Xi Jinping sends message on growth through innovation, big data in Guizhou

Matt Ho
·3-min read

President Xi Jinping has called on cadres to push for “deep integration” of big data and the real economy during a tour of Guizhou province in China’s south.

State media reports said Xi urged officials to seek growth based on innovation when he visited the province last week.

He said this was “an inevitable choice” as the country sought to set the stage for a new development path, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

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“[We should] focus on this new development path, and push for deep integration between big data and the real economy,” Xi was quoted as saying. “[We must] nurture and strengthen [our] strategic and emerging businesses, and accelerate the modernisation of our industries.”

Despite its relatively backward economy, the landlocked, mountainous province of Guizhou has been designated by Beijing to pioneer the country’s big data drive.

According to a new study by Fudan University in Shanghai, the province is also leading the way on sharing government data online. Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou, was ranked No 1 among its peers for consistently doing so over the past four years.

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But many other cities were lagging far behind. The study found that more than 60 per cent of provincial and prefecture-level governments had yet to share any data online. Of those that had set up data-sharing websites, more than half had not updated them for eight months. And less than 25 per cent of government-run platforms updated their content every quarter, according to the study.

Zheng Lei, a professor with Fudan’s Lab for Digital and Mobile Governance, which led the study, said sharing government data was “a marathon” effort.

“It’s about whether local governments can consistently share quality data with the public and push for its development and use,” Zheng was quoted as saying in the official Oriental Outlook Weekly on Thursday.

Shenzhen was one of only three cities to share essential data on transport, business registrations, weather and epidemic information. Photo: Xinhua
Shenzhen was one of only three cities to share essential data on transport, business registrations, weather and epidemic information. Photo: Xinhua

But Huang Huang, deputy dean of the School of Government at Peking University, said although there was social and economic value in releasing official data, it was costly for local governments.

“There are processing costs before such data can be released, and with limited resources, [local governments] have to prioritise,” Huang said.

“[China does not have a] dedicated agency to help audit open data and the original owners have to take responsibility for the data’s security and accuracy, so that can be a disincentive.”

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Another issue was the areas for which data was being provided, according to the Fudan study. Just 14 per cent of platforms covered all the common categories of government data. Beijing was the only one to include the full range of key data – from social security and commerce to education and housing. And Zhejiang, Shenzhen and Guiyang were the only three cities to share essential data on transport, business registrations, weather and epidemic information.

The study recommended that regulations be introduced on how local authorities share, maintain and use their public data.

But it did find that the total number of data sets released by local governments had increased – from about 8,400 when the first survey was done in 2017 to more than 98,500 last year. Data-sharing platforms had also gone up – from 20 to 142 in the same period.

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