By Kim Tong-hyung
The massive success of Apple's online content `App Store has technology companies around the world racing to produce similar products. The latest to jump on the bandwagon is the Korean government.
According to the Ministry of Public Administration and Safety, the Lee Myung-bak administration is looking to push a government ``app store'' to improve the distribution of public information such as weather forecasts, traffic updates and job openings.
Although a few countries around the world have been experimenting with online applications platforms and server-based information systems for government employees, Korea is among the first to plan an app store intended for public use.
The tentatively named the ``national app store,'' which will be based on an open application programming interface (API) to ensure compatibility, will debut as early as during the first-half of this year, ministry officials said.
With the rising popularity of smartphones and other portable data devices expected to ignite a mobile Internet explosion, app stores are expected to reshape the way people receive and share information.
``The plan is to first launch the government app store as an Internet site and then expand it to mobile platforms,'' said an official from the Public Administration Ministry, which controls Korea's e-government services.
``Since the establishment of the government information database in 1999, more than 300 million sources of public information are being held. By allowing the public to access and use the massive amount of government information, the private sector will be given the means to create more added-value services.''
To encourage the use of the government app store, the ministry also plans to lower the barriers for private companies and developers in government information to develop and sell mobile software products.
The popularity of the Apple iPhone and other smartphones has software developers creating a growing number of applications offering real-time and predicted traffic conditions for use on mobile devices.
However, many of these programs were plucked off networks before ever getting the chance to take hold, with miffed government officials claiming that the software developers are benefiting from the unauthorized use of public data.
For example, iKorail, a free program that provides real-time train status and schedule information, has been a popular application on Apple's App Store since its debut in 2008. But iKorail became defunct last month, with Korail, the state rail operator, blocking them from accessing its Internet server.
A similar dispute had the Gyeonggi provincial government briefly halt Seoul Bus, which provided real-time status for buses in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province cities.
The Public Administration Ministry said it is talking with other government agencies to expand the amount of public information made available on the App Store. For example, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism could provide information on performing arts events and museum exhibitions, while the Seoul Metropolitan Government could provide its own applications regarding childcare facilities, ministry officials said.