Lessons learned from the South Korean and Hong Kong Success Stories of Broadband Development


Jyoti Choudrie and Anastasia Papazafeiropoulou


The potentials offered by the Internet have been now recognised by organizations, thereby making the use of the Internet as a common practice to conduct business. This outcome has also resulted in organisations benefiting from international exposure as well as fast, secure and cost effective transactions. Governments have also realised the significance of Information Technology (IT) development for economic growth leading to an increasing trend towards heavy government intervention in IT diffusion in general (King et al., 1994) and the exploitation of the Internet in particular (Press et al., 1998). National interests in broadband clearly fall within this Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) policy trend. Broadband diffusion and capacity development are central to debates in many countries concerning the role of the government in developing efficient broadband policies particularly in terms of the usage of public money (e.g., BAG, 2003; BSG, 2002).

This paper investigates two successful broadband development strategies in two national settings (South East Asia), namely South Korea (henceforth Korea) and Hong Kong China (henceforth Hong Kong). The phenomenal success of the pursued strategies resulted in Korea being the world leader in broadband development whilst Hong Kong being considered to be amongst the top five countries in broadband use around the globe. More particularly, there are 10 million broadband users in South Korea today and the country has the highest broadband penetration in the world (Kim, 2002). Additionally, industry commentators expect the market for the current generation of broadband services (between 2 and 8 Mbps) to reach the saturation point by the second quarter of 2003 (Ministry of Information and Communication, 2002). In Hong Kong the growth of broadband has also been exceptionally fast. From an amount of 51494 connections in February 2000 there has been a tremendous growth of over 50% witnessed in recent years (Anonymous, 2001). For instance, the numbers of broadband subscribers have surged from 640,000 in early 2002 to nearly 970,000 in November 2002. Broadband networks now cover every commercial building and more than 98% of households in Hong Kong. This percentage is very close to the government’s aim of achieving 100% broadband penetration in the country.

For this study the research question guiding it can be described as follows. What can be learnt about the diffusion of broadband by examining the experiences of the world leaders at broadband diffusion (Korea and Hong Kong)? Our aim is to get a better understanding of the broadband technology diffusion process pursued in two South East Asia countries that have pursued successful broadband diffusion strategies, and offer recommendations for best practices in the development of national technology strategies in other geographical regions such as Europe.

Our research is based on both primary (from face-to-face interviews) and secondary data such as, newspaper articles and archival records. Specifically, the Korean case is based upon various data collection sources including a field study trip that took place in July 2002. Initial findings have shown that in Korea the government played an imperative role in the diffusion of broadband technology, with its vision being supported and carried forward by members of the public and the private sector. The Hong Kong case is mainly analysed using data from a field trip in December 2002 as well as secondary resources, which contrary to the Korean case, have initially shown that the competitive market was the most significant success factor. The Hong Kong case is additionally interesting as the country has had a predominantly western influence in its economic strategies and can reveal important lessons significant for the diffusion of broadband in Europe.

Although different in terms of diffusion policies, both these countries utilised information technology as a means of reviving their economies. In this paper we outline how the role of the government has the potential to influence the adoption of IT technologies such as broadband. We use the framework of King et al. (1994) about the influential and regulatory role of the government and we examine the importance of supply push and demand pull strategies followed by the governments in the two cases under investigation. Following that we compare institutional actions adopted by both the Hong Kong and Korean governments in the process of broadband diffusion. This comparison illustrates the level of significance of the government’s role.


Anonymous (2001). Hong Kong: Connecting the World. 2001 Digital Strategy. Viewed on September 2, 2003 at: http://www.info.gov.hk/digital21/eng/download/download/2001digital21e.pdf Published May.

King, J., Gurbaxani, V., Kraemer, K., McFarlan, F., Raman, F. & Yap, F. W. (1994). Institutional factors in information technology innovation. Information Systems research 5, 139-169.

The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG), (2002). Second Annual Report and Strategic Recommendations. November.

BAG. 2003. Australia’s Broadband Connectivity. Viewed on August 28, 2003 at: http://www.noie.gov.au/publications/NOIE/BAG/report/index.htm

Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) 2002. ‘IT Korea 2002’, Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC), Seoul, South Korea.

Kim, S.J. (2002). “Half of Korea’s Top 10 Export Items Changed in 2 Decades”. Korea Times, August 25.