Big data programs push poor, Chinese province ahead of the tech curve

World Today

China is harnessing big data in revolutionary ways. From transport to tourism, the information collected is creating capabilities once thought impossible. Now one of China’s poorest provinces has chosen big data to help lead the way for its economic transition.

CGTN’s Nathan King reports Guizhou Province.

The beautiful villages of the Miao ethnic people cover the hills and valleys of Guizhou. The remotness has helped preserve the people’s traditions. But many of the children live hours away in remote villages. In the old days they used to walk to school, then an unreliable bus service was introduced. But thanks to big data and their teacher’s smart phone, their bus is just a few clicks away.

A local businessman, Luo Yong’an, heads up the project. A school bus is dispatched and monitored every step of the way from a nerve center in the county. A whole fleet of licensed buses, taxis and other services that were once unthinkable in this remote corner of China are now possible.

Village Tour is a government-backed pilot project that is set to be rolled out across rural China. It’s an example of big data helping the smallest communities connect and enjoy the benefits of technology, once reserved only to cities like Beijing. The head of Leishan County has said this is just the start, and big data is helping lift many communities out of poverty.

The Guizhou government choose the big data industry in 2014 as a way to catch up, and perhaps even overtake, more developed provinces. Now Guizhou is fast becoming a big data lab. Its high hills and cheap power have already made it a home for China’s server farms. A state-level big data development zone, a big data center and a big data exchange have all been set up.

The province has also started the Guizhou On Cloud program, using cloud technology to provide platforms for data sharing among governments, businesses and the general public. The idea of  a poor province becoming a leader in big data may seem far-fetched, but the relative lack of development is being seen as a plus. The province’s blank page helps foster a design for a truly, 21st century big data network. This in turn could lead to innovation in everything from smart phone apps, to training China’s tech entrepreneurs of the future.

Those entrepreneurs are likely to come from here the Guizhou Institute of Technology, which has just started a big data degree. Students learn the business of tomorrow both in and out of the classroom, including places like Alibaba, one of China’s biggest tech companies. The school’s president said innovation is even a course requirement.