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Fifth World Internet Conference to boost inclusive digitalization

By Alex Chan | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-11-08 11:56
Photo taken on Nov 6, 2018 shows the night scenery of Wuzhen, East China's Zhejiang province. The fifth World Internet Conference (WIC) is scheduled to run from November 7-9 in the river town of Wuzhen.[Photo/Xinhua]

The fifth World Internet Conference (WIC), also known as the Wuzhen Summit, kicked off Wednesday in the historical town of Wuzhen, in northern Zhejiang province. Themed “Creating a Digital World for Mutual Trust and Collective Governance – Toward a Community with Shared Future in Cyberspace”, the summit will focus on five main themes, namely, innovation-driven development, universal security, openness and inclusiveness, pursuit of a better life and common prosperity.

Since China’s reform and opening-up, the country has fully embraced technological innovation. Internet and digitalization have without doubt facilitated economic growth in the last decades. As of June 2018, the number of netizens in China reached 802 million, with an increase of 29.68 million, compared to the end of 2017, according to a report on internet development released by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). China with 57.7 percent of population online now has the largest number of people using internet in the world.

CNNIC’s data also show that out of all internet population, 98.3 percent are mobile phone users (788 million) and 26.3 percent are from rural areas. The research also found that the highest percentage of people use internet mainly for mobile phone news (82.7 percent), online shopping (71 percent), government services (58.6 percent), food delivery (43.6 percent) and bike-sharing (30.6 percent). These figures show that digitalization has transformed China’s understanding of economic and technological development in the new era, allowing more and more people access to services, wherever they are in the country.

Internet is an easily accessible tool for Chinese citizens also thanks to the government’s efforts in making sure that as many people as possible can enjoy high-speed connections with lower rates. In the 13th Five-Year plan for economic and social development, the government has strongly emphasized the need to promote internet in starting up businesses and in the other fields, including, but not limited to, smart energy, inclusive finance, artificial intelligence as well as e-commerce. Further opening up is critical since internet has given more people, especially women, access to businesses. E-commerce has created in China millions of jobs and has lowered the entry barriers for small-medium sized enterprises to access the digital economy.

Digitalization has also empowered women to become entrepreneurs. In fact, more than 50 percent of Chinese internet entrepreneurs are women. China has many successful cases of women who, through digitalization, have been committed to empower other women as well. One of the influential examples is Diane Wang Shutong, who founded DHgate.com, China’s first transactional B2B cross-border e-commerce platform. Besides contributing in reviving the ancient Silk Road digitally, DHgate.com also initiated and facilitated the China-Turkey bilateral agreement on cross-border e-commerce in 2015 during the G20 Summit.

Digitalization has effectively boosted gender equality by empowering women to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Wang is not only an inspiration for other women and girls across the world to empower themselves through digitalization, but most importantly, she is a successful leader who, through her social commitment, has demonstrated that internet can bring about inclusion and diversity. In this regard, the fifth World Internet Conference will be a great opportunity for knowledge sharing and mutual learning, especially considering China’s astonishing achievements in this field.

China attributes enormous importance to global internet management and adheres to four main principles, namely cyber sovereignty, peace and security, openness and security as well as cyber order. As the world becomes more interconnected, international cooperation and joint efforts to build a community of shared future in cyberspace becomes also of vital importance. The fifth WIC is also a unique chance for reflecting on how digitalization can further promote comprehensive exchanges in the countries and regions along the Belt and Road and between China and the international community.

The WIC was first initiated in 2014 by the Cyberspace Administration of China and the Zhejiang Provincial People’s government and since then it has been held on an annual basis. The WIC will see the participation of more than 1,500 delegates from all around the world, including governments’ officials, representatives from international organizations, top leaders from Chinese and international internet enterprises as well as scholars and experts in the field.

The author is a graduate in China Studies and International Relations at Peking University and the London School of Economics. Currently, he is working in the fields of development and public policy.

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