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In 2015, KOICA launched the Creative Technology Solution (CTS) program, which serves as an open innovation platform to identify and support tech-based solutions for diverse social problems in developing countries.

The program collaborates with international institutions such as USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as domestic institutions such as D.Camp, Crevisse, Futureplay, Actner Lab, and GS Glogal.

By the end of 2017, the CTS program had identified 33 innovative solutions and provided their creators with seed funding, working spaces and global networking opportunities. The selected groups can participate in the Grand Challenges Explorations, where the winners receive matching funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and KOICA.

One such group is Lumir, which provides an affordable, energy-efficient lighting option for developing countries. JH Park, the founder of Lumir, started the business after a trip to India in 2014. During the trip, he realized that more than 1 billion people in the world live in darkness due to insufficient or unstable electricity. To address this issue, he developed Lumir K, a lamp that runs on cooking oil. In many developing countries, for example Indonesia, people use lots of cooking oil to make fried foods, and this oil is cheap and easy to obtain. Lumir K is about 80 percent more fuel efficient than a conventional oil lamp. Only a half-liter of cooking oil is needed to keep it burning for about 100 hours.

Another innovative group is Vuno, which produces artificial intelligence-based software for the diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases such as trichomoniasis and chlamydia. According to Yae-ha Lee, CEO of Vuno, about 400 million people contract a sexually transmitted disease each year. While such diseases can be treated, many people do not have access to proper diagnostic services. Vuno’s software can detect the presence of an infection in just 0.3 seconds, whereas a doctor with a microscope might take an hour or two. This is a dramatic increase in efficiency.

Both Lumir and Vuno have received support from the KOICA CTS program. “KOICA’s strategy is to provide sustainable ODA by working with tech start-ups that can improve the lives of people in developing countries,” said Mi-Kyung Lee, President of KOICA.

© Hyun Shin, Hanyang University
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Social Innovation in South Korea

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