13 July 2005
Seoul, Republic of Korea:
In Cambodia, an entire government office shares one PC but most people are not entirely sure of its use. In Laos, a teacher thinks a computer mouse is operated by pressing down on it as hard as possible.
To close the digital gap in those developing countries and scores of others, four-member teams of young Koreans are heading to cities and villages throughout the Asia-Pacific region, South America and Africa.
"It's a great opportunity to pave the way for Korean IT businesses to enter the market in these developing countries," said Yeom Seung-seok, student council president of Seoul National University's Graduate School of International Studies.
"We are like ice breakers, forming the most basic civilian-to-civilian interaction to provide a base for Korean businesses to enter the market," said the 28-year-old student.
This year, he is going to East Timor (Timor Leste) for the third time.
The programme, now in its fifth year, is sponsored by the Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity, a unit of the Ministry of Information and Communication. It sends 300 "Internet volunteers" on four-week missions to sub-governmental agencies, universities or research centres, as requested by host countries.
At the Seoul Digital Forum in May, President Roh Moo-hyun emphasized the importance of narrowing the "digital divide -- the gap in access to information technology between rich and poor and developing and advanced nations."
Roh said his administration will install a ubiquitous technological network throughout the government and social sectors so that Korea can serve as a benchmark for the world.
"Countries around the world are trying to find out what the ubiquitous society means and what to do to realize it. Korea has been pushing aggressively to advance its communication infrastructure since the 1980s and continues to move ahead," said Chin Dae-je, the Minister of Information and Communication.