Advent of Twin Transformation era and global role of Korea



In 1982, American futurist John Naisbitt published a book of projections for the future titled Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives. Hav¬ing correctly predicted 40 years ago the advent of the information society and decentralization, this book became a bestseller with its prophetic aspects proven over time. Today, the term “megatrend” is used to describe the directionality of mid- and long-term changes anticipated in many different disciplines. 

The megatrends of our times became clearly visible with the outbreak of COVID-19 at the end of 2019. To overcome the pandemic, the whole world dove into competition for “digital transformation.” Another trend that accompanied was “green transformation.” Under the Paris Agreement, countries need to par¬ticipate in climate action and review implementation every five years. Digital and green transformation together constitute “Twin Transformation.” The question is how to sustainably implement these two trends. Digital transformation, ultimate¬ly being based on physical infrastructure, inevitably gives rise to environmental issues. Data centers are a case in point. Following rapid digital transformation, the number of data centers around the world has surged by 50% in the past five years1). They account for around one percent of the global power consumption, or 200 – 250 TWh2), which is equivalent to the countrywide power consumption of Malaysia or Indonesia. At the same time, digital transformation does not only inflict negative effects on the environment; it reduces physical consumption and more precisely measures and manages energy resources through data. According to the World Economic Forum, the adoption of digital technologies has resulted in a 4-10% reduction in carbon emissions in the energy, materials, and mobility sectors, while widespread digital transformation can cut carbon emissions by 20% by 20503)

Given these impacts, Twin Transformation is at the heart of humanity’s shared development, and likely to take place as a key global agenda item. It is in line with the international community’s universal values in that it aims to protect the envi¬ronment while pursuing digital innovation in all areas including technology, econ¬omy, education, healthcare, and public services. It is necessary to realize digital transformation that considers the environment, and actionable tasks that improve the environment through digital technology. In 2020, Korea unveiled the Korean New Deal Strategy that revolves around digital transformation and green transfor¬mation. In line with this strategy, the Committee for International Development Cooperation established the Green New Deal ODA promotion strategy in 2021 and the science and ICT ODA promotion strategy in 2022. In exploring ways to ensure the coexistence of the two strategies, Korea can identify a core strategy to solidify its global standing. Green technologies should be combined with digital ODA. Conventional ODA projects that build physical foundations and drive so¬cial innovation should also embrace digital and green elements. 

In early 2021, Korea joined the ranks of developed countries. From a least developed country that received assistance from the international community, we transitioned into an ICT powerhouse recognized in the world and into a donor country in a short period of time. Behind this transformation lies not only national growth powered by cooperation between the government and citizens, but also active efforts to contribute to the international community through a long-term outlook. As a developed country, Korea needs to be able to present an exemplary case by taking on ambitious and experimental innovations. Twin Transformation that encompasses digital transformation and green projects could be tried out as a principle of ODA. Through this comprehensive agenda, Korea could attempt to take initiative in the regional order. This is something that we can excel at based on our experience of overcoming crises through a group-oriented mindset. Amid the dynamic stirring of the world order, let us be one step ahead by leading man-kind’s green digital innovation.


1) Kim Jeongmin, “Rapid growth of the data center market: key drivers and prospects”, KOSCOM Report, 2021.

2) Eric masanet, et al., “Recalibrating global data center energy-use estimates”, Science 367(2481), 2020.

3) WEF, “Digital solutions can reduce global emissions by up to 20%. Here’s how.” 2022.05.23.