Blog | We Go Digital: The South Korean Case and Sustainable Digital Transformations

  • 2020•05•15

    by Dr JeongHyun Lee

    South Korea might be one of the most cited countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the health crisis spreads globally, many countries have sought to examine how South Korea flattened the curve quickly without shutting down the economy. After the first case of COVID-19 on 20 January in South Korea, the infection rate gradually increased in Seoul. In late February to early March, however, the controllable number of positive cases exploded, with 909 new cases in a single day at the peak. Through a mass infection at a local church in Daegu, COVID-19 became rapidly widespread across the Korean peninsula. However, the number of new cases continuously halved every week, and, only about three weeks from the peak, South Korea flattened the curve even when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The notable downturn in the curve attracted global attention and provided a blueprint on how to control the virus with minimal damage.

    As many experts worldwide agree, aggressive testing and precautionary practices have been significant factors in controlling the virus in a short time. From the beginning of the virus outbreak until now, however, one more factor stands out: the public use of digital technologies. While aggressive testing and precautionary treatment have been implemented, all virus-related information and precautionary instructions were shared across digital technologies, especially mobile applications. Preparing for the post-pandemic era, South Korea, like several other Asian countries, is planning the digital transformation using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) on a national scale. Besides the effectiveness of digital transformation, attention should also be paid to what forms of marginalisation might be caused by the post-pandemic picture taking shape.

    Read the full blog post on UNU-CRIS’ Connecting Ideas Blog about South Korea’s approach to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections and the need for Sustainable ICTs in the post-pandemic era:

    Picture: UNU-CRIS

    About the author

    Dr JeongHyun Lee is a Young ICTD Fellow at UNUMACAU. Her research critically examines political/ethical issues around digital storage and algorithmic processing of emerging media operations. She currently investigates a set of connected histories around face-recognition AI and its algorithmic rules across Asian countries, focusing on how its algorithmic operations are reinforcing or transforming the inequality of gender, class, and race in the context of globalization.