Schmidt to North Korea: It's High Time You Got Online

By Steve Anderson January 10, 2013

While these days, most of the world takes getting online for granted, and often has for an extended period of time, that's not the case everywhere. Perhaps one of the strangest cases is in North Korea, in which the neighboring country directly to the south has an incredible online infrastructure while North Korea itself has a minimal access profile. Eric Schmidt of Google recently made a highly controversial trip to North Korea in which he made the case clear to North Korea's leadership: it's well past time to embrace the Web.

Schmidt's trip was actually part of a larger delegation run by the former governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, and was originally intended to focus on humanitarian and diplomatic issues. But Schmidt interjected a bit of technological awareness in there as well--which has often been shown to have an impact on humanitarian and diplomatic issues--saying that North Korea risked falling even further behind the longer the country failed to focus on its communications infrastructure. Since using a computer is out of reach for many North Koreans, and those able to do so are heavily monitored, it's representing--as far as Schmidt is concerned--a major problem for the entire country.


Image via Shutterstock

While Schmidt has an undeniable point on his hands--doing business these days, especially on a global stage, requires the use of new communications technology--the delegation itself is widely regarded as a bad idea, especially by United States officials. A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, for example, referred to the delegation as not being "particularly helpful", and some North Korea experts have referred to the delegation as both naive and likely being an aid to North Korea's propaganda machine.

Timing is also an issue, with the United States among others seeking international sanctions against North Korea following its recent launch of the Unha-3 rocket. North Korea describes said launch as peaceful, yet South Korean and United States intelligence elements call the first step in creating a long-range ballistic missile that could, eventually, target the United States.

Not only is access by computer difficult in North Korea, by mobile device it's even worse. On average, only one in 24 North Korean citizens even have a mobile device in the first place, and the mobile network, run by Egyptian firm Orascom, has the potential to supply Internet access but that feature remains unavailable. Interestingly, North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un was educated in a boarding school in Switzerland, so he's already quite aware of the power and impact of technology, putting emphasis on science and technology as a path to economic development as well as putting more computerization focus on the country's industry. But hard currency is scarce in North Korea, and with ballistic missile projects going on it's hard to see where the money will come from to provide those advancements.

North Korea actually ranks as one of the world's least wired nations, so it's easy to see where there are possibilities to advance the connectivity in the country. While slim resources, and poor planning, seem to be clearly working against North Korea, a visit from a major tech figure like Schmidt might prove the kind of thing to light a metaphorical fire under the country and get the focus on internal development. Some might doubt that North Korea could ever be a technological powerhouse, but with changes in ideology and approach, the country could at least make a start.




Edited by Brooke Neuman

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Related Articles

4 Biohacking Facts You Should Know About in 2017

By: Special Guest    8/18/2017

When it comes to biohacking, a more recent development in science, it involves combining the idea of hacking with biology. In today's world, biohackin…

Read More

Rest Your Weary Fingers: Voice Activation is Coming to a CRM Near You

By: Special Guest    8/9/2017

We spend a lot of time talking to our gadgets these days. Whether we're seeking directions from Siri or weather updates from Alexa, speech is quickly …

Read More

Kevin Kennedy Stepping Down, Will New Leadership Help Guide Avaya Back into Prominence?

By: Erik Linask    8/7/2017

After more than eight years as Avaya's chief executive, Kevin Kennedy will be stepping down from that role as of October 1, 2017. He'll be replaced by…

Read More

Micro-CT Scans Allow Researchers to Study Live Insects in 3D

By: Kayla Matthews    8/7/2017

The things we don't know about the natural world could fill textbooks. That's why excitement is the most appropriate response when we discover new way…

Read More

Gogo Making Air Travel More Productive

By: Erik Linask    8/4/2017

Gogo created tremendous hype when it first enabled in-flight connectivity on American Airlines, back in 2008. But, anyone who has used in-flight Wi-Fi…

Read More