How China's big data development has evolved

June 12, 2019 13:13
China has seen many smart city initiatives in recent years, thanks to applications of big data. Photo: Bloomberg

China's big data development has gone through four stages. The sector was still in the early stage before 2012. There were only a few experimental applications of big data in big companies.

But big data started to gain momentum between 2012 and 2014, led by internet firms. The central government also provided a policy boost. Meanwhile, the rapid shift from internet to mobile networks generated massive amounts of data. That has paved the way for machine learning.

However, the way of data flow remains quite limited. Big internet firms like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent have an absolute edge. That has given rise to the big data trading exchange in Guiyang. Data quality and security remained the biggest concerns in data trading.

The big data ecosystem has largely followed two directions since 2014. Leading internet firms continue to use machine learning in analyzing their business needs. Data governance and middle-office technology have gradually become the main focus.

Meanwhile, traditional industries led by finance, retail and medical care companies were venturing into artificial intelligence.

Smart city has become a must-do project for first and second-tier cities in China between 2015 and 2019 thanks to the emerging Internet of Things technology. Various local governments use data-driven strategies to improve civil services, business environment and industry development. Up to 517 Chinese cities have introduced smart city programs as of 2017.

And government policy is beginning to focus on oversight of information security and data management. Data governance and data asset management have become focus of corporations. Also, Chinese city clusters like Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Yangtze River Delta, and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area have underscored that data as a key element of innovation.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May June 11

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Venture Partner of Sequoia Capital China, former head of the data committee and vice president at Alibaba Group.