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Korea’s digital governance an entirely connected infrastructure of high-speed fibre optics, sensors and intelligent utilities grids. Cities like Copenhagen, Addis Ababa and Singapore also have smart aspirations, but they are upgrading, laying IoT technology

President Park is eager to vault Korea to the fore of the fourth industrial revolution over existing infrastructure. Korean cities like Songdo and Daegu are starting from scratch, which can be advantageous. They are like IoT living labs that collect and use abundant user data to improve waste management, street lighting, public transport, buildings, healthcare, security, schooling and every other urban service. By 2050, more than 60% of the world’s population will be living in cities, according to UN predictions. And according to a recent MarketsandMarkets research report, the market size of IoT applications for smart cities will grow from $52 billion in 2015 to $148 billion by 2020. President Park is eager to vault Korea to the fore of the fourth industrial revolution–the seamless merging of the physical world with computer cyberspace, with its immense promise and transformational potential. The country’s smart laboratory cities may well help achieve that aim.

Digital services are smart too: for example, if a person applies for a birth certificate, the online system called Minwon 24 enables them automatically to apply to get child-support payments or to get vaccination information at the same time. The use of digital tools among public officials is also widespread. However, there is a wide gap between the use of e-government services by age group, with over 90% of younger people declaring use, but only 30% among the older generation, which is lower than, say, France or the UK, with 35%.

Chan, Stephanie, (2016), “Innovation has the smart city of Songdo living in the future”, com (accessed 26 January) Ramirez, Elaine (2016) “Everyone you need to know in South Korea’s startup scene”, (accessed 2 March) Zastro, Mark (2016) “South Korea trumpets $860-million AI fund after AlphaGo ‘shock’”, (accessed 23 March)

There are challenges of course, such as constantly improving user-friendliness and stepping up engagement with civil society organisations and the media. Social media also provides new challenges for all governments, and while Korea’s 3.0 action plans provide some guidelines for the public sector, performance indicators still need to be enhanced.

Where Korea particularly shines is in open data, as the government has increased the amount of data available

OECD (2016), Government at a Glance: How Korea Compares, OECD Publishing For more information, contact Barbara Ubaldi at the OECD

OURdata Index: Open, useful, reusable government data, 2014 Data availability

The president’s full inaugural speech of 25 February 2013 can be found at

on its central open data portal (https://data. Since 2013, all public sector agencies have had to register their datasets in the central open data portal by law, and now Koreans can access large quantities of government data on public expenditure and election results, as well as on crime, the environment, health care and education. Open data management guidelines have been developed to assure quality, timeliness and formats, while the government also sponsors promotional events, such as an IoT (Internet of Things) Week, and hackathons for programmers and start-ups. Its “Open Square D” Centre (OSD) opened in 2016 provides a facility for data entrepreneurs to exchange knowledge and to develop their skills.

Given Korea’s prowess in digital services, it should come as no surprise to see the country leading the field in e-governance. Its lead, notably in open data, owes much to government efforts and investments in digital infrastructure and systems since the 1990s. In 2014 more than 70% of all Koreans reported having used the internet at least once over the previous 12 months to interact with the public authorities, whether to obtain information on a government website, or to download or file a form, for instance. That’s far more than the OECD average of 55%.

Data accessibility

Government support to re-use

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Source: Government at a Glance: How Korea Compares, OECD 2016





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OECD Observer No 308 Q4 2016  
OECD Observer No 308 Q4 2016