Prevention of solitary deaths through smart care ICT (KakaoTalk, mobile phones, and AI)

With the rise of single households and an aging population, society is demanding a guarantee for healthy living and welfare services. The district has launched customized caregiving services using KakaoTalk messenger, mobile phones, and AI speakers to promote the health and well-being of the socially vulnerable class in particular. To deal with the issue of solitary death, the district utilized their strength in information and communications technology to tackle the issue.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

- Objective of the initiatives
The number of isolated deaths of people living alone is increasing due to the weakening of social networks and bonds driven by social changes such as the rise in single households, low birth rates, and an ageing population. As of 2017, single households account for 28.5% of the total population in South Korea. Along with a steady rise in the number of single households, consequently the number of solitary deaths has risen. More than 10,000 cases of solitary death were filed over the past six years alone. To deal with the issue of solitary death and prevent the tragedy of accepting death in solitude, the district utilized our strength as a powerful country in information and communications technology to tackle the issue.

1. (KakaoTalk) A welfare blind spot reporting service was launched using KakaoTalk messenger. District residents can report neighbours living in difficult conditions through the messenger so that the district can connect the optimal welfare services to the people in real time. In addition, people who cannot walk freely by themselves can use the messenger service to speak with welfare providers staff.

2. (Mobile phones) Utilizing the fact that South Korea has a mobile phone distribution rate of 100%, the project established a system where designated welfare providers receive an automatic notification if the mobile phone of a welfare service recipient is turned off for more than 3 days.

3. (AI) AI speakers were distributed to senior citizens living alone and socially disadvantaged single households so that they can have someone to talk to, listen to music, and receive life-related information. In particular, the project developed an ICT caregiving service where the AI speakers can recognize emergency signals and respond to them promptly.
As a result, the groups who are at risk of solitary death were quickly identified and customized caregiving services were provided to vulnerable single households based on this information so as to prevent solitary deaths.

- Improving major weaknesses in the current public service
The conventional approach in public welfare service was to increase the number of staff if the demand for a welfare service increases. Likewise, if the frequency of solitary deaths increased, the frequency of field visits would follow. In other words, welfare services were understood and planned based on the idea that they are fundamentally face-to-face services. However, there is always going to be a limit to the number of staff that can be newly recruited since the department works under a budget. It was concluded that it will be difficult to handle the welfare demand that is increasing at an exponential rate if face-to-face methods are insisted upon. In particular, the socially vulnerable groups such as the elderly and the handicapped require care services day and night. Providing an adequate level of service to address solitary deaths, which are happening simultaneously in the middle-aged group, would be impossible with the basic workforce available. The lack of staff was successfully solved by applying technologies that are in tune with the 4th Industrial Revolution, such as information and communications technology (KakaoTalk messenger and mobile phones) and artificial intelligence technology (AI speaker). These technologies allow to monitor the status of the elderly for 24 hours so that staff can quickly respond to emergency situations even during off-duty hours.

Innovation Description

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Year: 2017
Level of government: Local government


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