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ICT reaches out to rural areas

Posted: 16 Apr 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ICT rural areas? China economic development? communications information?

At this year's Intel Developer Forum in Beijing, an industry forum on rural ICT Development reached a consensus: Information and communications technology (ICT) is a powerful productivity tool for farmers, and the government, technology industry and society should work together to deploy ICT to accelerate economic and social development in rural areas.

With the theme "Wired to Prosperity," this forum on ICT's role in China's rural development was led by Intel Corp.'s chairman Craig Barrett. The panel's guests were representatives from academia and the ICT industry. These included Xu Xianglin, a professor from the China Communist Party Central School; Li Zhengmao, vice president of China Mobile; Wang Zhuzhu, deputy director of the National Center for Educational Technology; Gao Yicheng, president of Haier Computer; Liu Ning, president of Shanghai Kingstar Winning Software; and Ian Yang, president of Intel China.

"Increasing access to technology can be a critical driver of economic growth in rural China, but it will require government and industry leaders to work together to make it happen," said Barrett during the forum's closing remarks.

Technology: tool for change
Barrett is also chairman of the UN's Global Alliance for ICT and Development and brought a global perspective to the discussion.

During the forum Barrett described how technology can be a tool to change people's lives and create opportunities. He said there are four ingredients to boost the rural development with technology: providing access to Internet-connected technology; increasing access to broadband connectivity; developing useful Internet content and software solutions for farmers; and providing training so farmers can learn how to use computers.

Xu Xianglin, professor from the China Communist Party Central School, spoke highly of the government's "San-nong" policies (agriculture, villages and farmers) and efforts that will make sure farmers benefit from China's economic growth.

"With the fast increase of income, many rural families can afford a PC now," said professor Xu. "However, the �digital gap' still exists. There is a huge gap in the ability to get information between urban and rural residents. The �PC Going to Villages' campaign is a great opportunity to narrow the gap."

"PC Going to Villages" is a national campaign in which the government is providing a 13 percent subsidy so more farmers can afford to buy computers. Haier is one of the top PC manufacturers in China and has 15 PC models available through the "PC Going to Villages" program.

"Haier has established a rural sales and service network, with more than 10,000 sales outlets and 5,000 service shops," said Gao Yicheng, president of Haier Computer. "Our products are designed to meet farmers' specific needs."

China has 800 million people living in the countryside and the need for rural ICT development is urgent. With low population density in remote areas, mobile communications is expected to play a key role. China Mobile has extended the information highway to rural areas with its "Connecting Every Village" project.

"China Mobile has launched information services nationwide for farmers, including distribution of agriculture-related information, tailor-designed rural information terminals, and rural information service outlets," said Li Zhengmao, vice president of China Mobile.

Ian Yang said he recently visited some rural villages in Shaanxi, Shandong, Hunan and Fujian provinces to better understand the rural market and farmers' specific needs.

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