First thoughts that come to mind when thinking of Korea? The miracle of the Han River, scarlet waves of 2002 Korea-Japan FIFA world cup, the K-pop wave that took the entire world international IT power house.
But there’s one more thing to describe Korea, renowned the world’s best e-Government.
Despite difficult circumstances, Korea experienced remarkable economic growth and social development over a short period of time. A major part of this post-war development can be attributed to Korea’s e-Government.
Korea’s e-government has enhanced efficiency and transparency of public administration, allowed citizens to enjoy convenient and high quality services and supported business competitiveness.
Korea hasn’t been the world leader in e-Government from the start. It has overcome various difficulties over the last 30 years.
How did Korea eventually become a global e-Government leader? Let's take a look at the advancements Korea made and the factors that played a role in its success.
1. Korea’s National Development and e-Government
It ranks 109th in geographic area and 27th in population count.
It is the Republic of Korea.
This small country is now leading the world’s e-Government system. The Korean people worked hard, were dedicated and dilligent, and eventually achieved remarkable economic growth.
Korea’s GDP per capita in the 1970s was 254 dollars. Thirty years later its GDP per capita reached over 20,000 dollars and even surpassed 28,000 dollars in 2014. Korea’s total GDP in 2014 reached 1.4 trillion dollars, which is the 11th highest in the world.
In 2009 Korea joined the OECD Development Assistance Committee and became its 24th member. It was the first member however to change its position from that of an aid beneficiary to an aid donor.
Even with these advances, it has not been an easy road to success for Korea. The economic crisis in 1997 hit Korea hard. The ICT industry and e-Government played a huge role in overcoming these crises.
In 2013, Korea had the largest share of added-value in the ICT sector among OECD countries. In fact, about 30% of Korea’s total exports can be attributed to the ICT industry. Under the motto ‘Latecomer to Industrialization, but Frontrunner in informatizaition’; the Korean government focused national efforts on informatization. It selected e-Government as one of the presidential agenda items and invested 1% of the national budget in the cause.
Businesses in Korea also proved their world-class technical capability and became industry- wide leaders in semi-conductors, broadband Internet, mobile phones and display technologies.
Also, a well-educated Korean people were early adopters of new technologies and services and actively participate in the spread of the Internet and mobile-based activities and culture.
As a result of these collaborations, Korea is highly regarded in the UN's e-Government Development Index and in the OECD's 2015 Government at a Glance.
2. Evaluation on Korea’s e-Government
The ranking process for the UN e-Government Development Index uses strict standards. Despite competition between over 200 member countries, Korea still ranked first three times in a row. This ranking makes it difficult to dispute that Korea is the country with the world’s best e-Government. Korea receives particular praise for its excellent online service delivery. All administrative and public institutions in Korea complete work without having to issue certificates or papers. Also by integrating and connecting public services, Korea offers a non-stop service channel where citizens can make online reports and complete registration for birth, death, employment or moving without having to visit the public office in person.
Korea received the highest ranking from the OECD and is recognized as a world leader in open government data. The Korean government supports businesses through startup competitions. They provide these startups with PR and consulting, with the aim of facilitating the use of this area. The government also connects venture capitalist firms with investors, provides opportunities for business briefing sessions, and constantly supplies data through dispute mediation and real-time response in the field. In this way, Korea’s government can offer a diverse set of customized services to businesses.
Another use of open data resulted in the development of a map-based navigation application called 'Kimgisa'. This application uses open data of the Korea Expressway Corporation to provide real-time traffic information to drivers. The application aims to make driving more efficient, In fact, it receives more than 100 million inquiries every month and has become the most used navigation application in Korea.
Groups that would like to learn about Korea's e-Government and work with the Korean government on exchanges and collaboration can request such help. Requests have been made not only by developing countries, but also by major international organizations like the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Inte-Armerican Development Bank. Over 5000 foreign public officials from 129 countries joined local or invitational training programs to study Korea's e-Government from 1998 to 2014.
The government, businesses and citizens collaborate continually and this keeps the Korean e-Government working efficiently and effectively.
After 30 years of hard work and constant effort Korea has pioneered the way for more effective and efficient government services and has truly become the world leader in e-Government.
