I was thrilled to spend some of my time last week in Seoul, South Korea.
Korea is acknowledged as a modern economic miracle.
From being one of the poorest countries in the world – in 1960, its GDP per capita was just $155 – in a single generation, it has become a highly-developed, high-income global economic power-house; now the 4th largest economy in Asia and 11th largest worldwide.
And at the heart of that national transformation is innovation.
Today, Korea spends more on R&D as a % of GDP than any other nation, adds more value during their manufacturing process than any other and has a highly-concentrated, locally-based, hi-tech industrial eco-system. All of this has led to Korea being recently recognised as one of the most innovative economies in the world.
And helping to further accelerate that innovation was the primary purpose of my visit there last week.
I was extremely proud to announce, before a packed auditorium in Seoul, the general availability of our cloud platform, Microsoft Azure, from two new Microsoft Cloud regions – one in Seoul, the other in Busan.
This makes a total of 13 Microsoft Cloud regions now available in Asia, and 38 announced across the globe – more than any other major cloud provider.
Organizations in Korea, embarking on their digital transformation journeys, can now locally access Azure’s leading collection of integrated cloud services. In addition, we announced that Microsoft’s industry-leading collaboration and productivity services, Office 365, will also be generally available from Korea in Q2 of 2017.
Bringing on-stream these local Azure regions means that any organisation in Korea – start-ups, small businesses, enterprise, government, education – can now directly benefit from Microsoft’s enterprise-grade reliability and performance, combined with local data residency – including data replication in multiple locations within Korea – for business continuity. Combined with our global footprint, the new Azure regions in Korea will help organizations bring their services and applications closer to customers around the world..
Over the last few months, I have visited Korea several times, where I had the good fortune to meet with some of our customers and partners in the market. What really impressed me was the sense of urgency in embarking on their digital transformation journey.
Microsoft recently conducted a Digital Transformation Study, interviewing 1,500 business leaders across Asia-Pacific to better understand where they are in their process of digital transformation. In Korea, 79% of business leaders agreed that every organization needs to be a digital business to enable growth in the future. However, just like many parts of the region, digital transformation strategies are still at a nascent stage for most organizations in Korea, with only 18% of businesses leaders surveyed currently having a full digital strategy in place.
What’s exciting for us is that 76% of respondents in Korea regard cloud computing as essential to their digital transformation strategy. In fact, 75% of business leaders in Korea surveyed said that cloud computing and the decreasing cost of devices have made it more affordable for companies of any sizes to transform digitally.
Established businesses in Korea have also found ways to drive growth by harnessing these emerging digital technologies. One example is LG Electronics; this global consumer electronics giant embraced digital transformation by changing its traditional role of selling devices into that of a service company. Judicious use of the cloud and data analytics has empowered LG Electronics to sell services which can not only diagnose the condition of devices, but also to fix customer issues remotely, thanks to real-time data collection and Stream Analytics with the help of the Azure IoT Hub from their digital signage solutions.
At the end of the day, building a global, trusted, intelligent cloud platform remains central to Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. We will continue to invest heavily in cloud infrastructure to meet the growing demand from our customers and partners in Asia Pacific to fuel growth, spur innovation, and accelerate digital transformation in a cloud-first world.