Experts discuss ways to use technology for poverty alleviation at a roundtable discussion during the Fifth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province, on Thursday. (Photo by Zou Hong / China Daily)
Local governments and e-commerce companies are working together to help people living in poverty-stricken areas to sell their products online and improve their quality of life.
Suzhou in East China's Jiangsu province has invested 120 million yuan ($17.3 million) to establish an e-commerce park in Tongren in Southwest China's Guizhou province.
By October, the park had attracted 22 e-commerce companies and had helped 145 farmers and their families to set up online stores. The stores reported 85.6 million yuan in sales in 2017, up 473 percent year-on-year.
Yang Liang, deputy director of Suzhou's high-tech development district, said that from January to September this year, the farmers' online stores sold 160 metric tons of agricultural products - including mushrooms, sweet potatoes and bamboo shoots - with sales reaching 5.76 million yuan.
"We also help local farmers to sell their handicrafts products online," Yang said. "The stores have sold about 200 items every day since launching in February 2017. Their sales surpass 3 million yuan a month."
"Now more than 10,000 people order the handicrafts and agricultural products from stores related to the e-commerce park every day. The initiative has greatly improved the local farmers' lives."
Internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd established a poverty relief fund in December 2017, announcing it would also invest 10 billion yuan ($1.44 billion) to integrate internet functionality into poverty relief work.
Sun Lijun, a partner at Alibaba and executive secretary of the fund, said the company is working with the government of Dangshan county in East China's Anhui province to help sell local pear products.
Alibaba uses its online platform to publicize the products, and helps the pear factories to upgrade their technologies and to design more fashionable product packaging.
"We will hold a poverty relief conference in January to introduce our work, which combines the internet with poverty relief," Sun said. "It can be a sustainable and highly effective model for tackling poverty."
By August, Alibaba had cooperated with 113 poverty-stricken counties in 16 provinces across the country. It also plans to use the upcoming Singles Day national shopping frenzy on Nov 11 to publicize and promote products from the poverty-stricken counties.
Huang Zheng, founder of online discounter Pinduoduo, said that the company will send more than 50,000 workers to rural areas within three years to help 100,000 online store owners in 679 poverty-stricken areas.
"Pinduoduo has been working with Shanghai's poverty alleviation office to cooperate with 12 provincial-level regions, including Yunnan province, and the Xinjiang Uygur and Tibet autonomous regions, to sell their agricultural products online."
"With the help of local governments and Pinduoduo, many agricultural areas have established modern logistics and production systems," Huang said. "The systems also bring jobs to more than 7 million people."
Wang Xingzui, executive vice-president of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, said that mobile platforms are indispensable for China's battle against poverty.
"The internet is changing the traditional method of raising funds," Wang said. "In the past, people in need could only get help after gaining media exposure, but now online fundraising platforms can promote their information among donors more quickly and conveniently."
"Some platforms are designed to provide more products and activities for the public to participate in. It's estimated that 32.5 million people will participate in public welfare and poverty-relief donation activities from 2018 to 2020."
"Twenty percent of the donations China has received come from public donations, and that number has doubled with the development of the internet. The amount of public donations keeps increasing every year.
"The poverty relief mission could never be completed without the internet," Wang said.
Zha Yingdong, deputy mayor of Tongren in Guizhou, said that compared with the more developed areas in China, remote areas often produce higher-quality agricultural products with lower levels of pollution.
"People living in relatively developed areas, such as Jiangsu province, have lower price sensitivity and pay more attention to quality. Selling products from Guizhou to Jiangsu will benefit both sides and help to relieve poverty."
Zha said that thanks to online channels, more local farmers in Tongren are planning to sell their sweet pumpkins and high-quality white tea across the whole country.