A boy listening to a household intelligent robot, that works on cloud-computing technology at the 10th China International Software Product&Information Service Trade Fair in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, in September. China’s overall cloud-computing value chain is expected to be worth at least $122 billion by 2015.[Photo by WANG QIMING/CHINA DAILY]
China will be at the forefront of the global push toward mobile computing, cloud services, big data/analytics, and social networking in 2015, and will account for almost half of all spending in those areas, according to predictions for the worldwide information and communications technology sector by a leading consulting firm.
International Data Corp said on Dec 3 that while global ICT spending will grow 3.8 percent in 2015 to more than $3.8 trillion, China will spend over $465 billion, 11 percent higher than this year and account for 43 percent of all industry growth.
One reason why the country will be a main driver of ICT spending growth next year, said Frank Gens, IDC’s chief analyst, is the sheer size of its market, which IDC predicts will hit over 680 million online users next year or about two-and-a-half times the number of users in the United States.
“Chinese manufacturers are leading the world in driving down the cost of devices like smartphones,” said Gens. “As the devices become less expensive they become accessible to a greater number of people.”
Commenting on the IDC figures, Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation in Washington, said China still needs to spend more, however, to get on the same playing field as other developed economies.
“China is playing catch-up and there is so much ‘low-hanging IT fruit’ to adopt. Other nations like the US and Japan have adopted much more of the existing technologies and for many businesses and consumers they are in the occasional-upgrade mode, rather than (the) buy-for-the-first-time mode,” Atkinson said.
As in the rest of the world, cloud computing－which provides greater mobility and the ability to perform tasks on smartphones and mobile devices－is growing quickly in China.
The overall cloud-computing value chain in China is expected to be worth at least $122 billion by 2015, according to the China Software Industry Association.
Atkinson said governments in China are investing in and subsidizing cloud computing.
“For example, in 2011 the NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission), MIIT (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) and the Ministry of Finance allocated $236 million to support Chinese cloud providers.
“In addition, many local governments, such as Chongqing, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, and Beijing, have targeted cloud computing, providing subsidies to attract providers to their jurisdiction,” he said.
Gens said the biggest area where China lags behind the West is cloud computing at the corporate or enterprise level.
“Corporate spending on cloud computing in China is behind the curve. China is only ninth in corporate spending, behind countries such as the Netherlands, a nation with about 17 million people,” he said.
Atkinson said there are some unique challenges holding back cloud computing in China.
“Cloud depends on broadband networks and China’s broadband is nowhere near as developed as most developed nations like the US and Japan with penetration of around 15 percent of households,” he said.
“In addition, users in China appear more suspicious of using the cloud than users in other nations. But this will of course change over time.”
Companies including online retailer Amazon.com Inc and search engine Google Inc are spearheading the development and sale of cloud computing services in the US.
“You could see the same thing in China. Companies like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (online retailing), Baidu Inc (China’s leading internet search engine), and Tencent Holdings Ltd (social networking) could become the major computing service providers,” said Atkinson.
China’s biggest technology challenge will be to provide an environment that inspires more innovation, according to Gens.
“China needs to evolve and become not just a consumer of technology, but also a developer of technology. In the next 20 years China should strive to create an environment that develops new products and services in areas like big data and analytics.”