On a fateful Saturday morning of November 24, a fire broke out at Korea Telecom (KT) operation building which caused an Internet blackout in the metropolitan city of Seoul. The disruption lasted more than half a day in multiple districts causing Internet withdrawal havoc within South Korea, popularly known as the world’s most wired country. According to Wikipedia, KT is the largest fixed-line and high-speed Internet service provider in Korea. Largest here means that if they go down, the majority will go down with them. Thus, here are some important lessons that we could take heed in our ever more digitized world.
Cash Still Wants to Be King, So Keep It Handy
Being the world’s most connected country paves the way to having one of the world’s most cashless society. Koreans love their plastics and you can virtually buy anything anywhere with your credit or debit card, even for a can of Coke. I could barely finish up my KRW100,000 (~$100) cash in my wallet every month. So, when KT’s Internet went down, the majority of the shops and restaurants in the affected areas were forced to revert to the old-fashion cash system. The problem that arose was neither the shops nor the customers had sufficient cash on hand. The lesson to learn is always to keep some cash handy.
Triple Play + One Family One Plan May Not Be So Good After All
Carriers are known to love to drive us to connect all our homes and family under their roof, which means we conveniently trust our Internet, TV, fixed-line (commonly known as triple play in the telecom world) and even our family’s mobile phone plans with one single operator. In return, we are promised better cost savings and single bill payment, thus peace of mind. Not so fast. When KT’s network went down, I was conveniently disconnected from the digital world thanks to having my WiFi, cable TV and my phone all under their care. Korean news outlets were filled with complaints from KT customers grumbling about not able to do anything during the outage. No work no play makes Jack a bored boy. Lesson learned – don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversity, at least a little.
There’s a World Outside Our Phone
Having no Internet gave me a reason to go out and enjoy nature. So while I was on the bus heading to the nearby Bukhansan national park, I was quite surprised to notice that people were not staring at their phone anymore. Social interaction suddenly took center stage. People found time to do things that they ought to do, such as talking to their kids or going out and breathe the fresh air. Lesson to learn – there’s a live and active world outside our phone. Do take time to enjoy it.
KT was quick on their feet to restore back their Internet service. By evening, I was happy to return back to a very well connected home and by the next morning, 70% of the affected part of Seoul was back online. But that fateful day gave me an alternative perspective in our insatiable drive to digitize our lives. Sometimes, it’s good to look back and realize there’s still an offline world that’s waiting for us.