Our Head of Innovation, Hadrien Jouet, continues to travel the globe looking at how different countries and cultures adopt technology and use digital to expand and stimluate communication, networks and economic growth.
Having spent six months in the digital hub that is San Francisco, USA, Hadrien then moved on to Busan in South Korea where he spent several months living and working. In this blog (the first in a series looking at the insights he's gained throughout the next stage of his travels) Hadrien describes his experiences and how South Korea differs from the digital cultures he has been exposed to thus far.
"What generally characterises different countries or ethnicities is their respective cultures, the way they abide by it, nurture it and make it evolve. While this may sound fairly obvious, this is a very important factor when delivering a product to a client, both from the provider and the client’s perspectives, and this may sometimes be forgotten or put aside as a minor factor.
"One of the main triggers for my travels was the wish to better understand cultures, what they have in common and what makes them different. As most people will be aware, even the simplest thing, such as greeting someone, may vary greatly from culture to culture, and not just from a language perspective. Technology is no different. In fact, in my experience, it has a tendency to further exacerbate differences. Different cultures will use different technologies, or the same ones but for different reasons or to varying extents.
"The first time this struck me was ten years ago when moving to Scotland from France. People used different brands of mobile phones, people in the UK had a tendency to use the Internet on their phones a lot more, social networks were far more popular in the UK, and so on. The more I travelled, the more I noticed these differences. Then, on coming to South Korea this whole concept became even more glaringly obvious.
"South Korea has some of the fastest Internet on the planet, and by a long shot. The average connection speed in 2012 was 15.7 Mbps, making it the second best in the world. The connection I’m using as I write this is a 100 Mbps symmetrical connection, and it costs me less than £20/month. I’ve never had to pay for access to the Internet outside my home, I can use it in the train, in the subway, and in the middle of just about any street. Most South Korean cities are extremely big (Busan, where I stay, has about the same population as the whole of Scotland), and people tend to commute a lot. So no wonder mobile usage has exploded over the last few years.
"Comparatively, the UK doesn’t even make the top 20 list for fastest Internet connections. It’s a well-known fact that the British government has generally made very little effort to subsidise the development of a strong infrastructure. General public (read free) access to the Internet is still in its infancy and the costs of data (all types of connections, including mobile) are incredibly high. This is not about bashing the UK’s infrastructure (or decisions regarding it), this is about showing where different countries have made radically different decisions when it comes to technology. As an example, the UK’s effort to develop the current infrastructure and supposedly make it one of the fastest in Europe is costing £980 million. This may seem like a lot, but Australia is spending £23 billion to develop a better, more available Internet."
Part 2 of "The Culture of Technology" will look at further differences in the usage, development and infrastructure of the Internet in South Korea and how Hadrien feels this impacts upon user behaviour and culture as a whole.