Survey: Korean Businesses Don’t Yet Have Their Heads in the Cloud

A new study conducted by Microsoft has come to the rather surprising conclusion that when it comes to cloud computing, Korean businesses are among the biggest laggards in the Asia-Pacific region.

The study — which covered Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Korea — found that on a five-point scale gauging how well businesses understood cloud computing (with five the highest), Korea scored just 2.7, placing it second last ahead of Thailand.

Most starkly, the survey found that fully 70 percent of small businesses (defined as having 50 PCs or fewer) either didn’t know cloud computing well or didn’t know about it at all. Most such companies, it said, also didn’t have in-house IT specialists, nor did they have easy access to support personnel.

In Australia, which came joint first in the rankings, 45 percent of responding CEOs or IT specialists said that they clearly understood cloud computing, while 35 percent said they had already installed cloud computing services. By contrast, just 18 percent of Korean CEOs and IT specialists said they had a good understanding of the cloud. These results, however, disguised big differences between large companies (with more than 500 PCs), where 73 percent of respondents said they “knew about cloud computing,” and medium-sized companies (fewer than 500 PCs), where just 3 percent of respondents said they “knew cloud computing well.”

From left to right, the pie charts below show results from small, medium-sized and large Korean companies when asked their familiarity with cloud computing. The dark blue represents “don’t know at all,” red is “don’t know,” green is “heard of it,” purple is “know it,” light blue is “know it well,” and orange is “no response.”

In a very illuminating part of the study, the results showed that the more ignorant a company was of cloud computing, the more likely it was to believe that it would have a negative impact on the company’s IT department.

Some 64 percent and 75 percent of respondents from Korea and Thailand, the two countries with the lowest understanding of the cloud, said that they expected cloud computing to wield a negative influence on their IT departments. For big companies in Korea, that figure rose to 76 percent.

In Australia and New Zealand, these doubts dropped to between 10 and 20 percent. (The graph immediately below is about Korea, with 34 percent of respondents saying that cloud computing does not have a negative impact. The one below that covers Australia.)


According to one cloud computing specialist in Korea:

We go to companies to introduce cloud computing, but the more junior staff come up with 100 reasons why it can’t be done. In reality, the working groups have just decided not to do anything about it.

The reason for this antipathy at lower levels, it seems, is a widespread belief that adopting cloud computing is primarily a means for companies to cut costs — and lay off staff. As for CEOs or senior IT staff, they cite “security” (30 percent), “management” (19 percent) and “price” (19 percent) as the main reasons for their reluctance to adopt cloud computing.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on the impact of cloud computing on staffing levels, but Bloter quotes Federico Eto, a professor of economics at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, as saying:

If you adopt cloud computing, far from leading to reductions in IT manpower, it actually creates employment and has positive macroeconomic effects.

On first blush — given Korea’s often dizzying prowess in high tech industries, broadband, etc — these results may seem rather perplexing. However, when seen in light of Korea’s particular brand of ambivalence to big business, and its stubborn persistence with someĀ antiquated technological models, it perhaps makes more sense.

Still, it is easy to imagine that once cloud computing does gain some traction in Korea, it will be seized on with the same zeal as iPhones, apps and internet startups.

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