New infrastructure expands space for innovative development

A robot is broadcasting epidemic prevention knowledge in Shanghai, with four cameras on top of it recording the environment, Feb. 27, 2020. Photo by Yang Jianzheng, People’s Daily Online

By Daniel Zhang

A meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee held earlier this month called for accelerated efforts to build new infrastructure, such as the 5G network and data centers.

Fast-forwarding the new infrastructure demonstrates China’s resolution to drive economic growth with high-quality development and endows Chinese enterprises with abundant opportunities of innovative development.

Cloud services made a huge contribution to China’s battle against COVID-19, playing a major role in assisting online transaction, telecommuting, and online education. Big data was also widely applied to monitor the health of the floating population and evaluate epidemic development. Besides, other new technologies were also put in to use to serve epidemic prevention and control, such as delivery robots, non-contact CT scan, infrared thermal imager and artificial intelligence (AI).

The wide application of digital technologies indicates the importance of building new infrastructure which digitalizes industries and industrializes digits. New infrastructure, as an emerging industry, links huge investment and demand with a continuously upgrading consumption market. It will surely become a pillar of China’s social and economic prosperity.

Infrastructure evolves as industrial economy transits toward a digital one. Traditional infrastructure, including railways, roads and airports used to serve as a base for most economic activities, but nowadays, network infrastructure such as 5G, industrial internet and internet of things, as well as computing infrastructure such as data centers and AI, are becoming indispensable and prevalent.

To accelerate the construction of new infrastructure is not simply building physical facilities, but a synergetic process with industrial application which not only enhances the traditional role of infrastructure to stabilize growth, but also drives innovation and develops new consumption, manufacture and services.

Therefore, making traditional infrastructure smarter and industrializing new infrastructure is a way of China to promote development through investment, and also an approach of enterprises to make future-oriented deployment.

As an important part of the new infrastructure, digital infrastructure is expected to offer firm supports for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), drive economic growth through consumption and create more job opportunities.

Surveys found that the financing gap remained less than one million yuan for 96 percent of each SMEs, and any a bit help would make them survive. To promote digital infrastructure not only helps them improve response capability with digital tools, but also enables financial institutes to rapidly analyze and evaluate the credit of enterprises and solve financing problems of SMEs.

As more and more people resorted to online consumption during the COVID-19 epidemic, traditional enterprises are now seeking opportunities on the internet. To accelerate the construction of digital infrastructure may further digitalize consumption scenarios. For college graduates, they will also get or create new job opportunities with digital infrastructure.

Only by consolidating digitalization and improving the ecology for smart development, can enterprises be more innovative and foster new growth points and drivers for the Chinese economy.

Digital infrastructure also contributes to improving modern governance capability of local governments, as how to improve the efficiency of governments and promote targeted implementation of policies always tests the digitalization of governments.

Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang province recently launched a digital platform for government-business relations to simplify formalities. The platform issued a subsidy of 336 million yuan for 114,000 enterprises and 371,000 employees in just a week, while it would have called for a longer period and more qualifications with the traditional offline mode.

The colored QR health codes initiated by Zhejiang was promoted nationwide during the epidemic to indicate people’s health conditions. If the code system is applied wider and integrates into more scenarios, it will kick off a new start for digital urban governance. In other words, to promote digital infrastructure and expand its application will help government serve the enterprises and people in a more targeted manner.

Against the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, China’s economy maintained stability and sound momentum for long-term growth. China is still a market that sees the most active and fast-developing internet technologies. We are expecting to work with more enterprises and share a broad future to which new infrastructure is contributing a big part.

 (Daniel Zhang is Executive Chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group.)

A passenger shows her green QR health code before leaving the Hangzhou Railway Station, Feb. 17, 2020. Photo by Long Wei, People’s Daily Online

A smart robot is applied by the State Grid Chuzhou Power Supply Company to inspect equipment at a 220KV transformer substation in Quanjiao county, Chuzhou, east China’s Anhui province, Feb. 27, 2020. A verification is conducted every time the robot finishes its mission. Photo by Song Weixing, People’s Daily Online