LBS technologies in fighting COVID-19 – the case-study of Korea
This article dives into the unique aspects of South Korea’s background and its respective approach to dealing with the current global pandemic
Although it was hit badly at the early stage of the corona outbreak in February, South Korea managed to promptly execute a response to this unprecedented challenge has been regarded as exemplary by experts and global media.
There are a number of reasons for Korea’s swift and effective COVID-19 counter-actions.
- Well-established IT infrastructure: the smartphone penetration rate is nearly 100%, the Internet and mobile networks are one of the fastest in the world, and they are extensive and densely installed. Online transactions and credit cards are used more than any other countries. As an emergency measure, the authorities could have access to the location data of confirmed patients and quickly map out sites/people they have contacted, making it possible to give real-time warning to the public.
- Previous experiences: Korea has suffered SARS, Influenza A, and MERS in the past decade and has been better prepared for another crisis.
- Social norms: In relation to past experiences, public awareness of personal hygiene and social distancing is high and well observed.
With respect to the use of location-based data, what interests foreign observers might be mobile apps that monitor confirmed carriers with the help of GNSS signals to prevent people from being super-spreaders. Moreover, online/app services release information on what places confirmed patients have visited. The information is rich and easy to find, and therefore, helpful to keep a distance from locations or people that might carry the virus.
The government issued an app for patients which gives them quarantine guidelines and collects their location information (on consent – patients can opt-out for monitoring by daily phone call). Major news outlets and IT companies are providing online maps that mark potentially dangerous areas.
Also notable is the private sector’s leading role in applying IT. A college student developed a “Corona map” that mark the confirmed patients’ location and visit history, inspiring similar apps and further information sharing by the government. Once the government had decided to open the data on face mask manufacturing and distribution, dozens of apps have emerged to show distribution sites (pharmacies) and the availability.
On the other hand, the extensive use of personal location data has raised concerns about privacy. It is subject to further discussion among politicians, legal experts, and civil society.
- “What the U.S. Needs to do Today to Follow South Korea’s Model for Fighting Coronavirus,” Time magazine, 17 March 2020.
- “How South Korea Flattened the Curve,” The New York Times, 23 March 2020.
- South Korea learned its successful Covid-19 strategy from a previous coronavirus outbreak: MERS