Beyond e-commerce: China embraces new era of digital development

Updated 2018-04-25 10:49:02 Xinhua

Qiu Meizhen, 28, currently expecting her second child, feels at ease when walking alone in her neighborhood, as she can press an SOS button installed on smart lamp posts if there is an emergency.

In her "smart neighborhood" in Mawei District, Fuzhou, capital of east China's Fujian Province, Qiu is able to open the door of an elevator using facial recognition technology.

She will be alerted if her apartment catches fire even when she is not at home, as a smart fire detector is connected to her mobile phone.

Qiu's "smart life" is just part of China's efforts to develop information technology and digitalization.

China is the world's largest e-commerce market, accounting for more than 40 percent of the value of worldwide transactions, and in terms of mobile payments, China has a transaction value 11 times that of the United States, according to a recent report by McKinsey Global Institute.

During the first Digital China Summit, which was held in Fuzhou from Sunday to Tuesday, the latest technology such as unmanned stores, driverless vehicles, and delivery robots attracted thousands of visitors.

Customers can enter Tencent's unmanned store after scanning their face, then pick up items and head for the exit, where their face is scanned again and payment is automatically deducted from their account.

Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, said in a speech at the summit that e-commerce is just the prelude to and a small share of digital economy, which will have a profound influence on all aspects of people's lives.

Industrial internet, 5G, and the Internet of Things were also buzzwords at the summit.

Kelvin Wu, president of 360 Enterprise Security Group, said unlike the World Internet Conference, an annual event held in east China's Wuzhen, the Digital China Summit focused more on e-governance and industrial internet as China enters a new phase of digitalization.

"For example, in recent years, China has seen an increasing number of collaborations between real economy and digital enterprises," said Wu, adding that it showed the need for more efforts in industrial internet.

Test-rides of China's first commercial driverless shuttle bus Apolong, co-developed by tech giant Baidu and automaker Kinglong, were offered to the public during the event.

With no steering wheel or driver, the vehicle made perfect turns and was able to give way to pedestrians during a two-minute drive on a 600-meter-long route.

Digitalization, networking, and the application of intelligent technology, are also modernizing China's governance system and capacity.

No counters, no queues, no paperwork -- in less than 10 minutes, Gao Pingping completed the registration of his business and obtained a license at a self-service registration machine in the city of Pingtan in Fujian.

The machine, connected to government data and supported by facial recognition technology, streamlines the application process and reduces the procedure from days to just minutes.

At the Alibaba exhibition booth, a big screen demonstrated how ambulances and fire engines in the east China city of Hangzhou avoid gridlock and all red lights turn green as they approach with the aid of "City Brain," an artificial intelligence platform aimed at improving city management.

The "brain" collects traffic and weather data, analyzes traffic flow, and adjusts traffic lights accordingly to ease traffic congestion.

Like Alibaba, several leading technology companies have rolled out "smart city" solutions.

However, progress is limited and there are several technological breakthroughs to be made, according to Guo Renzhong, member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

"For instance, existing information transmitting technology is not able to meet some requirements of smart cities," said Guo, adding, "outdated laws and regulations concerning access and use of government and citizens' information may also pose obstacles in the future."

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