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Pyongyang Far From Computer Illiterate
On a recent visit to North Korea, Nayan Sthankiya got a snapshot of the People's Study Hall
Nayan Sthankiya (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2004-12-16 17:07 (KST)   
The People's Library boasts many computers that are all networked and 90 percent of the books are available through this intranet.
©2004 NSthankiya
There is a notion in the rest of the world that North Korea as a whole is backwards and struggling. It has little infrastructure and is for the most part computer illiterate.

In a recent trip to the North I found very much the opposite, though the availability of computers seems localized to Pyongyang and they are often incapacitated by the numerous power outages that regularly affect the country.

The average North Korean family does not have a computer in their home and Internet access is not available to the general population, which is not surprising given the state controlled information policies. Not so long ago, Internet access in China was unheard of.

©2004 NSthankiya
©2004 NSthankiya
The public does have access to computers, though not the free flow of information that is the Internet, at the People's Study Hall in Kim Il-sung Square. The huge, sprawling building that houses a library and lecture halls was envisioned and constructed by Kim Il-sung as a place of knowledge and learning for all the people of North Korea.

Lectures on various topics like science, mathematics, history and even Internet infrastructure are conducted daily. Language classes are also taught -- English, French, Japanese and Spanish, to name a few.

©2004 NSthankiya
©2004 NSthankiya
The library boasts many computers all networked on an internal intranet. Ninety percent of the libraries books are available through this intranet. The computers are not state of the art, but they are more than adequate Pentium 3 machines running Windows 2000 in English. I'm sure Bill Gates will be happy to know that the North Korea has chosen Windows also.

©2004 NSthankiya
The library has an automated book retrieval system, all requested books, magazines or papers are sent to a central librarian through a request made by computer. The requested item is then sent from the storage area through a rail system to the librarian.

©2004 NSthankiya
It셲 also important to keep in mind that North Korea is producing some very high production value computer animation feature length and short movies. In recent years they have also started producing computer games targeted for cell phones.

©2004 NSthankiya
©2004 NSthankiya
Many of the people I spoke with in Pyongyang were aware of games such as Star Craft, War Craft and Doom, very popular in the South and the rest of the world.

Despite the many recent and continuing hardships that North Korea has had to endure, the country has not stood still. They are trying to keep pace with the ever-increasing need to stay current and up to date in information technology.

©2004 NSthankiya

Nayan Sthankiya is a Canadian photojournalist. Based in South Korea for the last four years, he covers various news and feature stories in Korea, China and Asia Pacific.

His background includes photography, sculpture, painting, design, video and travel. Trained in media arts at the Alberta College of Art and Design, with a minor in photography, his images have been published locally and internationally in magazines, dailies and the Internet.

"Photojournalism is a profession that should not be undertaken lightly, the duty of a photojournalist should be to tell the stories of those that are unable to, at all costs, and by telling those stories effect change in thought and policy," Sthankiya says.
©2004 OhmyNews

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