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August 11, 2021

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Citywide digital upgrades set to enhance connectivity of all citizens

Digital upgrades are occurring regularly in Shanghai, covering anti-epidemic initiatives, retail and delivery, job seeking, taxi-hailing and customs services.

The various services and applications are part of the city’s blueprint to boost digital transformation and upgrade the economy, covering artificial intelligence and eSports industry development. The umbrella blueprint will also bridge the digital divide for the elderly and disabled, providing convenient and barrier-free digital services to all citizens.

The blueprint has been issued and is supervised by the Shanghai Urban Digital Transformation Committee, which was founded in 2020 and led by top officials including the city Party secretary and mayor. It targets Shanghai’s transformation into a world-class innovative digital hub by 2023, covering 12 special projects and 40 key tasks.

By 2023, Shanghai is looking for the value of its core digital economy to exceed 600 billion yuan (US$93 billion), and be home to 100 digital economy and Internet industry leaders and 50 cyber traffic-driven firms, each with a market value of over 10 billion yuan, said Wu Jincheng, chairman of the Shanghai Commission of Economy and Informatization.

“We will establish the city’s own high-quality standards and ecosystem for artificial intelligence and the digital economy based on local advantages. We will test applications like AI text books and driverless taxis on city streets,” Wu told the World Artificial Intelligence Conference, or WAIC 2021, China’s top AI conference held in Shanghai last month.

By 2023, the city plans to welcome 100 key technologies, more than 100 standardized algorithm-driven services and over 100 smart hardware products. It also intends to attract 100,000 algorithm developers.

The city will continue to move forward in four sectors — data opening, usage and innovation; digital infrastructure construction; cybersecurity and personal information protection; and integrated support for platforms, policy, standards and cooperation.

Besides digital infrastructure upgrades like more AI firms and 5G base stations, digital applications and services also represent the city’s “soft power.”

They include an ease-of-use travel history and health tracking system; guidance to the elderly on how to buy medicines and groceries online; an application to help job seekers avoid risks; outdoor boards to allow people to call nearby taxis using facial recognition and simplified and ease-of-use e-government portals.

An anti-epidemic app, integrated with travel history tracking, local health code and other services, has made its debut on Suishenban, Shanghai’s official public service platform. With the latest update, an off-line code function made its debut on Monday for aged people who are not familiar with online applications, according to Shanghai Data Innovation Center, the app’s developer.

In recent weeks, both codes have been needed to enter public facilities like hospitals, shopping centers and office buildings, when more locally-transmitted cases are found in China.

Shanghai-based Dada Group, an on-demand delivery and retail platform, is conducting age-friendly and barrier-free updates in its JDDJ application. The updates in JDDJ cover teaching the elderly how to use Internet services, such as buying medicines and groceries online.

Shanghai-based IntSig Information, through its database service Qixinbao, is offering transparent and accurate enterprise information for job seekers, especially young graduates, to break “information asymmetry.” The services include enterprise information inquiry and a labor dispute index, which evaluates employee risks based on the company’s historical labor dispute data over the past five years.

“The index is a five-star system. It’s clear and easy to use for job seekers,” said the company.

Also with Qixinbao, the company offers an enterprise risk control system, which tracks corporate contract breaches and other data, integrating its own AI services.

Easy access

A multifunctional shunting machine, mobile sampling rooms and other digital technology are being applied to simplify the process of admitting people to Shanghai during the pandemic, according to Shanghai Customs.

With new tech upgrades on sanitation and quarantine for inbound personnel, the optimized customs process reduces the waiting time for passenger clearances and the risk of cross-infection among passengers. Furthermore, it avoids direct contact between passengers and customs officers, Shanghai Customs said.

About 100 smart boards have appeared in residential communities citywide, especially those with many aged residents. With the boards, people can call taxis with facial recognition which connects to their identity information.

The system can automatically guide drivers to passengers with positioning information and dispatch taxis to people aged over 60 years.

Passengers can complete payments using cash, transportation card or online payment. Therefore aged passengers can finish the whole trip even though they don’t have smartphone applications.

China is projected to have 300 million people aged 60 years and older by 2025.

The city has launched a Digital Partner campaign, covering firms like Dada and Ximalaya, which is also a part of the blueprint. The campaign will bridge the digital divide and make the city “warm” for the silver community, according to government officials.

To deal with digital gap challenges, Shanghai will upgrade government sites and applications, publish guidebooks and offer free trainings for older and disabled people.

Through the campaign, 66 government sites, 46 applications and digital services from 23 firms will have completed barrier-free adoption by the end of the year. They will be more easily accessed and controlled, with bigger fonts, simpler display and one-click access in some cases. Meanwhile, free digital services training will be offered throughout the city, covering residential communities, culture centers, libraries and other public sites.

By July, more than 1,700 volunteers have been recruited as “digital service promoters” and “ information services assistants” to provide on-site and one-on-one services.



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