Here’s What Eric Schmidt Said About North Korea
Not everyone was happy with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s trip to North Korea, or its secretive nature, but it seems like now we have some details about what the whole thing was about. Schmidt posted on his Google+ account this morning, and said the goal was to talk to North Korea about a free and open Internet. The reason many people suspected Schmidt was making the trip was to increase Google’s market into the country, but why can’t it be both? Google would no doubt get one of its many fingers into an open North Korean Internet, so it could be a classic win-win for Google and the North Korean people.
In his Google+ post, Schmidt said that he was shown the mostly Linux-based software and technology that controlled the supervised Internet in North Korea, and mentioned that only the government, military, and universities had access to it.
When Schmidt said the Internet was supervised, it seems he meant it literally. He said:
There is a supervised Internet and a Korean Intranet. (It appeared supervised in that people were not able to use the Internet without someone else watching them). There’s a private intranet that is linked with their universities. Again, it would be easy to connect these networks to the global Internet.
It seems like to use the Internet in North Korea at all, someone has to physically stand over your shoulder and watch what you are doing. That adds a real level of tension when you’re trying to communicate about sensitive subjects, or watch adorable cat videos.
There is an existing 3G network in the country, but it is not currently connected to the Internet. Making that connection, Schmidt says, would be “very easy” and he notes that there are already one and half million phones in the country that would be able to access the Internet through a 3G connection, with growth planned in the future.
Schmidt obviously has something to gain by North Korea opening up the Internet, since it’s very likely that citizens would start using some Google products, but he also says it’s good for North Korea itself to open up. Schmidt said:
As the world becomes increasingly connected, the North Korean decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world and their economic growth. It will make it harder for them to catch up economically.
An open Internet allows growth and communication, and Schmidt says that if North Korea doesn’t open its Internet to citizens they will fall behind.