In practice

KOICA’s dual approach to digitalisation

Key messages

The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) recently introduced a dual strategic approach to address the imperative for digital transformation in partner countries. The approach involves a Digital Mainstreaming Strategy which aims to include a digital component across all sectors, combined with a Digital Transition Programme enabling the digital transformation of partner countries.

This content is part of In Practice series on digital transformation developed in collaboration with the Development Co-operation Report 2021: Shaping a Just Digital Transformation.

Challenge

The 2030 Agenda relies heavily on science, technology, and innovation (STI) as mechanisms for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Digital technology can accelerate progress towards the SDGs and is a prerequisite for the development of a digital economy. However, without an inclusive approach, technology can further widen the inequality gaps of income and gender, and urban and rural populations. The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has developed a strategy that allows it to contribute to accelerating progress towards the SDGs, providing a path through the fourth industrial revolution and bridging the digital divide between and within countries, in particular for the more vulnerable groups of society.

Approach

The core focus of Korea’s dual strategic approach to digital transformation is on enabling policy and whole of government engagement, drawing on Korea’s comparative advantage. To complement this upstream focus, the strategy stresses mainstreaming the use of digital technology throughout all projects to increase efficiency and achieve better results.

The Digital Transition Programme is dedicated to enabling the digital transformation of partner countries. It continues Korea’s long-standing support of e-government projects in partner countries capitalising on its own experience and knowledge. For example, the OECD Digital Government Index demonstrated the extent to which Korea has advanced in e-government, with estimates on funding for digital-related projects, based on the OECD Creditor Reporting System, showing that Korea allocates a high share of its bilateral funding to digitalisation.

KOICA’s Digital Mainstreaming Strategy aims to include a digital component across all sectors of activity to maximise project impact due to the universal nature of digital technology. It defines the guiding principles, actions and goals for incorporating digital technology into the mid-term sectoral strategies for education, health, public governance, rural development and STI.

Korea’s strategy highlights four pillars for official development assistance (ODA) to support the digital transformation of partner countries:

  1. Digital Government: reinforcing effectiveness, efficiency, transparency, and accountability

  2. Digital Accessibility: supporting digital Social Overhead Capital (i.e. public infrastructure, communications and utilities) and literacy

  3. Digital Economy: supporting digital industry and an enabling environment

  4. Digital Safety: protecting privacy and security in digital society.

The strategy also includes the following guiding principles:

  • User-friendly design to drive usage

  • Inclusive approach for the marginalised

  • Transparent and open systems

  • Future scalability and interoperability

  • Data-driven decision making

  • Cybersecurity.

Results

KOICA’s digital projects to date have demonstrated high levels of performance. According to a recent internal analysis of 29 completed digital projects, 52% were classified as “successful” and 38% as “very successful”. For example, the project in Asunción, Paraguay, for improving the traffic management system directly contributed to a reduction in the number of traffic accidents from 373 in 2011 to 165 in 2015. It also decreased the average commute time from 42 minutes to 33 minutes.

KOICA plans to aggregate results of the Digital Transition Programme by following a logical framework including:

  • Goals: improving the governance of partner countries, the digital Social Overhead Capital (SOC) and accessibility, using digital technology

  • Links to SDGs: SDG4, SDG9, SDG16, SDG17

  • Outcome indicators: the proportion of the population satisfied with their latest public service experience (SDG 16.6.2); the number of digital services experienced or overall use of digital services

  • Major outputs: for digital government, an established system or regulatory policy, trained staff and users, etc.; for digital accessibility and SOC, an established infrastructure, developed digital training policies or curricula, trained staff and users, etc.

Lessons learnt

  • Evaluators highlighted the challenge of harmonising the supported digital projects with the broader regulatory environment in partner countries. A change in culture, embracing digital transformation, is a critical success factor.

  • Recommendations for the design phase of future projects include identifying legal and institutional enablers, in-depth consultation with relevant stakeholders and early user involvement at the prototype stage to ensure user-friendly systems.

  • Recommendations for the operational and maintenance phases of future projects include ensuring sufficient budget for maintenance and time for pilot testing, local IT company involvement, if possible, from the design and development phase, and building both technical capacity and data management capability.

Further information

KOICA (2021), Digital Mainstreaming Strategy (in Korean), https://tmslib.koica.go.kr/bbs/content/5_4715?pn=3&.

KOICA (2021), KOICA’s Sectoral Mid-Term Strategy 2021-2025, https://koica.go.kr/bbs/koica_kr/2058/332080/download.do.

KOICA (2021), Korea Digital Transition Programme (in Korean), https://tmslib.koica.go.kr/bbs/content/5_4756?pn=3&.

KOICA (2017), Paraguay Asuncion advanced traffic management system construction project end evaluation report, https://lib.koica.go.kr/search/detail/CATTOT000000040855?mainLink=/search/tot&briefLink=/search/tot/result?type=local_A_commandType=advanced_A_si=TOTAL_A_st=KWRD_A_lmtsn=000000000001_A_lmtst=OR_A_oi=DISP06_A_os=DESC_A_lmt0=TOTAL_A_p1=91_A_q=%EC%95%84%EC%8.

OECD resources

OECD (2021), Development Co-operation Report 2021: Shaping a Just Digital Transformation, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/ce08832f-en.

OECD (2020), “Digital Government Index: 2019 results”, OECD Public Governance Policy Papers, No. 03, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/4de9f5bb-en.

OECD, Creditor Reporting System (CRS), https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=crs1.

To learn more about Korea’s development co-operation see:

OECD (2021), "Korea", in Development Co-operation Profiles, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/d919ff1a-en.

OECD (2018), OECD Development Co-operation Peer Reviews: Korea 2018, OECD Development Co-operation Peer Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264288829-en.

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