North Korea urged to increase internet freedom

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North Korea urged to consider internet freedom

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google has completed his controversial four day visit to North Korea.

Schmidt met scientists, government officials, software developers and students during his time in capital city Pyongyang, accompanied by the former governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson. The high ranking Google official said the 'private' visit had been to discuss the importance of a "free and open internet", something the search giant has been strongly supporting recently. Google launched a campaign in November of 2012 entitled #freeandopen, urging internet users to take action against any threats to internet freedom.

Speaking at an event in Beijing, Schmidt commented: "Once the internet starts, citizens in a country can certainly build on top of it, but the government has to do something." He expressed his belief that North Korea would never progress as a nation until the government changed their restrictions on the internet and the use of mobile devices. Since November of 2011 it has been impossible for mobile phones to dial in or out of the country, and the use of mobile internet is banned for those who do own a device.

Schmidt visit highlights secrets of North Korea

North Korea is regarded as the most secretive nation on Earth, with highly limited public access to technology and visitors from outside the country only allowed very rarely. Information for internet users from outside the country interested in North Korea is also extremely limited, with the state run official website of North Korea
one of very few sources available.

Speaking of the North Korean government's refusal to allow the public access to the internet or mobile devices, Schmidt said: "As the world becomes increasingly connected, their decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world." He also commented that cutting off the world would continue to further damage the economic climate of the nation and the poverty suffered by the majority of the population.

Natalie Booth, head of search at theEword, commented on the visit: "This visit shows just how dedicated Google is to keeping the internet free and open, encouraging a highly secretive nation to allow their citizens to access information they have been denied for so long. It is unclear whether this visit will have any lasting impact on North Korea, but it is a step in the right direction at least."