,410
Source: Internal information of Ministry of Public Administration and Security, Korea Agency for
         Digital Opportunity & Promotion, Digital Opportunity White Paper (2007), p. 301.

      In general, it is very difficult to sell products and services in small amount
 through traditional channels and make profit. Through the use of the invil shopping


                                                 17
    mall, small scale producers and consumers with the unique preferences can meet
    directly. Therefore, people in the villages do not need to invest huge amount of money
    to upscale their businesses and can get profits even from their small scale productions
    which very often reflect the uniqueness originated from the specifics of the natural
    environment of each village.

(g) Sustainability
          Local people have always been at the centre of the invil programme. The interest
    and commitment of people to participate in the invil network was one of the major
    prerequisites for the establishment of an invil in a village. The participation of people is
    also the major driving force of the invil activities and operations after establishing the
    invil. Furthermore, it is the participation of people which ensures the sustainability of
    the invil without governmental help.
          The operation of an invil requires money to cover the cost of maintenance and
    repair, renting of space, salaries of operators and purchase of some new equipment.
    Therefore, it is inevitable that fees are charged from the sales in the invil shopping mall.
    For this reason increased people’s participation has resulted in the increased sale
    volume is vitally important for the sustainability of the invil. With more people using
    the invil for their business activities, the sales volume will increase at shopping malls.
    This will lead to better revenue for the invil.
         It is also evident that more people use the invil network the more they benefit
    from it, particularly, in terms of obtaining relevant information and increasing their ICT
    capacity. This greatly contributes to the ultimate goal of the invil network, which is to
    bridge the digital divide. Furthermore, the peoples’ participation ensures that the
    unique local information and knowledge are widely distributed through the invil so that
    local people can benefit from them in terms of selling their goods and services and
    other people can benefit from using these goods and services. As observed in table 10,
    the number of newly created e-communities and new members of the invil network are
    increasing, thus indicating a positive trend sustainability of the network.

    Table 10. Using information contents and e-community activity through invil

                                                        2004         2005          2006         2007

 No. of newly opened e-community centres                 245           383          322          448
 No. of new members of e-communities                    2,344        3,984        2,601        3,556
 No. of cases of uploading information per day            68.9         138.7        144.1            185.5
  Source: Internal information of Ministry of Public Administration and Security, Korea Agency for
          Digital Opportunity & Promotion, Digital Opportunity White Paper (2007), p. 300.


(h) Evaluation and feedback
         The evaluation of invils’ performance is periodically done by the governmental
    with the objective to enhance the invil management and people participation. Based on
    the evaluation, further subsidies are allocated to differentiate each invil village. The


                                                   18
    differential levels of subsidies create a healthy completion among villages for better
    performance. Depending on the evaluation, some villages may be dropped from the
    invil programme or receive a warning with specific recommendations for improvement.
    Some other low performing villages are going through a process of consultations which
    provides guidance for more sustainable management.
          For instance, from August 2006 to April 2007, consultations were conducted in 18
    villages whose performances were found to be below the required level. As a result of
    the evaluation undertaken in May 2007, two villages were dropped from the invil
    programme and four received warnings and recommendations.
          Based on the experience of several years in implementation of the invil
    programme, the government has identified some important aspects of the invils
    activities which directly affect sustainability. These aspects can be divided into three
    groups:
          – Increase in advertising and the sale volume through the invil shopping mall,
              strengthening relation with customers, quality control of goods, increase in
              brand recognition and establishment of a marketing strategy;
          – Increased people participation, securing a reassurance on the importance and
              the role of invil among local people, improved performance of the executive
              committee of the village;
          – More clearer definition of the role of the stakeholders, establishment of a legal
              framework for the invil network, introduction of ad hoc evaluation in addition
              to the governmental periodic review.


              D. Stakeholders partnership in bridging the digital divide
                          in the Republic of Korea
      Although the leading role of the Government is important in bridging the digital
divide in the country, especially, in terms of policy and formulation of strategy, creation of
a favorable legislative environment is equally important. ICT popularization, education
and training, financing activities aimed at narrowing the digital divide, the active
participation of all stakeholders, in particular, the private sector and the civil society. A
process of transparent discussions and recommendations on policy and strategies for its
implementation are indispensible in building a good ICT governance and an inclusive,
people oriented information society. Indeed, the opportunities for the future information
society can be better realized by active participation of end-users.
      Invil provides good opportunity and a conduit to rural people to participate in policy
making and implementation of the invils, in forms of identifying needs, building network in
villages, establishing invils and involving their operation (creating and dissemination of
information) and maintenance, etc.
      Equally, it was the private sector, with the encouragement and stimulus from the
government, built the broadband Internet infrastructure which was a prerequisite for the
invil Internet connection and operation. As mentioned in one of the previous sections, until
2000, Korea Telecom was a government owned organization and carried out primary


