Friday, 25 November 2011

South Korea: Guest Post by Bitange Ndemo

A Section of the IAAF 2011 Men's Marathon
including several Kenyan athletes with a
backdrop of Daegu city in South Korea.
(Image Credit: www.sports24.com)

This is the first guest post on this blog since I started blogging in June 2007. The post is by Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Kenya's Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communications.

Ndemo recently was on a visit to South Korea. He narrates his experience in South Korea, a country that was considered far less developed than Kenya in the 1960s and 1970s. At the moment, South Korea is a developed country and amongst the world's top 10 exporters. The country is also a top importer. This post was first published on the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANET) mailing list.

I arrived in Korea yesterday for a Global e-Government conference.  ITU
ranks Korea as number one in ICT diffusion.  From the airport you see
people walk through with an e-passport using biometrics.  The New Incheon
airport is 70 Kms west of Seoul, the capital and largest city of South
Korea with some 11 million inhabitants. It is one of the largest and
busiest airports in the world actually the world's fourth busiest airport
by cargo traffic, and the world's eighth busiest airport in terms of
international passengers in 2010.


Korea is about 99,000 square kilometres or one half of the Rift Valley Province of Kenya with a population of 50 million and a GDP of $1 trillion (Kenya's
GDP is about $35 billion).  In the 60's it was largely a donor recipient
country with a GDP less than that of Kenya and more than 60% of its
population below poverty.  They have turned tables to be a member of the
OECD and a donor country over a short period.

For many years it mostly depended on the USA as its largest trade partner
but over a time they focused their energies on the Asian Markets.  Its
trade with China, USA and Japan in 2010 figures stands at %190, $98 and
$90 billion respectively.  They import a great deal of food and the reason
why we should not lease our land but use it to improve on our economic
growth.  A Kg of meat here is $100 imported from Canada and Brazil.

I asked our Ambassador why we cannot sell our meat here.  He says we do
not meat their standards.  This should not be a problem since we have
broadband in most parts of the country that we can keep pace with the rest
of the world in keeping the records especially those required by various
standrds organization.

Back to Korea.  ICTs are also deployed along the highways making it easier
to go through the toll stations and collecting all the revenues.  You can
get data from government at every hour.  You can for example know the
number of children born in a day through out the country.  There is CCTV
practically everywhere.  Crime is approaching zero.

There is an over supply of affordable public transport via the rail and
bus system all clean and on time.  If you choose to drive on your own, you
are taxed at every new turn you make.  The tax from the polluters who
cannot use public transport is used to subsidize the energy efficient
public transportation.

Every child after high school has to go through the Military thus
instilling the discipline required in this competitive world.  Because of
such discipline, they do everything very fast.  We were literally running
behind our hosts to catch up with them.  In the Newspapers there is a Bank
executive who has committed suicide because he gave questionable loans to
friends.  He killed himself for shaming his family and that he may not
have any friends.

My experience here confirms much of what we have been saying in this
forum.  The problem is how to inculcate such high levels of ethical
standards as well as feeling of shame.


Regards


Ndemo.

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