Ant Financial, Alibaba Group's financial service affiliate, announced on Tuesday that it has teamed up with 352 cities in 25 provinces to facilitate government-backed smart city projects, which its rivals - Baidu Inc and Tencent Holdings - also have their eyes on.
Ant Financial aims to offer cities a one-stop solution, including the establishment of credit systems and mobile public services, to advance the construction of new smart cities, said Ant Financial CEO Jing Xiandong during the China New Smart Cities Summit in Beijing on Tuesday.
Jing highlighted Ant Financial's achievements in mobile public services, which he said now cover 150 million people. Users are able to make hospital appointments, pay utility bills and check for traffic tickets via Alibaba's popular mobile payment tool Alipay, which currently has 450 million real-name registered users.
A new smart city must focus on residents' needs and promote their quality of life, according to standards issued by the Standardization Administration of China on December 22. Under previous standards, the construction of smart cities emphasized on administrative efficiency and transparency, according to government officials and analysts who attended Tuesday's summit.
The two other Internet powerhouses in China also have their sights set on new smart city projects in recent days.
Earlier this month, Baidu signed a deal with Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province, to move forward on local smart city projects by leveraging its artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing technologies.
In November, Tencent said it would work with Jiaxing, also in Zhejiang, to achieve similar goals via its big data and cloud computing technologies.
"Each of the three giants have distinctive advantages that can be complementary to each other while helping governments' efforts in the construction of smart cities," Zhang Yi, CEO of Guangzhou-based market consultancy iiMedia Research, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Zhang said a major problem in developing smart cities is that local governments have swarmed into the sector, where they are fiercely competing for resources and capital. "This has harmed the long-term development of the industry," he said.
Chinese authorities in March set a goal of moving ahead on construction of 100 smart cities during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-20).
In order to meet the target, the National Development and Reform Commission has joined hands with several other ministries, promising to further open up and share data, Wu Hao, deputy director with the commission's Department of High-Tech Industry, said at the summit.
Wu also noted that cyber security will also be strengthened during the process.