China’s vast inland regions have benefited the most from the booming digital economy in areas like e-commerce and smart logistics, according to a new study released on Jan 9 by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.
Gansu province recorded 114 percent in e-commerce sales, the fastest year-on-year growth across Alibaba’s platforms in the first 11 months of 2017, closely followed by Guizhou province and the Tibet autonomous region, according to the 2017 China Digital Economy Development Report.
This compared with a 32.4 percent surge in the country’s 6.43 trillion yuan ($986 billion) in online retail sales during the same period, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Inland areas like Tibet, Shaanxi and Guizhou provinces were also among the top 10 in per capita spending, though no numbers were disclosed.
Buoyed by big data and cloud computing technologies, Guizhou, Sichuan and eight other inland areas reported the biggest improvements in logistics efficiency, the company said, without specifics.
The digital economy’s penetration of rural areas, especially poverty-stricken pockets, is paying off, such as allowing farmers to peddle their produce through e-commerce sites that exploit big data, artificial intelligence and virtual reality to promote goods.
That allows increased sales of local produce, such as dried dates and oranges from Hubei province and Yunnan’s Pu’er tea and mushrooms.
“The new retail model, which integrates online and offline resources, has transformed the way people manufacture and distribute their goods, effectively stimulating consumption potential and diversifying sources of income in far-flung areas,” said Mao Risheng, a researcher on economic development at the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
He said that allows more shop owners to hawk goods and manage inventory in a precise manner.
“We’ve had a lot of challenges as we couldn’t keep up the pace and (the merchandise) often ran out of stock,” said Huang Donghai, owner of Weijun Grocery in Zhejiang province.
“Now, technology offers a glimpse of the most sought-after items through data analytics, and allows us to order directly from manufacturers, which circumvents middlemen and trims costs.”
Huang Rihan, executive director of the Belt and Road Institute at the Center for China and Globalization, said targeted poverty-relief measures will increasingly rely on adoption of such technologies to identify and pinpoint needs.
The report also said 2.83 million jobs related to e-commerce were created in Guangdong province, followed by Zhejiang’s 1.72 million and 1.12 million in Jiangsu.