Monthly Archives: May 2010

China’s [digital] farming generation

A recent report from the Boston Consulting Group reveals some interesting trends about China’s “digital generation”: Chinese netizens are said to spend about 1 billion hours online each day – that’s more than double the daily total in the USA. They also seem to have “leapfrogged” over e-mail - only 53% actively use e-mail – preferring instead instant messaging services such as QQ.

Social networking services (SNS) also appear to be extremely popular. Happy Farm puts players in the boots of farm owners. They have to do all the work of cultivating, irrigating, fertilizing, spraying, harvesting and selling crops but the most enjoyable activity appears to be stealing crops from other virtual gardens - toucai (stealing cabbage) turned out to be the most searched-for word on in 2009…


Newsweek has attributed the craze for the game (and its clones) to a nostalgia for China’s traditional agrarian way of life. Apparently some urban dwellers have even started leasing farmland and are building vegetable plots across South China. Not sure that this will be the tool that (re)-connects the urban areas with the countryside or reduce the growing income gap. At least it will make “cityzens” more aware of the difficulties to tend land.

Get ready for .中国

Now that Arabic Internet addresses have become the first non-Latin characters top-level domain names one should soon expect to see Chinese follow suit.

In fact, this makes sense. More than 800 million Internet users use languages with scripts that are not Latin-based. There is also no reason that the content of a website could be in a particular language and not its domain name.

Let’s see if this socio-technical change corrects one of the great imbalance of our time: Arabic accounts for 1% of all web content though its estimated 280 million speakers constitute 5% of the global population.

P.S.: It will be interesting to see whether China applies for both simplified and traditional Chinese characters…

More and more research from the East

Following the announcement of China climbing the research value chain, Nature is putting things into a regional perspective.
Note: The ranking are based upon papers published in Research Articles and Letters in Nature and Nature monthly research journals (excluding journals from scientific societies).

Two things are striking. First and most obvious is Japan’s overwhelming position as a leader – its domination is both attributed to the depth and breadth of its research portfolio. Second is India relative absence from the chart – except for the National Institute of Immunology which leads the ranking in  Nature’s Chemical Biology.

On the Chinese side, it is interesting to note that most of the research is conducted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) with 43 articles published in 2009 – to be fair, CAS groups numerous institutes.  Far behind comeTsinghua and Beijing University with respectively 11 and 8 articles published.

But then once again, who is to say that Nature is a good proxy for the quality of research.

Testing ground for new technologies

How things change!

In the 90s, China’s car industry was (re-)emerging: a limited number of cars were on the market. A leading model at the time was the [outdated] Santana, technologically-mature and thus posing like intellectual property risks to its owner. The turn of the century saw the choice (and the number…) of cars explode. At the same time, trying to sell anything else than a novelty was close to commercial suicide.

Nowadays, China is turning into a testing ground for [foreign] new technologies. SK Telecom even wants to enable cars to be remotely controlled and diagnosed using internet-ready smartphones with its Mobile in Vehicle (MIV) telematics platform for electric cars. The technology is already in test phase. E-eye High Tech – a subsidiary of the Korean mobile operator – has already outfitted selected petrol-based car models.

Who thought that there wouldn’t be a killer application for 4G!