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New Report: How Korea Used ICT to Flatten the COVID-19 Curve

By Guest Writer on April 22, 2020

korea flatten covid19 curve ict

The world is facing an unprecedented economic, social and political crisis with the spread of COVID-19. The Republic of Korea is no exception. Korea had a surge coronavirus infections that started spreading at the local and community level.

The number of new coronavirus cases increased exponentially, peaking at 909 new infections on February 29. But new case have dropped significantly. Korea was able to successfully flatten the curve on COVID-19 in only 20 days without enforcing extreme draconian measures that restrict freedom and movement of people.

Korea’s Secret to Success? ICT

COVID-19 Digital Response played a vital role in Korea according to the official Korean Government publication, Flattening the curve on COVID-19, which presents the actual response measures of Korean government against COVID-19 using the latest ICTs, including:

  • Mobile devices were used to support early testing and contact tracing.
  • Advanced ICTs were particularly useful in spreading key emergency information and helping to maintain extensive social distancing.
  • Updated information and testing results were published on national and local government websites.
  • The government provided free smartphone apps that flagged infection hotspots with text alerts on testing and local cases.

The new report also discusses how we can fight smarter against an invisible micro-pathogen. We hope the information and experience of Korea may provide a valuable solution to help your country and community combat COVID-19.

1. ICT Helps Social Distancing

Korean government implements number of ICT measures to enhance social distancing. The CBS (cellular broadcasting service) transmits emergency alert text messages on natural or manmade disasters to cell phones through mobile telecom carriers in Korea. It is an effective tool that could help disaster response.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, Korean government opened a website to provide information about companies providing solutions for remote working and education and their products.

In addition, the government has temporarily permitted doctors to perform telemedicine from the end of February as part of preventive measures to avoid group contagion in vulnerable facilities including medical institutions and nursing homes.

2. ICT Locates COVID-19 with Speedy Testing

The test-kits for COVID-19 quickly became widely available and played a major role in eliminating uncertainties in the early stages of the viral spread. In Korea, five diagnostic reagent companies have obtained emergency use approval as of now and are producing RT-PCR reagents.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a significant role in supporting researchers and healthcare professionals in the diagnosis and screening of patients with severe symptoms, as well as developing appropriate responses based on a thorough analysis of the situation on the COVID-19 spread.

In addition, famous “Walk-Thru” testing station allows quick collection of samples as subjects walk through the station with minimal contact.

3. ICT Quickly Traces COVID-19

A COVID-19 diagnostic kit was developed by a Korean biotech company using ICT, such as AI and high-performance computing. It quickly became widely available and played a major role in eliminating uncertainties in the early stages of the viral spread.

One of the reasons behind Korea’s rapid development of diagnostic kits is because companies invest in fostering an R&D environment based on ICT such as big data and AI, which allowed the use of research resources available on global online platforms of the WHO and other international organizations.

In addition, artificial intelligence can quickly learn, recognize, and analyze large-scale data based on high-performance computing resources, enabling more accurate analysis and decision-making. A walk-thru testing station allows quick collection of samples as subjects walk through the station with minimal contact.

4. ICT Facilitates COVID-19 Treatment

The use of AI for COVID-19 research is expected to reduce the time required to develop medicine, as AI can learn and make deductions based on the virus and other medical data.

One Company, which develops new medicine and relevant platforms through the use of AI, used deep learning algorithms to predict the interaction of drug and protein, and propose candidate medicine for the coronavirus.

Another Company and its researchers used pre-trained deep learning-based drug-target interaction model called Molecule Transformer-Drug Target Interaction (MT-DTI) to identify commercially available drugs that could act on viral proteins of SARS-CoV-2.

An AI-driven drug discovery start-up using bioinformatics and pharmacogenomics for incurable and rare diseases, has been developing platforms to find candidate substances to treat COVID-19 more efficiently.

5. ICT Flattens the Curve on COVID-19

Key information such as the accumulated count by region and number of tests performed is summarized and provided as visualization data on the main page of the website.

Information on providing overseas travel history, finding COVID-19 screening centers, early-detecting of patients, using epidemiologic surveys and isolating the close contacts of a patient are also provided accordingly.

Real-time data of publicly-distributed face masks is provided to people through mobile applications and web services, reducing confusion and inconvenience while raising distribution efficiency.

COVID-19 Information is a Public Good

We should together make best efforts to turn the crisis into opportunity and make the best use of the cutting-edge COVID-19 Digital Responses in the fight against the coronavirus. We should also work together by making every information gathered on COVID-19 readily available to all.

Any information on fight against COVID-19 is a public good, and it should be provided quickly to everyone in need and in their fight against COVID-19, as they must act and response most quick and swift manner. In this pandemic we are all connected, any wisdom and experience must be also shared quickly and fairly.

We hope this study will be a small but meaningful policy guides for the international community and especially those developing countries by sharing Korea’s experiences and countermeasures against COVID-19 over the past three months. COVID-19 countermeasures taken by the Korean government will not be conclusive nor the Korean case cannot be a universal key for all countries’ fight against COVID-19.

This is the lightly edited conclusion to Flattening the curve on COVID-19

Filed Under: Government, Healthcare
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One Comment to “New Report: How Korea Used ICT to Flatten the COVID-19 Curve”

  1. John Kim says:

    The picture does not seem to be from Korea. There are Chinese characters, as opposed to Korean characters, on the mobile phone and the screen in the background…