During China's economic transition, one of the poorest provinces in the southwest of the country has chosen big data as a high starting point to catch up with the economic band wagon. Guizhou Province sees how big data is transforming its backward development mode and changing people's lives, even in its smallest towns and villages.
In southeast of Guizhou, beautiful villages of the Miao ethnic people cover the hills and valleys, and that remoteness has helped preserve their traditions.
Many students in Datang Primary School in Leishan County live hours away in remote villages. In the old days, they used to walk to school before an unreliable bus service was introduced. But now thanks to Big Data and a newly launched app named Village Tour, their bus is just a few clicks away on their teachers' smart phones. From the nerve center in the county, every step of the way can be monitored after the kid's school bus is dispatched.
Village Tour has solved the long existing commuting problem for residents and ensures their safety, especially for students. Rural kids don't have to worry what time the bus is coming and their parents don't have to worry about what time they will be dropped off. As for transport companies, it increases their profit by decreasing empty-load rates. Local Transportation Security Administration also benefits a lot as it reduces traffic accidents and unlicensed vehicles, enhancing their regulatory and supervisory capacity as well as service quality. It's all big data in small villages.
Local businessman Luo Yong'an heads up the Village Tour project along with a whole fleet of licensed buses, taxis and other services which were once unthinkable in this remote corner of China. Born and raised in Leishan, Luo said he came back and devoted himself to this sector after working as a lawyer in Beijing for many years. He personally has high hope for Guizhou's big data development and his Village Tour product.
He explained that he would like to contribute to society in the trend of big data development and to benefit from policy bonus as well. Luo added that the rapid growth of big data industry and the nice weather in Guizhou have even attracted overseas technicians and research staff to settle and continue their careers here.
Village Tour is also a government-backed pilot project that is set to be rolled out across rural China. Big data helps the smallest communities connect and enjoy the benefits of technology once reserved for other cities like Beijing.
Leishan County magistrate Yuan Gang said this is just the start and big data is helping lift many communities out of poverty. "Traditional industries are not suitable for Guizhou," he said. "And we don't want to stick to the old development pattern at the cost of pollution. Hence Guizhou chose to develop big data with a head start in high-end industry."
It was this new thinking that led the Guizhou government to choose the big data industry in 2014 as a way to catch up and even overtake more developed provinces. Now Guizhou is fast becoming a big data lab, with its high hills and cheap power having already made it a home for China's server farms. State-level big data development zones, big data centers and big data exchanges have all been set up, followed by an international big data expo in provincial capital Guiyang earlier this year.
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.
In private sectors, the province has not only attracted a number of the world's top-level enterprises such as Microsoft and Huawei but has also made its own successes, such as the country's leading big data-driven logistic company, TruckAlliance.
It all seems far-fetched that a poor province is becoming a leader in big data. But in fact, the relative lack of development is being seen as a strength – or rather, a blank page on which to design a truly 21st century big data network which in turn will lead to innovation in almost every field.
Training China's tech entrepreneurs of the future is a significant part of innovation process in Guizhou. Those entrepreneurs are very likely to come from local academic institutions. For example, Guizhou Institute of Technology has just started a Big Data degree where students will learn the business of tomorrow, not just in the classroom but at some of China's biggest tech companies like Alibaba.
According to the school's president Long Fenjie, innovation is a course requirement. All students should work as a team on practical projects coming from teachers, companies and themselves. The president considers that as the most challenging but most meaningful thing they are doing at present.
"We are expecting at least 600 selected projects a year for students," he told CGTN. Moreover, they also hope three percent of the students will become successful entrepreneurs like Zuckerberg in the future, he added.
Big data solutions are increasingly applied in small villages, not just in Guizhou but across China. The billions of bits of information available online are being harnessed in revolutionary ways. From transport to tourism, the information harvested from big data is creating efficiency never before imagined.