How to build a Smart Belt and Road?

At the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province, IT titans and experts shared their views on how to shorten the distances between different localities along the Belt and Road through the constructive work of cutting-edge information technology. A “smart” Silk Road, being one aspect of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s vision for the New Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, is catalyzing heated talks among the participants in Wuzhen as to how to best apply their IT capabilities to create a truly interconnected Belt and Road “community” through the realization of high quality internet connection.

Liu Duo, president of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), says that within the Belt and Road region 55.2% of the population now have access to the Internet, almost 9 percent higher than the world average of 46.4%. Lin points out that this relatively greater access to the Internet among the Belt and Road populations is mainly due to the better maintained IT infrastructure. Yet, he stresses that it would be a superficial understanding of the vision of “smart” Silk Road if that smartness only means people are able to socialize with each other in cyber space. The smartness, more consequentially means that through the connection of IT infrastructure, countries along the Belt and Road enter an interconnected whole. That will greatly cut down on the cost of communications and enable many people to capitalize on what the new economy of “Internet Plus” can bring about.

Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn tells the other conference attendees that a survey carried out by his company shows that 58% of the interviewees feel optimistic about the Belt and Road region’s growth prospects and are willing to invest in the new developments there. Hoffman adds that the “Belt and Road” covers a vast region of diverse peoples. Online communication can significantly reduce the uncertainties and lags in offline communication.

During the session on how to reap the benefits of a “smart” Silk Road, Intel’s Deputy Global CEO and China Chief Yang Xu says that an interconnected logistics and transportation system is one of the many pluses of the “Internet Plus” vision. Yang points out that it is the interconnectedness of this logistics system that becomes belt and road a value-adding force to the logistics system itself because a “smart” logistics system can move resources around in the most efficient manner.

Mohammad Qayoumi, Chief Economic Advisor of the Afghan president, agrees and adds that it is of vital importance to fully tap the potential of the Internet in connecting logistics centers along the Belt and Road. This connection will maximize the value of useful information and minimize the waste of resources.

Risto Siilasmaa, Chairman of Nokia appreciates what the goal of creating added value means for companies specializing in information technology innovation. He points out that a lot of information is fragmented in our time, which demands a better way to integrate this information and make it useful to the service of new technological breakthroughs. The know-how in integrating fragmented information and making it useful will give any country a competitive edge in innovation. He quotes the old Chinese proverb to assert that the time for innovative companies to act is now: “Ten thousand years are too long; seize the day, seize the hour!”.

Some participants also share their views on what kind of policy support the “smart” Silk Roadneeds. Chen Zhaoxiong, Chen Zhaoxiong, vice minister of Industry and Information Technology, says Belt and Road countries need to further increase and enhance cooperation talks and specific work conferences in the field of information and communications technology. Governments in these countries need also to work on coordinating their strategies, planning and policies in the information and communications technology sector. Chen adds that only with a high-level coordination can hard work such as building overland cable pipelines and building submarine cable pipelines be realized across borders.

Yang Xiaoya, an official from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) agrees and adds that the key to policy coordination among Belt and Road countries is to keep up with the advancement of new technology while aiming at standardization of these new technologies across borders. Additionally, financial support should also be put in place to effectively attract operators and equipment manufacturers to invest in a destination country’s IT and communications infrastructure.

Confirming on the high relevance of what Yang Xiaoya proposes, Amir Azeem Bajwa, Major General of the Special Communication Organization of Pakistan, says the state-of-the-art communications infrastructure along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the high quality service it provides is a great example of how cross-border coordination can benefit peoples of different countries. He urges other Belt and Road countries to harness “smart” technologies to the task of benefiting their people too.

For more information, visit: china’s belt and road

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