Monthly Archives: April 2009

China's rural PC program

The latest report from CNNIC on Internet development in China claims close to 300 million netizens, a 22.6% Internet penetration rate. But behind the impressive figure, one should not forget that there are officially only 84.6 millions rural Internet users (still up from 52.7 million in 2007 and with some of the poorest provinces having doubled their penetration rate, e.g. in Guizhou or Yunnan). In other words, the bulk of users resides predominantly in urban areas.

But the Chinese government is not giving up on its aim to reduce the digital divide between rural and urban areas. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Commerce announced the winning bidders for the rural computer subsidy. Companies including Lenovo, Dell, HP, Acer, Founder, Haier, Great Wall, TCL, Tongfang, Inspur, Hasee, Beijing Manjiang, Malata and Southwest will be supplying PC priced from USD 290 to USD 510.

Close to 60% of the population with registered permanent rural residences (about 200 million households) will be eligible to obtain a 13% subsidy if they purchase one of the listed PC. Unfortunately, the timing may not be right as the current economic downturn is not prone to spending money on “luxury items”.

Shanzhai!

No, it is not a typo… Shanzhai – which literally means “mountain stronghold” – refers to lack of state control and now by extension to China’s fake products and brands.

With time, the word took on a different meaning: once used to suggest something cheap or inferior, shanzhai now suggests to many a certain Chinese cleverness and ingenuity – some go as far as seeing it turning into a cultural movement. Lately, shanzhai was taken even to a higher level by the creation on the Internet of a television show mimicking the official channels’ key programs. 

Behind this capacity to “emulate” goods, there are often OEMs. In the case of mobile phon(y)es, you would like find MediaTek a company producing mobile chips that are found in many of the knock-off products.

A Chinese Google Earth?

Shortly after the Chinese New Year, China’s Survey and Mapping Bureau announced that it would be making a Chinese counterpart to Google Earth. Chinese cities (typical resolution 240 meters) and many geographical features (8000 meter resolution) are much fuzzier on Google Earth than are North American areas. geoglobe_1.gif
geoglobe_2.gif But such a sudden move for increased “transparency”? Google Earth has attracted USD 1 billion in advertising revenue, so India and other countries are trying to develop their own “Google Earth” type platforms. Geo Globe should enable Chinese companies to create China’s own “Google Earth.
Google Earth has shown Chinese government agencies that releasing geographical data can be very useful for civilian purposes as long as it does not harm national security…and brings in money.

Chinese Virtual Worlds

An interesting report about online communities in China, Asia and the world has been released by +8* (commissioned by the EU-China Information Society Project).

We learn that Chinese second generation virtual worlds have taken a particular approach:

  • connection with social networks
  • in-browser 3D chat
  • interest from online gaming companies

The report also identifies several technology trends:

  • use of web browser rather than softwre client
  • integration of social features
  • 3D spread
  • potential challenge from open-source virtual world platforms
  • content interoperability

Ghostnet

For the past week, there has been quite some agitation around cyber-attacks and China (…again) with the release of a report documenting GhostNet – a suspected cyber espionage network of over 1,295 infected computers in 103 countries.

The report triggered a strong reaction in the UK where China is said to have gained the capability to shut down the country by crippling its telecoms and utilities. The reason? One of China’s leading telecommunication equipment manufactuer – Huawei – is gaining market share! The company is providing key components for BT’s new network – updating the UK’s telecoms with the use of internet technology.

Most of the fears come from Huawei’s links to the Chinese military. In addition, the People’s Liberation Army is reputed to hold an annual competition to recruit the country’s best hackers. But isn’t that the case in every major power? There is little doubt that the U.S. intelligence community has similar if not much better access to the global telecommunication infrastructure and that multinational companies have equal opportunities to carry out spying operations.