                                             19
responsibility for building the broadband Internet infrastructure. Even though, the Telecom
was privatized in 2000, in accordance with the condition of privatization, the company
continued the construction of broadband infrastructure till 2005 which led to a strong bond
between government and the private sector and emphasized on social accountability.
Commencing 2006, a consortium consisting of the Ministry of Information and
Communication, local governments and Korea Telecom took the responsibility for the
construction of the broadband Internet infrastructure, especially, for rural areas. This is
another important example of participation by the private sector (even though it is not the
end-user).
      Different non-governmental organization volunteers played an important role in
bridging the digital divide in the country. Till 2006, there were seven marginalized groups
of people (so-called warm charity). These were ICT voluntary service organizations which
included instructor groups, hometown caring groups, senior groups, people with disabilities
groups, sharing experiences groups, youth groups and international groups. In 2006, all
these organizations merged into one warm ICT voluntary service organization. At the time,
the organization had 3,525 members. The member volunteers helped them through
education and training, provision of consultation, assisting in personal computers repair and
maintenance. In 2007, over 90 thousand computers were repaired by the organization.
Annual, awards are presented to the organization further encourage voluntary services and
participation.
      A public/private partnership (PPP) has also been established in the country in order to
facilitate bridging the digital divides. This PPP includes governmental agencies and 14 big
companies. In 2007, the total number of individual members of this partnership was 679. In
the same year, 910 people benefited from PPP organized trainings, and 1,309 personal
computers were maintained and repaired. The members of PPP also provided advisory
services to ICT educational organizations and institutions.


       E. Experiences and lessons learned from Republic of Korea in
         bridging the digital divide between rural and urban areas
      In the 70s and 80s, a technological basis for development was established in the
Republic of Korea with a strong leadership from the Government. This established a policy
and a legislative framework conducive to science and technology, public technology
institutions, technology oriented private sector, research and development institutions,
qualified human resources and educational and training institutions, and creating a set of
technology-minded educated people. In the 90s, the existing technology base allowed the
country to leap frog in to the information era.
     Eventually, the Republic has become one of the ICT leaders both in Asia and the
Pacific and in the world. However, the internal digital divides still persist even in this ICT
advanced country. To close the digital dived the country has formulated and implemented
well coordinated digital divided policy and strategies. While the Government has led the
national efforts in closing the digital divide the private sector, the civil society and the




                                             20
population at large actively participated in discussions, formulation and implementation of
the policies, strategies and different programmes.
     The role of the Government includes:
     • Formulation, coordination and implementation of digital divide policies and
         strategies;
     • Establishment of relevant institutional infrastructure; participation in the building
         or stimulation of the private sector to build the broadband Internet infrastructure
         nation wide, in rural areas in particular;
     • Undertaking education, training and popularization activities on use of the Internet
        and computers;
     • Provision of personal computers and other friendly and assistive equipments;
     • Partial financing of different digital divide programme and monitoring of their
        implementation.
     Although, the private sector does not find it profitable to work with disadvantaged
groups of population because of their low incomes and limited size of market, its
involvement with social accountability could be reached by strong government guidance. It
resulted in facilitating broadband Internet infrastructure across the country, including in the
rural areas. It also catalyzed innovations in computers and other ICT tools that made it
possible for the marginalized and disadvantaged groups of people affordable access to the
Internet and to feel comfortable and satisfied. The private sector in the public-private
partnership programme engaged in training disadvantaged groups, repairs and maintenance
of computers and providing advisory service to educational and training institutions.
     The participation of the civil society is equally crucial in closing the digits divides. It
is the people from disadvantaged groups themselves who discussed and initiated
programmes for bridging the digital divide. They were also involved in the implementation
of the programmes, operation and maintenance, repair equipment, and finally they became
the end users of the programmes results, thus ensuring the programme sustainability.
Furthermore, non-governmental organizations of volunteers provide free consultations,
repair and maintenance services to people from disadvantaged groups, as well as their
education and training, thus making significant contribution to closing the digital divides.
     To monitor the process of narrowing the digital divide, a digital divide index has been
developed in the Republic of Korea. This index reflects the digital divide gaps for the
disadvantaged groups, specifically, the people with disabilities, the people with low income,
the people living in rural areas, and senior people. The index is calculated annually and is
widely published to encourage further actions from all stakeholders. Although the index
shows that a considerable progress has been achieved, much remains to be done to close the
gap. It also shows that in the case of the Republic of Korea, the progress in narrowing the
divide between the rural and urban areas was very slow.
      The establishment of village information networks appears to be very effective in
bridging the digital divide between the rural and urban areas. The villagers covered by the
invil networks show much better results in term of the use of the Internet and possession of



                                              21
personal computers compared to the general rural population. The results closely resemble
the figures for the use of the Internet and possession of computers by the entire population
in the Republic. These successes of the invil networks were possible due to the result of the
careful selection of the villages to be covered by the invil networks. The selection includes
several evaluations steps from the villagers themselves to the Ministry of Governmental
Administration and Home Affaires. The selection includes checking information available
against specific criteria which, first of all, take into consideration the will, needs and
commitment of the local people. The sustainability of the financing model and the local
information environment were some of the important criteria used in the selection. The
interest of and support from the municipal authority were also key factors for the success of
invils.
     The experience of the Republic of Korea presents valuable experience of measures
which can be adopted by the governments, the private sector and the civil society to bridge
the digital divides. They may be considered and adopted by the stakeholders in other
countries. The stakeholders may also be interested to adopt some of the measures or their
elements to suit their social and economic environment and use them in their quest to
bridge the digital divides in their countries.




                                             22

								
To top