The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to invest six billion won in South Korean telecommunications operator KT’s research on solutions to pandemic control and prevention over the next three years. U.S. tech guru Bill Gates has recently commended South Korea as one of the best examples of successfully containing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the South Korean telecoms carrier on Sunday, it has since last month carried out a research program regarding next-generation quarantine methods to control pandemics with sponsorship by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the next three years, KT aims to develop an AI-based early diagnosis algorithm for contagious diseases and an infection path prediction model based on communications data. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will pay half the cost of the research project on installments on a yearly basis.
A working group on data innovation during the 2018 World Economic Forum reportedly served as the first bridge between KT and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Their discussion was initiated in April last year when the foundation showed an interest in KT’s presentation on its project titled Global Epidemic Prevention Platform (GEPP) at the ICT Forum organized by Right Fund, an investment group for global healthcare research.
KT has ramped up its research efforts by creating a consortium consisting of Professor Kim Woo-joo at the Korea University Medical Center, the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI), block chain tech firm MediBloc and digital healthcare business Mobile Doctor. The Korea University Medical Center is in charge of operating a flu monitoring system and analyzing pathogenic gene sequences. The KISTI develops a prediction modeling solution to the inflow of flu cases and epidemics while MediBloc works on a data sharing platform based on block chain technology.
One of KT’s first goals by October this year is to work with Mobile Doctor to release a mobile application on which users record suspicious flu symptoms. Once IoT-run sensors get body temperatures taken and symptom-related data are provided to the app platform, an algorithm-based solution uses AI technology to analyze chances of flu epidemics. Added to that, a prediction model will be developed to use communication data to foresee virus-spreading patterns and flu seasons.
“The use of mobile technology and sensors paired with smart data analysis can help address some of the challenges countries face in timely and effective response to disease outbreaks,” said Andrew Trister, deputy director of global health program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He added that KT-led research efforts will play a key role in helping other handle pandemic risks.