KT draws $10 mn backing from Gates Foundation for epidemic prevention project

2020.05.18 13:35:44 | 2020.05.18 13:36:14

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South Korea’s leading mobile carrier KT Corp. received funding of 12 billion won ($9.7 million) from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to spearhead a project to monitor infectious disease outbreaks through IT solutions.

The Korean company said on Sunday the Seattle-based private foundation has pledged 12 billion won over the next three years in KT’s joint research with tech companies in the global epidemic prevention platform (GEPP). The platform was launched by KT in 2015 during the MERS outbreak and has gained international spotlight amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research consists of two mainstay projects. First is to develop an analytics system to detect future contagious disease outbreaks. Another is a monitoring program that taps telecommunications data to study the movement of people and the spread of the contagion to identify at-risk locations.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was founded in 2000 by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates. It is one of the world’s largest private foundations, with $46.8 billion in assets as of late 2018. It is devoted to improving healthcare and reducing extreme poverty globally and, in the U.S., expanding educational opportunities and access to information technology.

The KT-led research consortium includes Kim Woo-joo, a Korea University College of Medicine professor specializing in infectious diseases; the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information; a smart thermometer making startup Mobile Doctor; and blockchain medical data processor MediBloc.

KT in March teamed up with its peers China Mobile and Japan’s NTT Docomo to introduce the GEPP system in their respective countries. Under the partnership, KT would be allowed to send disease prevention text messages to not only Koreans visiting China and Japan but to Chinese and Japanese travelers in Korea. The same service would also be provided by the other two carriers.

China Mobile has more than 900 million subscribers. NTT Docomo is Japan’s leading mobile operator used by 79.6 million people, or 60 percent of the country’s population.

KT said the predictability of the GEPP system will vastly improve as it gains more partners. It also shared plans to take the solution to the Middle East and other regions.

By Lim Young-sin and Kim Hyo-jin

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