Emerging Technologies

‘Untact’: South Korea’s plan for a contact-free society

Drip Bot makes a cup of coffee as an employee wearing a mask to avoid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) works at a cafe in Seoul, South Korea, June 3, 2020. Picture taken on June 3, 2020.    REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji - RC222H9JS34E

Services in South Korea are being increasingly automated. Image: REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Rosamond Hutt
Senior Writer, Formative Content
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Republic of Korea

  • South Korea’s government wants people to use contactless services in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to aid economic recovery.
  • Contact-free customer experiences are becoming commonplace, and there’s even a word for it in South Korea: ‘untact’.
  • ‘Untact’ services range from online shopping and ordering food remotely to telehealth.

In a cafe in Daejeon, South Korea, a robot barista serves drinks to reduce person-to-person contact between staff and customers.

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It’s one example of an innovative solution to the difficulties of social distancing. But even before COVID-19, many kinds of contactless customer experience were becoming a feature of life in South Korea.

The march of ‘untact’ services

From online shopping and ordering food remotely to chatbots and appointments with virtual doctors, digital technologies have enabled the rise of services that minimize direct human interactions.

And in South Korea, there’s even a word for it: “untact”.

A term initially used by marketers, untact services are now being deployed in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to aid the country’s economic recovery.

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What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

The Digital New Deal – part of President Moon Jae-in’s $62 billion five-year Korean New Deal stimulus package – outlines plans to prepare for “surging demand for remote services”.

Projects to boost “untact industries” include building 18 smart hospitals for remote healthcare, providing digital care services for seniors and other vulnerable groups, helping small and medium-sized businesses set up virtual conferencing and online sales support for small companies.

There will also be investment in technologies that enable untact services, such as robotics, drones and high-speed internet.

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Emerging TechnologiesHealth and Healthcare Systems
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