Coastal city embraces digitalization for growth

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The Third Digital China Summit, held in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian Province, southeast China, from October 12 to 14, was a kind of closing ceremony for an initiative that started three years ago.

Coastal city embraces digitalization for growth

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After the first summit was held in 2018, the city authorities announced a three-year action plan (2018-20) for building a digital Fuzhou.

It was a throwback to a concept two decades ago. When President Xi Jinping was governor of Fujian, he had mooted building a digital Fujian by harnessing digital, Internet, video and intelligent technologies. This idea is the prototype of the digital China initiative. The digitalization of the city’s economic and social life has advanced since then, presenting useful experiences for the national digitalization drive.

The summit aimed to build platforms for industry exchanges and cooperation. Exhibitions and forums were held on the development and application of digital technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain. Tech giants such as Huawei, Alibaba and Tencent exhibited their cutting-edge products.

An easier life

By the end of 2001, seven pilot communities for information technology in Gulou District of Fuzhou had access to broadband network services. Opening a Web page was as fast as opening a book. What’s more, people who never expected to download a movie from the Internet could do it with much ease. At that time, people’s perception of “digital” was only faster download speed.

Twenty years later, digitalization is no longer limited to surfing the Internet. It has saturated every aspect of people’s life. 

Digitalization has made it easier for people to see a doctor. Zhang Mulan, in her 70s, would have a hard time in the past when she went to hospital. She and her husband both have chronic diabetes and high blood pressure and need checkups regularly. She would have to stand in three to four queues at the hospital and feel worn out when she returned home.

But now those draining visits are a thing of the past. They make appointments with the doctors using messaging app WeChat, and the doctors examine them via video link and prescribe medicine. The couple buys the medicine online and has them delivered home. Doctors can check patients’ digital records for the past three months, which makes diagnosis and treatment more accurate.

Digitalization has made shopping more convenient. Payments can be authorized through face scans.

In May 2019, Dongjiekou, a commercial street in Gulou District, adopted face scan as part of its transformation into a digitalized street. Buyers can pay through facial recognition, make restaurant reservations or buy film tickets using Alipay, a mobile wallet. They can also pay for parking using Alipay.

Digitalization has made it more convenient to take public transport. eFuzhou, a public service app, can be used to pay the fare on buses or the subway. It can also be used for diverse other things, from paying tuition fees to accessing government services. By September, the app had over 7 million registered users.

“Turn to 12345 for government services when you need help.”This catchphrase originated in Gulou, which launched the 12345 service platform in January 2003. Residents and enterprises can file a complaint on the platform or consult it when they have any problems. In 2006 the platform was upgraded into the city’s service platform and in 2012 the practice was promoted province-wide. 

The platform also has a public account on WeChat and an app, which makes it more convenient for citizens to file their complaints. The messages are forwarded to the relevant government departments automatically.

A digital urban management platform launched in 2013 combines management of public facilities, transportation and the urban environment. Digitalization is also playing an important role in preventing traffic congestion and floods, becoming an important engine for modernizing social governance.

Intelligent traffic lights

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The traffic police division of the Fuzhou Public Security Bureau has developed an intelligent platform for controlling traffic lights. Traffic lights at multiple crossroads are centrally remote-controlled. This way, all traffic lights on one road turn green at the same time so that vehicles can pass without interruption.

Fuzhou owes its prosperity to maritime trade. However, water was also the cause of its woe due to floods. To improve the water management, an intelligent water monitoring platform has been established to check the water level of reservoirs and lakes and issue early warning so that measures can be taken in time.

Fuzhou has strengthened innovation in digital technologies and won recognition for its smart city infrastructure and software industry. The city government has policies to boost the development of big data, blockchain and other digital industries. In June, at an industrial development conference, digitalization was listed as one of the three major directions of Fuzhou’s industrial development, followed by favorable finance, technology and land policies for the development of digital industries.

At the Third Digital China Summit, Zhuang Rongwen, head of the Cyberspace Administration of China called for the construction of a digital Belt and Road. He also said the domestic core information technologies need to be improved. For that, the government will give greater support to the research and development and  application of key hardware, including high-end chips and servers, operating systems and databases.

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