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South Korea to step-up online coronavirus tracking

South Korea is set to deploy a new system using data such as surveillance camera footage and credit card transactions of confirmed coronavirus patients to recreate their movements.

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Central and local governments in South Korea are sending real-time alerts via text message, apps and online on the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) as well as the travel histories of those infected.

 

The “self-quarantine safety protection” app, developed by the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, allows those who have been quarantined to stay in touch with caseworkers. It also uses GPS to keep track of their location to make sure they are not breaking their quarantine, MIT Technology Review reports.

 

Officials said the app is not mandatory and telephone calls will still remain an option.

 

Concerns

 

The Corona 100m (Co100) app, was launched on February 11 and, using government data, alerts users when they come within 100 metres of a location visited by an infected person. It had a million downloads in its first ten days after launch, according to South Korean government website Korea.net, which said the app “allows users to conveniently avoid potentially dangerous locations without checking the travel histories of those infected”.

 

Meanwhile, the Coronamap website shows the travel histories of confirmed COVID-19 patients and Coronaita aims to function “like a search engine” for information on coronavirus-hit areas.

 

The approach has sparked some concerns about information overload and privacy/surveillance.

 

According to reports, the communications don’t identify patients individually but give their gender and age range and assign them a case number.

 

A new system allows "various data" about confirmed COVID-19 patients to be immediately analysed and provided to health investigators.

 

The Korea Herald reports that South Korea will advance tracking further from Monday, operating a “smart city technology system” aimed at helping health investigators to quickly check data such as surveillance camera footage and credit card transactions of confirmed COVID-19 patients to recreate their routes.

 

Previously, the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) investigators had to request and wait for data such as CCTV footage and credit card transactions of confirmed patients from police investigators.

The new system, co-developed by the Ministry of Science and ICT, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, and the KCDC, allows "various data" about confirmed COVID-19 patients to be immediately analysed and provided to health investigators. It is based on the ‘smart city data hub programme’ currently under development by the central government and the municipal government of Daegu.

 

Opening mask data

 

The government is also opening up data on the availability of protective masks amid a nationwide shortage and long queues. Data on protective masks sold through public channels is being jointly provided by the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and small and medium companies through an open API. Around 10 developers are understood to have used the data so far to launch apps.

 

The Ministry of Science and ICT noted the importance of "public-private cooperation" such as this to manage the situation. There could be a challenge, though, as Apple and Google are taking measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus misinformation via apps, reports say. This could include rejecting coronavirus-related apps which are not submitted by governments or health authorities.

 

SmartCitiesWorld has requested further information on the coronavirus tracking systems.

 

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