OPINIONS Observer: New infrastructure contributes to combating COVID-19, boosting economy

OPINIONS

Observer: New infrastructure contributes to combating COVID-19, boosting economy

By Han Xiaomeng | People's Daily app

10:19, April 25, 2020

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Intelligent technologies have been integrated into China's annual political calendar amid the COVID-19 outbreak as the National People's Congress (NPC) made an announcement on its official WeChat account on Wednesday that the 16th session of the Standing Committee of the 13th NPC, China's top legislature, was held in an innovative way in which Beijing deputies were video conferencing with non-Beijing deputies, marking a historical first.

The landmark step was taken under the special circumstances which fulfilled the requirements of disease prevention and control, and in the meantime ensured the effective and efficient operation of the legislature, said Yue Zhongming, spokesperson for the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee. This may also signal a potential format for this year's upcoming two sessions, which were postponed due to the outbreak.

Video conferencing is not only emerging in China, but around the world as well. This year's G20 meetings were also held virtually, an extraordinary form to coordinate a multilateral response. The number of daily active users of Zoom, a US-based remote conference service, has surged by 67 percent since early January, according to media reports. 

This is also happening with similar remote working apps in China such as DingTalk, launched by China's tech giant Alibaba. It recorded a 356 percent increase in downloads from smartphones in the Chinese mainland from February 2 to February 29 compared with January 5 to February 1.The daily active user base for Tencent Meeting surpassed 10 million within two months after its launch in December.

The increasing roles intelligent technologies have played in combating COVID-19 echo China's steps in accelerating the deployment of new infrastructure, a new campaign mentioned during a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on March 4th and earlier policy meetings in February. 

The new move targets seven areas: 5G networks, the industrial internet, inter-city transportation and inner-city rail systems, data centers, artificial intelligence, ultra-high voltage transmission, and new energy vehicle charging stations.

As working and studying from home becomes a trend to contain the epidemic, with the aid of new infrastructure, technologies are shaping new ways for the public to work and interact with others. Telecommuting, online learning and video conferencing have guaranteed that people can still work and study in an effective way without large public gatherings at the office or classroom.

New infrastructure has also boosted international cooperation and foreign assistance in times of crisis. Many frontline doctors and medical experts have given their advice in treating COVID-19 patients, traditional Chinese medicine solutions, and hands-on experiences with their counterparts via online seminars and conferences. This is a way to stand in solidarity with other countries other than donations of medical supplies and equipment.

With the importance of social distancing highlighted to curb human-to-human transmissions, people are also facing mounting psychological pressure, as getting out is no longer an easy option like before. Intelligent technologies have also offered the public a variety of recreational choices from video games, e-commerce, mobile payment, using social media, and online dating. Despite geographical distance, new infrastructure has given people the freedom to maintain contacts and interpersonal bonds on the Internet.

Now as the impact of the epidemic wanes in China, resumption of work and production is underway. New infrastructure will serve as a catalyst for traditional industries. It contributes to productivity and can reduce infection risks among staff. Logistics is also eased with unmanned ports and “no touch” delivery. Personal health detection is enhanced with artificial intelligence.

New infrastructure is amplifying the digitization of Chinese society as well. At the governmental level, 25 provincial-level regions have outlined the construction of new infrastructure in government work reports, with 21 already laying out plans to promote 5G construction. With the help of next-generation technologies, new infrastructure has mapped out new directions for the Chinese economy to recover in the wake of the pandemic.

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