Lessons from Busan: Report on the 1st Young ICT Leaders’s Forum

The author was one of 35 international participants selected by the ITU and the city of Busan to attend this event.

The three day Young ICT Leaders’ Forum jointly organised by the city of Busan, South Korea and the International Telecommunications Union came to a close on Friday, the 11th of December. The forum was attended by young professionals in the ICT Sector from over 30 countries. Pursuant to a commitment made by the city of Busan as the host of last year’s ITU Plenipotentiary conference, the event sought to inform the next generation of ICT policymakers from around the world. The first two days featured presentations by representatives of the Korean government and industry, and the ITU. Since the forum had a thematic focus on the Internet of Things(IoT), the third day involved field visits to IoT facilities around Busan.

Many of the Korean representatives made presentations of projects that were funded by the Creative Vitamins Project on Day 1. A joint initiative of the National Information Society Agency (NIA) and the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, the Creative Vitamins Project is funding upto 50 projects in the IoT space in the next 2 years. The projects presented (at various stages of completion) included smart cars, aerial drones that monitored illegal fishing, smart electric grids, healthcare IoT technologies and smart factories. The smart car presentation was particularly useful. As a technology that is close to being a commercial reality, the presentation of Su-Jin Kwag of KATECH was particularly useful in mapping the government, industry and policy inputs that went into the completion of this project.

Day 2 kicked off with a keynote address by Mr. Houlin Zhao, the Secretary General of the ITU. He noted the critical role IoT can play in the realisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The day also featured presentations from other ITU representatives on ITU’s activities in the Asia-Pacific region. In the second half of the day, participants discussed ICT policy challenges in their respective countries. The author had the chance to rapporteur one of the breakout groups.

Though many of the participants worked in technical areas, they were acutely aware of the policy and governance challenges that affected their work. Access, human rights and government corruption were issues that came up repeatedly in these discussions. Ms. Xiaoya Yang led the interactive session and along with representatives of the Korean industry provided valuable feedback on the outcomes of the breakout session. Through their feedback, they asked participants to focus on short and medium term solutions that can improve access to ICTs while being aware of long term, structural issues like corruption. They stressed the need for innovative thinking to overcome many of the challenges encountered by policy makers in developing countries.

On day 3, participants were taken on field visits to two centers of IoT research within Pusan. The first was the IoT Centre at the Pusan National University, where participants had the chance to interact with researchers working on cutting edge IoT research in healthcare, smart grids among other technologies. The second was the Hyundai factory in Ulsan which is almost entirely automated. Many of the production processes at the factory incorporated IoT technologies.

In addition to the above, the Forum afforded participants a chance to immerse themselves in Busan with cultural programmes and other social activities.

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