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The age of data tech to succeed IT era

Published on 12/04 2017  Source: China Daily

 

Editor's Note: The fourth World Internet Conference, also known as the Wuzhen Summit, began on Sunday in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, and will close on Tuesday. 

 

In the run-up to the event, China Daily reporters Hu Yuanyuan, Ouyang Shijia and Fan Feifei quizzed senior executives from three internet-based businesses that are at the forefront of online innovation. Here, Chen Jin, executive director and CEO of ZhongAn Insurance, Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder, CSO, and chairman of Airbnb China, whose app facilitates home-sharing, and Gong Yu, founder and CEO of iQiyi.com Inc, an online entertainment services provider, discuss how the internet is re-shaping innovation and how it will likely influence larger economic forces in the years to come. Excerpts: 

How do you view China's role in the global internet arena? In your view, what are the most innovative trends or products in China? 

The age of data tech to succeed IT era

Chen Jin, CEO of ZhongAn Insurance. [Photo/China Daily] 

Chen Jin: The most important characteristics of China's internet development is that a majority of Chinese internet-related enterprises have evolved themselves from "imitators" to "innovators", and their exploration is no longer limited to "application area", but research on infrastructure and technology innovation.

We are delighted to witness more attention has been paid to technologies including AI (artificial intelligence) and blockchain. Meanwhile, research on quantum communication and other infrastructure experienced some achievement by Chinese experts.

In May 2017, a group of youth from 20 economies participating in the Belt and Road Initiative named "four new great inventions" as G-series high-speed trains, Alipay, bicycle-sharing and online shopping.

All this reflects the rise of two vital products and trends: mobile payments and social platforms. Mobile payments provide an innovative platform for the development of e-commerce; and social platforms encourage the innovation of content, which jointly changed the business model of Chinese internet-related companies to a large extent.

Nathan Blecharczyk: China is already one of the leaders in the global internet arena. The sharing economy, closely integrated with the digital economy, is undoubtedly one of the key innovations in recent years. Across the world, China is undoubtedly a leader in the sharing economy.

Mobile-based innovations are changing people's behavior. Mobile payments, news apps and instant messaging are having a profound impact. The combination of digital technology and human interaction is also a remarkable innovation in the Chinese internet. China is stressing people-to-people exchange based on the digital economy. I believe that this will be a key trend in future.

The age of data tech to succeed IT era

Gong Yu, founder and CEO of iQiyi.com. [Photo/China Daily] 

Gong Yu: With the rapid development of China's internet industry, the country has become a world-recognized cyber power with the largest population of internet users and highly developed mobile and fixed network facilities.

Online video, mobile payments, e-commerce, internet finance, together with other internet-based new services and products, have brought great convenience to hundreds of millions of Chinese internet users.

As a participant in the internet entertainment industry, we (at iQiyi.com) have experienced the fast development. We are committed to innovating products and services that we provide, and aim to improve people's spiritual and life qualities.

At the same time, we can also see that the development of China's internet economy is having a greater impact on the global economy. China's internet giants and unicorns (startsups that have grown to be firms with valuations of $1 billion or more each) have already played important roles in the global internet industry, and some of them have expanded their services to overseas markets.

In the future, I believe more Chinese internet-based companies will go abroad, providing Chinese experience and contributing to the global economy.

From your perspective, what are the characteristics of a powerful internet driven country? What do you think are the advantages and challenges that China faces in becoming a powerful internet-friendly economy? 

Chen Jin: China has three great advantages which we should never overlook.

First, China has the largest single market based on population and consumption capacity all over the world, which is one of the most important developing features to be a powerful internet country.

Second, China has strong clusters of internet and associated production, including software and hardware manufacturing areas.

Third, we have a young generation of knowledge-seekers and innovators, which is also very important for a country's internet development.

And, of course, there are some challenges we have to think about and overcome in order to move forward.

For example, we still have a long way to go in terms of fully preparing ourselves with a perfect legal environment. Generally speaking, investment in basic research is still insufficient.

The age of data tech to succeed IT era

Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder, CSO, and chairman of Airbnb China. [Photo/China Daily] 

Nathan Blecharczyk: A powerful internet nation is one that embraces innovation such as the sharing economy. This is where Airbnb sees China's strength. The past three decades have shown that China is a vibrant economic environment that has allowed businesses and industries to flourish. China has opened, and is continuing to open, to foreign enterprises.

China's leadership offers solid backing and policy support for the internet industry and sharing economy. A big positive in this regard is the Chinese government's rich experience in formulating industry-friendly policy. This offers a strong reference point. Governments the world over should learn from it.

Gong Yu: China is currently transforming itself into a leading internet power.

President Xi Jinping recently said at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China that the country would promote deep integration of the internet, big data, artificial intelligence into the real economy.

In other words, in the future, the internet and other related technologies will promote the continuous transformation and upgrade of the real economy through integration with other industries, and thus lay a solid foundation for sustained economic growth.

This is also the way China must go to become a leading cyber power.

Thanks to the government's open attitude and supportive policies as well as the steady growth of the overall economy, China's internet industry has experienced rapid development in recent years.

