Schmidt Talks North Korea Visit, Limited Internet Access and 3G Network

He argues for an open internet in the country to spur economic growth

  A photo snapped by Schmidt during his visit
Google Executive Chairman and former CEO went on a surprising and discouraged visit to North Korea a couple of weeks ago, along with former New Mexico governor and UN ambassador Bill Richardson and several others, including his daughter.

Google Executive Chairman and former CEO went on a surprising and discouraged visit to North Korea a couple of weeks ago, along with former New Mexico governor and UN ambassador Bill Richardson and several others, including his daughter.

At the time, there weren't many details and he didn't say anything publicly, tough the visit was confirmed.

Now that he's back though, he has laid down some thoughts on the visit, mainly touching on the internet access in the country, or rather the lack of it.

From his account, very few people have access to the internet and under very strict rules and supervision. Internet access is only available to some in the government, military and in universities, that's it, the general public can't access it in any way.

He did stress though that the technology is there, there is an intranet connecting all universities in the country, Schmidt believes this could easily be used to enable wide internet access as well.

There is also a mobile phone network, based on 3G technology, so data connections could easily be enabled. Only phone calls and text messages work though. There are over 1.5 million phones in North Korea, Schmidt says, so there is potential.

Few if any of those are smartphones, but even feature phones are able to use the internet in a limited fashion, if it were available.

"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," Schmidt wrote, as he argued for an open internet in North Korea.

"We made that alternative very, very clear. Once the internet starts in any country, citizens in that country can certainly build on top of it, but the government has to do one thing: open up the Internet first," he added.

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