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Korea shows how to use Big Data for development

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We just came back from Korea Week where we discussed retrospect and prospects of 60 years of relations between the World Bank Group (WBG) and the Republic of Korea.  In 1955 the WBG offered a course on General Development for high officials of the recent post-war Korean government. Soon after they joined IDA financing for least developed countries as beneficiaries to improve education, infrastructure, and agriculture. Today Korea collaborates with the WBG as donor on 29 trust funds totaling more than half billion dollars in Fiscal Years 12-14.
In one generation they moved from recipients and borrowers, to lenders and grantors of development programs. Korea is also a great example of how to leverage technology and connectivity for economic growth, innovation, and competitive advantage.
Keeping with this trend, Korea is leading the way in harnessing Big Data for development. In our meetings with academia, local and national government agencies, we learnt of a comprehensive and multi-stakeholder strategy of how the country is engaging with Big Data. This is a many pronged framework to use Big Data for policymaking, service delivery in the public sector, growth and competitiveness of SMEs, developing data science skills, and laying foundations of the infrastructure for future. They articulate these approaches through public private partnerships, national institutes like the Big Data Strategy Center, part of the National Information Society Agency (NIA), and academia like the Big Data Institute of the Seoul National University.
The WBG blogspace recently highlighted the successful “Owl” night bus service launched by the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG), where pairing anonymized call locations yielded an optimized network of only 8 night bus routes that cover 49% of the demand. SMG is exploring other uses of Big Data to maximize taxi use, improve pedestrian safety, and better target advertising on public billboards.
SMG analyzing 25 years of data on pipe leakages between 1989 and 2014 was able to pinpoint the correlation between the leakage points and weather conditions. They have implemented a new system based on that data analytics, where by modulating the pressure, they have significantly reducing their leakage rate (from 79% in 1989 to 2.5% in 2014), resulting in millions of dollars of savings.
We learnt that the national government is also planning to use Big Data as part of their upcoming Census, with an estimated savings of USD 140M.
Big Data has an important role to play in development, and Korea, with its dual experience in development and technology is harnessing these opportunities. We look forward to collaborating and accelerating the operational use of Big Data in our development projects across the world.

Watch this video on Big data @ Seoul 2015

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