3. Korea’s e-Government Development
Over the last 30 years Korea has made step-by-step progress for national informatization. Korea's e-Government began in 1987 when Korea launched the 'National Basic Information System Project' This facilitated digitization of administrative procedures in the public sector. By developing a robust database of key administrative information, which contains real-estate, vehicle, resident registration and employment information.
Korea was able to provide a wider variety of services throughout the country. These services included things like integrated registration services for residents when moving and expanded passport issuance services. Changes like these allowed Korean citizens to enjoy more convenient and efficient government services.
In 1996, Korea established the Master Plan for National Informatization Promotion. This laid the foundation for today's e-Government in Korea. During this time the network infrastructure was upgraded to accommodate higher-speed communication and digitized administrative procedures.
Korea launched e-Government projects for G4C, an information sharing framework and building high-speed communication network. As a result of these projects, Korea was able to open a nationwide government website in 1998 that provided services for citizens via the Internet and digitize real estate registers. By 1999, it had successfully finished digitizing family registers and the national statistics information system was launched. And in 2001, e-Government in Korea began to expand. After the economic crisis, Korea started connecting and integrating government services. It carried out 11 initiatives and 31 roadmap projects for e-Government. This included expanding information sharing and building an integrated computing environment to actively introduce programs for government innovation. Korea expanded e-Government services to almost all areas of society not only to enhance the efficiency and transparency of public administration, but also to allow citizens and businesses to easily access and use the information and services they wanted. With this expansion, Korea was able to complete a foundation for e-Government and provide many service areas online.
Three innovative services were : the single window for services called Minwon24, the e-procurement system called KONEPS and the Internet tax service called HomeTax.
In 2008, Korea's e-Government entered the stage of maturity. At this time various mobile devices had become extremely popular. In response, the government developed plans to bring the PC-based e-Government services to mobile platforms. This increased access to public data and expanded the ability to provide customized services.
As a result, G4C services were improved, information resources and services were integrated, and government transparency and efficiency were enhanced. Countries throughout the world recognized Korea’s ability to adapt to a mobile-led society and Korea e-Government exports continued to increase.
4. Success Factors for Korea’s e-Government
Korea did not become the world leader in e-Government overnight. Rather, the success was built over the course of three decades, and required multiple phases of e-Government development. What specifically though contributed to the success?
-President’s strong leadership and strategic approach The President of Korea made special efforts to make government innovation a stepping-stone for other areas of growth and development. The President had a particular interest in e-Government projects and stayed abreast of changes and progress. This encouraged other high-level public officials to be actively engaged in e-Government projects. The President's commitment was a major driver in e-Government project implementation. Subsequent presidents also showed their support and interest in government innovation and e-Government project implementation. Another critical success factor was the development of mid and long-term plans for national informatization. This included setting clear goals and taking actions based on a clearly defined strategy.
-constant investment Korea also established a monetary fund for national informatization promotion and invested in it continuously. Breaking away from the rigidity of the existing budget system, Korea ensured flexibility of budget allocations for multi-year projects. This mitigated risk and responsibility issues which may have arisen naturally in the course of implementing brand new technologies in the public sector. Initially, informatization projects were likely to be rejected by government ministry or department heads who had little knowledge of the benefits and value of e-Government. However, during these early stages of e-Government development, efforts to increase national acceptance were implemented using a unique system called 'settlement after investment'.
-well-organized implementation framework All government ministries and departments are involved and share responsibilities for e-Government projects. Additionally, the Korean government organized an e-Government committee with members from the public and private sectors. Under the direct management of the President or the Prime Minister, this committee developed a framework for systematic collaboration between government ministries.
-Technical support During each development stage the Korean e-Government has introduced and utilized advanced IT. Many organizations have contributed expertise in policy-making and technical areas.
These include: the National Information Society Agency, which specializes in providing technical support for e-Government. Government affiliated agencies, like the Korea Information Society Development Institute. Korea Internet and Security Agency and KT and other private companies.
-Dynamics and creativity of the Korean people The Korean people’s commitment to development, creativity in innovation and dedicated patriotism were critical factors in the success of Korea’s national informatization. The Korean people eagerly accept cutting-edge IT devices and equipment. They actively use broadband Internet, online government service and online financial services. This all led to raised awareness of e-Government initiatives and services and generated support for e-Government project implementation.
Korea is working to become the world’s true e-Government leader. By sharing its development process and experiences with other countries, by internally making improvements and by externally cooperating with developing countries for their e-Government development.