In order to sustain the long-term development of the internet-based industry, China needs to adhere to technological innovations and attach more importance to the establishment of talent training mechanisms. That would provide continuous driving power for the long-term development of China's internet industry.

Do you believe that some of China's experiences or practices related to the internet or technology could be used to solve global problems? If so, what are they and why? 

Chen Jin: In my opinion, there do exist some global problems in front of us.

For example, inclusive finance is a global resource allocation problem we shall face together.

It includes two connotations: First, at the material level. Global e-commerce platforms, including Alibaba, are trying to better serve global population, to make more people share the convenience of shopping from all parts of the world.

Second, at the knowledge level. Educational institutes such as VIPKid are trying to spread knowledge, and knowledge via language, to explore global learning problems and communication.

Nathan Blecharczyk: China is already one of the leaders in the global internet arena and sharing economy.

The Chinese government holds positive and supportive attitude toward the internet industry and sharing economy at all levels.

The Chinese government's practice and experiences in this area provide a strong reference for governments across the globe to learn from.

The rapid development of Chinese companies in the past decade has helped them to make great strides in innovation and technology, bringing new ideas and development to the world.

In the past year, what transformations in the internet arena or the technology sector have the ability to influence our future or the future of industry? What do you think are the reasons for this transformation? 

Chen Jin: Over the past year, we've seen that the internet is turning into the internet of things or IoT, step by step. With the development of big data, the IoT has gradually developed a solid foundation. It's said that Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank, recently announced the acquisition of ARM Holding, a chip designer.

In the age of the IoT, chips may become a new connector, and will affect every aspect of our lives. Everyone will be connected through data as well as some entity ... for example, chips.

Nathan Blecharczyk: Sharing economy, closely integrated with internet technologies, is undoubtedly a major transformation and one that will have far-reaching implications for the future.

Airbnb has created a new home-sharing model that has redefined the way that people, particularly millennials, travel and communicate with different cultures.

When using Airbnb, guests and hosts get to meet people that they wouldn't ordinarily, and learn from cultural exchanges through interaction with people from diverse nations and backgrounds.

For Airbnb, sharing economy provides additional revenue streams for hosts and allows guests to explore new areas and contribute to local economies.

Gong Yu: In the internet entertainment industry, we believe that artificial intelligence, virtual reality, big data and other cutting-edge technologies are promoting the development of the industry.

This year is seen as the start of AI's impact on various sectors becoming evident. How has AI improved your company's business and what will you do to better tap into the technology? 

Chen Jin: ZhongAn Insurance has various explorations and applications of AI, such as intelligent insuring, risk control, and intelligent customer service.

For example, we apply identity authentication to the fraud risk analysis of credit guarantee insurance.

Similarly, image recognition is applied to anti-fraud analysis of mobile phone screen crack policy.

Besides, we apply AI to intelligent customer service to settle customer claims in travel insurance and health insurance segments.

We achieve customized product design and dynamic pricing through AI, which is based on customer demand and data analysis.

We provide intelligent services to change the insurance industry from being product-centric to being usercentric, which should help reshape the insurance value chain.

Nathan Blecharczyk: Artificial intelligence is transforming technology around the world.

For Airbnb, we have an advantage, thanks to our strength through technology.

Our tech advantage comes from our strong team of engineers. Hailing from top Silicon Valley companies, the best Chinese tech companies and world-leading schools, our talent pool is the world's best.

Airbnb is famous for its innovation, and we'll keep investing our resources on inspiring more innovations that can bring improvement to us as well as the industry.

Gong Yu: As China's largest online streaming video and entertainment services platform, iQiyi.com Inc has always regarded technological innovation as the driving force for company development.

Today, artificial intelligence has already become iQiyi's basic infrastructure in the process of video production, user insight and content distribution.

Specifically, artificial intelligence technology has been applied to iQiyi's seven business areas-creation, production, tagging, distribution, play, monetizing, and customer service. All of these areas can now be called intelligent. They help keep the services surrounding intellectual properties running productively.

The application of AI helps us have a deep understanding of the content, users and our partners' various needs.

In the next five years, which sector do you think will most likely disrupt the internet or the technology space? In other words, what do you think will be the next hot spot or trend? 

Chen Jin: In the next five years, we will see the world begin to go from the IT era to the data technology or DT era. Different from the IT era, the DT era will aim to serve the public and stimulate productivity.

This is not only a technological change but conceptual difference. The future may belong to the IoT, and what businesses focus on will change from paying attention to traffic flow to paying attention to data.

Nathan Blecharczyk: I believe that the sharing economy will continue to develop and bring greater benefit and change to communities around the world.

Airbnb has created a new home-sharing model that has redefined the way that people, particularly millennials, travel and communicate with different cultures.

In the future, we will continue to actively cooperate with all the parties concerned, including the Chinese government, businesses and Airbnb users, to jointly promote the healthy development of sharing economy in China.

Gong Yu: Currently, we are in the age of IT revolution. Following the advent of computers and the birth of the internet, the development of AI has pushed the IT revolution into another critical phase.

We predict that AI will bring about tremendous changes in people's life and work, including access to information, entertainment, social networking, travel, business operations and so on. AI will lead related industries into a rapid development stage.