Integrations Journal



North Korea: A Nation That Has The Internet And Technology But Keeps Citizens Bereft Of It

Written by  Sorab Ghaswalla | 21 January 2013
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north korea internetThanks to the Executive Chairman of Google Inc. Eric Schmidt, the world knows a little more about North Korea and the digital technology it has (or doesn’t).Mr Schmidt was in North Korea earlier this month on a private visit along with former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and others. He had been requested by the United States Government not to proceed on the visit but he still did.

Now, according to Online news portals, Schmidt has been talking to the media about this high-profile visit to a country which is one of the most-closed societies of the world. While in the country, the Google Chairman was exposed to N. Korea’s software and technology. He told journalists on his return that most of it was based on open source running mostly Linux. Internet access was limited to only the government, the military, and universities.

Schmidt took to his Social Networking Site Google+ Page yesterday to reveal details about his controversial three-day trip. Schmidt stated here that the current Internet system North Korea was not good enough to help the country stay connected with the rest of the world. He also spoke of the strict policies governing the access and use of the Internet.

As Schmidt has described it, North Koreans can make use of a “supervised Internet”, where users appear to be required to have a person monitoring them at all times while they browse. Really! There's also North Korea's Intranet, featuring content that's been culled by the government itself.

N. Korea has a 3G network that is a joint venture with an Egyptian company called Orascom. It is a 2100 Megahertz SMS-based technology network. But it does not allow users to have a data connection or put it on smartphones. Estimates are that are about a million and a half phones in the DPRK with some growth planned in the near future.

Mr Schmidt has dubbed all this “digital censorship” as very bad for North Korea, adding that it was bound to affect those citizens’ physical, mental and economic growth. The Google Chairman, known as a vocal proponent of the Internet, also interacted with many in North Korea, according to Governor Richardson, and emphasised the need of free Web access.

A report in PC Mag said Mr Schmidt's daughter, Sophie, had also blogged about her dad’s visit. Sophie spoke about a North Korean version of the US international Consumer Electronics Show, where she witnessed a Tablet shown off by officials of the ‘Korea Computer Center’.

"What's so odd about the whole thing is that no one in North Korea can even hope to afford the things they showed us. They're building products for a market that doesn't exist," Sophie Schmidt wrote.

(Image Courtesy: Eric Schmidt Google+)

Sorab Ghaswalla

Sorab Ghaswalla

Sorab Ghaswalla is the Founder of India-based digital world consultancy firm, New Age Content Services LLP, an Internet Entrepreneur & Consultant, a journalist, and owner/Editor of 2 websites. In his free time, he contemplates the larger implications of digital life.

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