China's tech and internet firms see growth amid Covid-19 fight


  • ASEAN+
  • Friday, 21 Feb 2020

Engineers adjust a medical delivery robot developed by robot manufacturer Siasun Robot & Automation Co, Ltd in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province, on Feb 3, 2020. - Xinhua

SHENYANG (Xinhua): The novel coronavirus epidemic may have temporarily affected economic activities across China but many tech companies and internet firms are playing their parts in the fight against the epidemic and contributing to the growth of the country's economy.

Some tech companies have brought their newest medical products and services to join in the fight against the virus and many internet firms have seen strong business growth during the period.

To aid the fight against the virus, leading software developer Neusoft developed a type of remote CT equipment in just seven days.

"The equipment can quickly diagnose using AI computing and reduce contact between medical workers and patients," said Liu Jiren, chairman of Neusoft.

Over the past few years, Neusoft has been seeking to empower the health care industry with information technology. "The epidemic has made us more determined in our business strategy and we will develop and manufacture more medical equipment deeply integrated with internet technology," Liu said.

Robots are also joining the fight to reduce cross-infection risks and improve efficiency.

Siasun, a leading robot manufacturer, has rolled out medical delivery robots and electric adjustable beds.

With advanced technologies such as laser positioning, intelligent navigation and human-computer interaction, medical delivery robots can help health workers spray disinfectants and hand out medicine to patients. The electric adjustable beds allow infected patients to eat in bed and assist them to sit up and roll over.

Siasun is also developing a robot that can replace nurses in conducting throat testing for the virus.

Siasun president Qu Daokui said apart from maintaining a leading position in industrial robots, the company will develop new products for health and elderly care to nurture new business growth drivers.

E-commerce platforms, particularly online fresh food retailers, reported marked business growth as people are asked to stay at home to avoid potential infection when shopping at crowded brick-and-mortar stores.

Fresh food delivery app Missfresh saw sales soar 3.5 times year on year during the nine-day Spring Festival holiday, while the fresh food subsidiary of e-commerce giant JD.com saw sales surge 2.15 times.

To cope with business growth and labour shortages, tech giant Alibaba's Freshhema, a fresh food retailer that offers delivery service, came up with the idea of "sharing employees" with restaurants and ride-sharing firms hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Fresh food online platforms are also helping fruit and vegetable growers in the remote countryside whose sales were stalled by the epidemic.

"Our strawberries now sell well on these platforms and we no longer have to worry about the sales," said Ma Yandong, head of the local strawberry-growing association in the city of Donggang in the northeastern province of Liaoning.

Sales in the country's largest strawberry-growing base were once stalled because of the epidemic.

"Many of our rural cooperatives are no longer accepting new orders as they now worry about the supply shortages," said Ma.

Cloud-related services, from cloud education to remote medical consultation and cloud working, also saw rapid growth amid the epidemic.

School openings after the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday were postponed due to the epidemic, but online class services are helping minimise the impact.

On the first day of the spring semester on Feb 10, a large number of primary and middle school students across the country took online lessons at home.

By Feb 10, schools in 300 cities nationwide have joined the cloud class programme of Alibaba's communication app DingTalk, benefiting a total of 50 million students.

Remote medical consultation services are also bustling as they can help prevent cross-infections and ease pressure on hospitals.

More than 10 major hospitals in Hefei, capital of the eastern province of Anhui, have launched free online medical consultation services for patients with fever after the province launched its top public health emergency response on Jan 24.

Internet medical platforms have also reported surge in online services.

WeDoctor, which provides online access to licensed doctors, said doctors received more than 100,000 consultations on the platform on the first day of the lunar year.

All patients from across China can access free medical consultation services on the platform amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to the company.

Cloud technology also helps minimise the impact on the resumption of work after the holiday.

DingTalk said it has served 200 million staff workers from more than 10 million enterprises and organisations as of Feb 3. To meet the huge demand in peak hours, DingTalk has added over 20,000 temporary servers and expanded bandwidth to enhance its calculation capacity.

The epidemic has brought challenges as well as opportunities for corporate innovation, said Daniel Zhang, chairman and chief executive officer of tech giant Alibaba Group.

"We are fully confident in the digitalisation process of the Chinese economy and society and ready to lay a more solid foundation for Alibaba's long-term growth," Zhang said.

Facing the epidemic, an increasing number of consumers choose and are growing accustomed to the digital life and work styles, he added.

Liu Qingfeng, chairman of China's major artificial intelligence (AI) company iFlytek that also offers cloud classes, expected the coming of the AI era.

"Like water and electricity, AI will enter almost all industries including education, medical care, finance, transport and smart cities in the next five to 10 years," Liu said. - Xinhua

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