Sunday, July 3, 2016

Korea is 14th in Mobile 'Net Connectivity? No way.

Korea ranked 14th?

You might have seen a report that came out this week, claiming that Korea ranks 14th in the world in Mobile Internet Connectivity:

SEOUL, June 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea ranked 14th among 134 countries in terms of mobile internet connectivity, a global association of mobile operators said on Tuesday.
According to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), South Korea scored 80.7 out of 100 in four key areas of mobile internet connectivity --infrastructure, affordability, consumer readiness and content. Australia topped the list, followed by the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, Finland, the United States, Iceland and the U.K., the association said.
[Yonhap News | S. Korea ranks 14th in mobile internet connectivity: report]

Now I was immediately skeptical that Australia could beat out Korea in this realm, and apparently I wasn't alone. No offense to readers down under, but there's no way you have more mobile internet penetration than Korea. So I did a little digging, and came across what looks like the report they are talking about.

It's a PDF you can find here:

Top 25, by the numbers

Let's look at the numbers from that report:


You can see that Korea is actually #1 in Infrastructure. No surprise there. The obvious drop for Korea was in the "Content" area. Somehow Australia is beating Korea in mobile internet content? Really? That threw up a red flag right there. Koreans must consume more mobile content than anyone. Take a ride on the subway and see the mindless phone staring zombies for yourself. I know guys who have 20GB/month LTE data plans, and burn through it in two weeks. I don't even think I use that much data on my home Wi-Fi.

Korea falls short in "Content"?

So I looked for what the report means by "Content" and found this:


OK, like I thought, this report seems pretty biased towards US-friendly websites.

The problem of bias

  • Quality of e-government services (25%)
    I'll grant you some of the government services are a hassle, but many, especially for the smartphone market (desktop browsers can be another story) work great. Kojects just highlighted one in their recent post. I wonder how familiar this report is with them. 
  • Facebook penetration rate (15%)
    I'm sure more Aussies are on Facebook, but so what? Koreans have Band, KakaoStory, and Line locally, not to mention the anecdotal preference for Instagram, not to mention the still highly active blogger community that never lost steam like blogs did in the West. "How much people use Facebook" is a wildly presumptive and biased factor to include. 
  • Wikipedia edits per user (10%)
    Accessible Wikipedia articles for the average person (10%)
    Accessible website content for the average person (10%)
    Have you seen the Korean version of Wikipedia? It's terrible. It has very limited content; even if there is an article for a topic, it's usually very short and lacking lots of the detail English articles have. Why? Because Koreans don't have much mobile internet? No. Because they're too stupid to know how to use an online encyclopedia? No. Because they use their own domestic services instead, and have been doing so for years. Namu Wiki (나무위키) is probably the most similar to Wikipedia, but there's also Naver Encyclopedia (네이버 지식백과), and don't forget about that old favorite, Naver Knowledge* (네이버지식iN). Measuring how much people use Wikipedia is an absurd way to measure international internet use. I mean if we're going by Wikipedia articles, Filipinos who speak Waray (the 5th most spoken language there!) would have a higher score than Koreans (Waray is in the "1 million club" at Wikipedia).
  • Average accessibility of the top 100 mobile apps to the average person (80%)
    All I'd say here is to remember that Korean carriers have their own popular app stores, which some Korean game manufacturers prefer over Google Play. But it looks like this wasn't an issue in the stats. 

So how did Korea really do in these areas? The breakdown was on a sister site that the PDF linked to:

69.4 - Local Relevance
30.7- Facebook user penetration
33.7- Wikipedia edits per internet user
69.4- ccTLDs per capita
97.6- Online Service Index score for E-Government
78.6- gTLDs per capita

76.9 0 Availability
3.8- Wikipedia articles accessible to population
95.5- Accessibility of mobile applications
1.0- Websites accessible to population
[GSMA Mobile Connectivity Index]

Low scores for Facebook and terrible scores for Wikipedia. Just like I thought.

Korea apparently also got a big ding in the "Spectrum" subsection of Infrastructure, with only a 33.2 score overall, and 27.0 for "Spectrum below 1GHz". Maybe somebody smarter than me can explain that one.

Lazy reporting

Overall, it's clear why Korea got majorly dinged in this category. It should be clear too that it's a biased category and not representative of the actual mobile internet penetration rate in Korea. And I'd be hesitant to trust its ranking for other countries as well, especially those with their own preferred SNS services. It feels arrogant and biased to think "Facebook & Wikipedia" are THE content on the net.

Hey I'm no expert, and don't claim to be. But from a trade group that seems to specialize in this, it sure seems a lazy way to get stats. So don't believe everything you read. Korea's mobile internet penetration rate is just fine. Now I'm going to get back to torrenting legally streaming entire seasons of TV shows on my phone in 5 minutes.

Thanks for reading.

*Is there an official English name for this? Knowledge-in? Knowledgian? This is more like Yahoo Answers than a curated Wikipedia, but no where near as ghetto as Yahoo Answers either. I'll never forget that I once had a coworker whose daughter had a few minor parts in a few minor dramas. I did a search for her, and the only result outside her official agency profile was a 네이버지식iN question asking "Who was that beautiful actress in hospital bed #4 in last night's episode of BlahBlahBlah drama?" and it was answered with overflowing praise by someone who seemed to know all about the girl. The question was answered something like 15 minutes after it was asked. To this day I highly suspect both were written by her mother. Nice girl, hope she gets more work in the future. 
EDIT: A friend made a good comparison: 네이버지식iN is more like Quora than Yahoo Answers. 

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