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Digital economy driving progress

2018-11-09Source: China Daily   Ouyang Shijia in Wuzhen, Zhejiang

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An AI logistics vehicle, developed by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, undergoes a road test in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. [Photo by He Chuang/China Daily]

China's technology firms have seen explosive growth and new breakthroughs promises more to come

Government officials, business executives and experts hailed the role of the internet in empowering the digital economy, saying it is pivotal to driving economic and social development.

In a forum during the ongoing Fifth World Internet Conference, participants touted the internet as a key driving force for improving people's lives and regarded the conference as a sharing and cooperation platform that helps promote technological innovation and industrial upgrading.

Held in Wuzhen of Zhejiang province, the event will last until Friday.

"As today's most innovative and dynamic sector, the internet is profoundly changing people's production and daily lives," Zhuang Rongwen, minister of the Cyberspace Administration of China, said on Wednesday. "Turning the world into a connected global village, the internet is injecting fresh vigor into innovative development."

According to Zhuang, more efforts are needed to advance fundamental research, make breakthroughs in core technologies, foster the sustainable development of cutting-edge internet technologies, build up the industrial ecosystem, strengthen international cooperation, and build a digital world of mutual trust and governance.

Powered by blossoming artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing and other technologies, China is gradually transforming into a leading global internet powerhouse.

Statistics from the China Internet Network Information Center show the rapid growth of the booming internet trend: China's netizen population hit a new high, reaching 802 million by the end of June this year.

In 2017, the country's digital economy amounted to 27.2 trillion yuan ($3.9 trillion), ranking No 2 globally and accounting for 32.9 percent of national GDP, according to a recent report released by the Cyberspace Administration of China.

The achievement was lauded by Neil Shen, global managing partner of Sequoia Capital, who said: "There was a time when Chinese startups were imitators and not innovators. Now the times have changed. Buoyed by the booming mobile internet in the last ten years, Chinese internet firms are now at the forefront in terms of innovation and leading business models, extending into more businesses than their foreign counterparts."

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A woman photographs a distribution vehicle, developed by Meituan-Dianping, a major Chinese provider of on-demand online services, displayed at an exhibition booth. [Photo by Cheng Gong/China Daily]

In particular, Shen said Chinese companies have a distinct competitive advantage in terms of talent.

"Embracing the industrial internet, the abundant engineering talent has laid a solid foundation for future innovation and entrepreneurship," Shen said. "Compared with their parent generation, the younger generation has adopted a boarder mindset. Born in the internet era, tech-savvy young people usually have a deeper understanding of the mobile internet."

Chinese technology titan Xiaomi is one among the growing number of companies that have been reaping the benefits.

Founded in 2010, the Beijing-based smartphone vendor reported more than 100 billion yuan in revenues last year.

"The key competitiveness of Xiaomi is striving for an open mind and employing internet technologies to improve the production and services," said Lei Jun, chairman and CEO of Xiaomi.

Entering more than 80 countries globally, 36 percent of Xiaomi's revenues come from the overseas market, Lei said.

With the industrial internet on the horizon, Xiaomi is actively gearing up in the expansion of IoT sector. Currently, Xiaomi has established the world's largest consumer internet of things platform, with more than 115 million smart devices powered by AI.

"It will be much more convenient to use smart hardware products as assistants to connect all the internet of things devices," Lei said. "In the near future, each electronic device may be equipped with the smart voice system. Powered by AI technologies, I believe the whole internet of things will definitely take a big step forward."

John Chisholm, a member of the Development Committee of the MIT Corporation, said that devices will not only become smarter, but also adopt users' style and personalities.

However, as more people enjoy the convenience brought by the internet, security risks remain.

Last year, the WannaCry ransomware virus reportedly affected hundreds of thousands of computers in more than 150 countries and regions, including China. The virus wreaked havoc in around 30,000 institutions, such as universities, hospitals and research centers, as well as gas stations.

Zhou Hongyi, chairman of the board and CEO of 360 Security Technology Inc, said we are entering the age of "big security".

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An autonomous driving car, launched by Didi Chuxing, China's top ride-hailing service provider, is displayed at an exhibition booth. [Photo by Cheng Gong/China Daily]

"After years of development, society and the internet have become extremely close. Today, the internet actually breaks the boundaries between the physical world and the virtual network," said Zhou, whose security company is known for its antivirus software.

"So, cybersecurity is not only related to the internet but involves national security, social security, infrastructure security and even personal safety. That is why we are now entering the new big security age," he said.

Zhou said that cyberattacks and cybercrimes will increase in the future.

This will put at risk not only personal details but reams of company data. To combat the threat, a growing army of professionals will have to be recruited.

"Relying on traditional defensive thinking and means can no longer effectively solve security problems. We need to reach a consensus on building a community of shared interests in cyberspace." Zhou said.

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