Chinese innovative leaders leverage tech to alleviate virus outbreak
February 25, 2020, 3 min to read
Covid-19's outbreak is affecting Chinese businesses & consumers’ routines. With over 850 million netizens in the country, digital players are fully embracing their corporate social responsibility. They have taken the lead to leverage their immense capabilities to reduce virus transmission, accelerate the diagnostic process, or ease the life of those staying at home.
At the frontline of disease prevention and control, tech giants and startups are actively collaborating with the authorities and public facilities management. While drastic measures are taken to enforce mask-wearing, national AI champion Baidu has developed and released a 96.5% accurate open-source AI model to identify whether the staff is wearing masks correctly. As temperature monitoring is an equally important method for containing the virus, both Baidu and Megvii have piloted advanced imagery screening programs to detect fever in public spaces such as supermarkets and transportation hubs. Huawei Cloud IoT and smart elevator system developer Wanglong Intelligence, on the other hand, focus on avoiding transmission via contact. The two teamed up in launching a “contactless” elevator platform for users to control elevators with mobile apps or WeChat mini-programs.
For patients that have already shown symptoms, Medtech and big data businesses are playing an important role in simplifying and accelerating the diagnostic processes. China’s BATJ, as well as online healthcare platforms PingAn Doctor, Haodaifu, and DingXiang Doctor, have all made their free online clinics available to the public for Covid-19 pre-diagnosis, ensuring timely actions taken for containment and treatment. These online clinics not only alleviated the scarcity of medical resources but also reduced the gathering of patients at hospitals. Baidu launched a self-diagnostic service via its mobile app that assigns users with different levels of infection risks based on data provided by the government and online clinics to reduce psychological panic. In the meantime, ecosystem giant Alibaba tackles the viral RNA sequencing bottleneck and provides advanced AI algorithms that enable faster analysis of blood samples collected from patients and accelerates the diagnosis of Covid-19 by hours.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, many are quarantined and more are staying indoors to avoid exposure. Online services like e-commerce sites and entertainment platforms saw a spike in usage. Alibaba and JD.com’s grocery unit, as well as e-commerce startup Meicai have found their solution to mobilize the idle workforce by initiating temporary staff recruitment programs. China’s leading video streaming platform Bilibili provided 100,000 free monthly memberships as public welfare, which were distributed by local communities. For students, receiving education has also been a challenge, so Alibaba’s digital working platform DingTalk has started to provide “school-from-home” solutions, expected to allow 600 thousand teachers to live stream courses to more than 50 million students across the country.
It is hard to tell if Covid-19 has done more good or bad in the tech industry in China. While temporarily causing stock prices to ditch, the outbreak has pushed a surge in the adoption of big data, AI and IoT-backed technology in epidemic control and public administration. At the same time, the use of online platforms is more prevalent than ever. All these applications are likely to further push the adoption of advanced technology in public space and positively shift user preference in China. In any case, This crisis showcases what is most outstanding about the Chinese innovation ecosystem: a strong public-private collaboration, remarkably agile tech players adjusting to unforseen situations and the digital-savviness of Chinese consumers.